You’ve been driving around the same track, lap by lap, for the umpteenth time. Your hands are a little sweaty and your car is a little banged up, but because you’re in 1st position, you’re taking each corner slowly to avoid losing first place. But the fear factor is always there; if you spin out, or take a corner wide, then you will have to restart the race and do it all again in order to win. All that work getting into 1st place gone, in an instant. Well in Codemasters Race Driver: GRID, things are a little different… for the better.
In GRID you can now go flat out all the time, making the game faster, more fun and more enjoyable to play. This is mainly thanks to one of the best features placed into a racing simulation game: ‘Flashbacks’ – The ability to rewind and try again. It’s a great feature to have as it allows drivers to race around the circuit with no fear, knowing that if they hit a wall or take a turn too wide, they can simply rewind the last few seconds and have another bite at the cherry. The great thing about this as well is that it doesn’t take long to load up. Hit start and enter instant replay mode. Once you’ve rewound back to an area that you are happy with, simply tap the ‘X’ button and within seconds your back on the track, good to go. The flashback feature can only be used a certain amount of times throughout a race depending on which difficulty level you are playing the game on though, so it’s not always that easy. Enough about the Flashback feature for now though, let’s go in-depth with GRID’s career mode.
The first thing you need to do in GRID is create your driver profile. One of the cool features about this is that you get to select your own audio name. There are male and female names available and if yours isn’t there, you can just pick one from the nickname tab – how often do you get the chance to be called HotRod? You also have to create your very own team and team colours. Once you’ve done that you’re good to go and enter the GRID world.
The GRID World is where you go to begin your racing career, build your own racing empire and take your team to the very top of international motorsport. Every new driver has to earn the Rookie status at a Licence Qualifier. It’s very simple and all you need to do is complete the default race provided. Once completed you’ll earn Rookie status and qualify to race in any region. There are three regions to compete in, with each region having their own characteristics. The US region is built around power and speed in the form of Stock Car racing and GT races. Europe, the spiritual home of motorsport, features traditional circuit racing in a variety of Touring, GT and Open Wheel championships while the Japanese region features Street Racing, Drift Championships and the Pro-Tuned series.
The stock car racing is extremely fun and thanks to the flashback feature, should you be banged up so much that in one hit your car becomes ‘wrecked’, just rewind and be more careful in future. Drifting around the docks of Yokohama is another favourite of mine. The drifting is similar to that of the Cone Challenge found in the Project Gotham series. You get awarded points for the angle and speed of the drift, and the closer you can drift to the apex flag, the more points you can score.
Entering events like these require you to purchase a car from that class, be it power, open wheel, GT1 etc. and if your running short on funds you can either, purchase a used car from the in game Ebay system – clear advertising – at a cheaper price or, drive for another team until you have saved up enough money to purchase your own cars. Completing events boosts your reputation in each region and earns you new licences and sponsorship deals as well as allowing you to gain access to the next licence level in that region. During your career mode you also have to hire a team mate in which he too can race for your team and earn you money via any sponsorship deals. Sponsorship and reputation points are all little things for the bigger picture. Your aim is to become the most successful driver and driving team in the wonderful world of motorsport.
The AI in the game are unique. It really feels like you are racing against proper opponents, unlike in some other racing games where the AI drive along the racing line perfectly, in GRID they don’t – which is a good thing. Up to 20 drivers in one race can become crazy, but still fun. Like human drivers, the AI too spin out, crash into walls and in general, drive erratically. You also get more reputation points, which can be a faster way to elevate yourself up the licence levels, but in doing so you will lower the amount of flashbacks that you are allowed to use during a race.
One of the minor faults in GRID is that there is no car customisation. I wasn’t expecting the type of customisation found in Forza, but I was hoping that you could tune the cars that you own to a spec that suits you. Every car you purchase simple gets sprayed in your team colours and plastered with your sponsor stickers.
The driving in the game has a very Project Gotham feel added with the braking system used in Colin McRae: DIRT. The brakes are just a little too powerful. You can literally go full speed at the 90 degree corner then at the last second slam on the brakes and within a millisecond you’re able to turn the corner successfully and continue. But for some reason this makes the game faster and more exciting. Everyone loves going fast and if you don’t, you can just turn all of the assists off and crawl along out of control.
As I was turning that 90 degree angle at full speed, I noticed how detailed and stunning the tracks look. Again its very Project Gotham like, if not better. Just racing through the sun lit streets of Milan or on the Nurburgring F1 circuit justifies this. The lighting is superb and the replays are stunning, it’s just a shame that you can’t save them or take photo’s like in Project Gotham. The car damage, while not as dynamic as you may first believe, offers plenty of fun as the tracks become littered with broken cars and dismantled tire walls.
The audio in GRID is just above average but still nothing special. Crashes and bumps do sound realistic and Codemasters will occasionally treat you to some intense music during some races. Usually the last race of an event. It just lacks a great soundtrack. Thankfully my Xbox 360 console is full of music to bop along to.
Before discussing Xbox Live in GRID, I would like to say that I’m disappointed with Codemasters. For people who don’t have access to Xbox Live, there is no offline split screen mode. Bummer. Online is just as good as the single player however, minus the flashback feature. You can play Ranked and Unranked matches with up to 11 other drivers, and it seems to run smoothly with little to no lag. You get experience points for each race you enter – depending on your finishing position – allowing you to rank up. Obviously like any other racing game online, it has the inevitable first corner of doom. Everyone piling down the track at full speed just rings danger. Unfortunately that’s just racing games online, so you just have to be careful.
GRID is ultimately the fun and enjoyable racing game that many people have been waiting for. With beautiful graphics and an amazing flashback feature, who wouldn’t buy this game? With so many different game types, GRID really does cater all thrills that drivers seek. The single player is addictive and online play is expertly done. GRID is now a force to be reckoned with, and the only thing holding back a higher score is the lack of car customisation and the fact that Codemasters didn’t include split screen. Apart from that, hats off to Codies for creating such an excellent game.