You can trace the origins of GRID back to the TOCA: Race Driver series which first hit the shelves back in 2002. TOCA: Race Driver started the tradition of giving players a range of different racing disciplines that they can dip in and out of. Race Driver: GRID continued this ethos in 2008 and went on to spawn two sequels on last-generation hardware.
All has been quiet on the GRID front this generation leaving us wondering if the series had met its demise. Luckily, all fears were put to rest with the announcement of the new GRID earlier in the year. The 2019 version of GRID has left us confused, though. Is it a remake of the original Race Driver: GRID? Is it a reboot of the series, or something else? Let’s dive in to find out.
GRID doesn’t strive to be the most realistic simulator nor does it want to be a physics-defying arcade racer, it takes its pride of place somewhere in between. This middle-ground is especially evident when you turn all car assists off and find physics which feel unnatural. As a result, GRID is at its most intuitive and fun when playing with assists on.
Once you’ve spent a decent amount of time with GRID you will begin to drift around turns with precision and control which can be very satisfying. Just be prepared to hit a few walls here and there as you get to grips with the game.
There are a total of 60 vehicles in GRID ranging from the Volvo Estate touring car to Fernando Alonso’s Formula One car. You’ll find stock cars, touring cars, open-wheel racers, GT cars and more giving you a decent spectrum of vehicles to tame.
Frame rates may appear lower than they are
Playing on a standard PlayStation 4, GRID has some rather large missteps in the visuals department. Although the environments are well realised, the textures appear low resolution at times giving the game a surprisingly blurry and dated look.
A lack of anti-aliasing gives distant cars and trackside objects a distracting shimmer, and car texture detail can often be seen popping in at the start of an event. When you consider how good Race Driver: GRID looked in 2008 (not to mention the recently released DiRT Rally 2.0), GRID’s visuals are somewhat underwhelming on the standard PlayStation 4.
The problems don’t end there, however. The frame rates in the rearview mirrors are some of the lowest we’ve ever seen, and the game only runs at 30 fps to boot.
Codemasters usually treats us with a high standard of car audio in their games. While the audio in GRID is in keeping with this standard, it doesn’t hit the lofty heights that we’ve seen in the DiRT Rally series. Still, vehicles bellow out with aggression and purpose across the range of vehicle classes, although sound strangely muted in any of the chase camera viewpoints.
For a game striving to provide an intense experience, the omission of any background music during races is almost unforgivable. Environmental sounds also need some attention, driving through a tunnel is not nearly as much fun as it should be, for example.
Quantity over variety
GRID’s extensive campaign mode is split into the following six categories: Touring, Stock, Tuner, GT, Fernando Alonso’s racing team, and Invitational. Each category plays host to at least fourteen events or championships.
Once you’ve completed the requisite number of events in any of the six categories, you’ll unlock the showdown events. Complete four of these, and you’ll unlock the GRID World Series finale.
While it sounds like there is plenty here, events simply boil down to circuit races with a differing number of laps, point A to B races, and time trial events: GRID is sorely lacking in variety making the campaign repetitive and not nearly as much fun as the original title from 2008.
Furthermore, you will get so far into anyone of GRID’s six main categories before finding out you don’t have enough cash for the required vehicle to proceed making you compete in a different category to build up cash. This happens several times during the campaign which is frustrating if you want to master one category at a time.
Before starting a race you can opt for the one-lap qualifying session. Although this sounds exciting, after you’ve completed the session the track loads in a second time and you still have the option to opt into qualifying making the thrill and intensity of having just one lap to put in a qualifying time redundant.
GRID provides you with a teammate who can earn you extra cash during events. Through the race engineer, you can order your teammate to push harder or to hold their position and block others from passing. While this sounds very strategic and nuanced, the truth is you’ll be so concerned with threading your own car through the field that these features will become mere gimmicks.
Although technically a team-based racing experience, it matters not if you completely ignore your teammate: you’ll progress all the same. You can also interact with your race engineer for general tidbits of information as well as to find out where your nearest rival is in relation to you – a very nice feature indeed.
GRID features 12 locations including the real-world circuits of Brands Hatch, Indianapolis, Sepang and Silverstone. While this might seem like a small number, the game actually contains over 60 different circuit configurations which help to keep the game fresh even hours into the campaign.
Wet weather is handled very well in GRID and is where the title arguably looks at its best. Rain cascades down at angles and collects on the screen and ground surfaces, whereas water spray is kicked up by cars ahead of you. The visual effect is very convincing at times and blasting your vehicle around rain-soaked circuits can be a challenge thanks to reduced grip levels.
Unfortunately, the damage model in GRID leaves a lot to be desired. You can bash your car around a lot only to sustain seemingly no mechanical damage. On one occasion, we hit a trackside barrier jutting out at the exit of a tunnel which completely wrecked our car. Clearly, the damage model has to be better balanced.
Besides the career, GRID also offers a free play mode enabling you to take to any circuit in any car. The multiplayer options are limited to quick match and private match only: to say GRID’s multiplayer offerings are scant is understating it.
The multiplayer action plays out well for the most part, however, cars can defy physics and stutter in a chaotic manner: some tweaks to the net code is needed. When things do run smoothly, online races are chaotic and fun but it remains to be seen how populated the servers will be in a few week’s time given the paltry online offerings.
Although featuring a large single-player campaign, GRID feels fairly bare-bones thanks to a lack of variety in its events. Granted, the game features a wide array of vehicle types, however, these are not utilised well thanks to the absence of drifting battles, touge, multi-class racing, and any 24 hour Le Mans events found in the original GRID eleven years ago.
As a result, GRID feels like an experimental title, a game that is testing the waters for a fully fleshed out GRID sequel for next-generation perhaps. Either way, GRID fails to hit the heights of earlier titles in the series and is a game that will be forgotten about all too easily in the not so distant future. Consider GRID a 6.5 rounded up to a seven, best to wait for a sale before adding it to your collection.
- Fun handling with assists on
- Varied vehicle selection
- Lack of event types
- Underwhelming visuals
- No race music
- Poor mechanical damage system
Lacking in variety in events and despite a wide array of vehicle types the absence of drifting battles, togue, multi-class racing, and any 24 hour Le Mans hold GRID back despite so much potential. GRID fails to establish an identity of its own nor hit the heights of earlier titles in the series. Ultimately it results in a game that will be forgotten about all too easily in the not so distant future. Consider GRID a 6.5 rounded up to a seven, best to wait for a sale before adding it to your collection.