The tenth game in Codemasters' long-running TOCA race franchise, GRID is meant to be a soft reboot of the entire GRID sub-series. Most of the overall design fits with that paradigm, with Codemasters pushing a ‘back to basics’ formula with pretty much every single mechanic imaginable. Everything in GRID follows its predecessors in creating an authentic racing experience. Despite some hiccups here and there, the overall package is well worth checking out if you're looking for a new reason to hit the track.
In A Real Race
GRID creates this authentic experience thanks to its presentation. All the races occur in facsimiles of real-world locations, from the streets of San Francisco to the racetracks of China. Tons of corporate sponsors litter the tracks, even the meager selection of vehicles carry brands ranging from Subaru to Honda to Chevy. All of this is coupled with a simple story premise, to be one of the best racers in the world by being invited to participate in GRID-sponsored events and gaining access to the GRID World Series.
Some modern racers attempt to add narrative as extra content for players, but a game like GRID doesn’t really need one. What we do get is a long series of races, each with various classes of vehicles to compete with. In total, the story mode has players race in over 90 different events, with a good number dedicated to certain vehicle types, such as GT and Stock cars. The true-to-life cars and tracks just add to the realism that Codemasters is aiming for here.
The Casual Driver
That authenticity is easily the game’s biggest strength, but one other unique aspect is the simplicity of GRID's gameplay. Most of the mechanics are straightforward, with everything represented in a fairly-user friendly way. Players can "tune" their vehicle by tweaking a group of sliders that affect performance. So if you want a top speed over acceleration, or if you want to absorb more bumps to protect your vehicle, you can do that on the fly before any race. The options are a bit jargon-heavy, but casual race fans could at least figure out what changes they serve for your vehicle, thanks in part to the simplicity of the sliders.
GRID doesn’t really offer much in the options of vehicular customization. The car selection is decent but not robust, with each vehicle only differentiated by power and weight. Each vehicle costs a different amount, but the differences become somewhat negligible throughout because of the base stats of the vehicles.
Another issue is that customization only comes in the form of minor cosmetics. You can unlock different graphical designs as you level up in GRID, but you can only really change their colors in the end. You get more unlocks for your name tag and avatar, which include accolades as you win races, new background graphics and nametag colors over time. The options in GRID are ok but thin; it is clear Codemasters is attempting a quality over quantity approach, but the lack of full control over the small selection of vehicles available may be a turn-off for the hardcore gearheads.
A Not so Bitter Rivalry
There is one touted new mechanic in GRID, and that's the nemesis system. A nemesis driver can occur whenever a player crashes or bumps into an AI-controlled racer. In theory, this makes them more aggressive towards the player. Codemasters has stated that GRID features over 400 different AI characters, each with their own distinct racing style. In my experience, the AI is still gunshy when going up against real players.
This is not to say that races are cakewalks, but the nemesis drivers rarely seek retaliation. It could depend on the AI of the driver, but there were only a few instances where a nemesis would purposefully single me out in the middle of the race. The rest of the time, these drivers would follow their normal routines of blocking my car from advancing or trying to pass me.
This aggressive AI program is a neat idea that just doesn’t really factor in much. A lot of the peripheral features of GRID tend to fall into this category. Your racing teammate can also be one of a variety of different AI characters, and they ironically have more stats to track than your vehicles. Who you hire as your teammate can affect some aspects of the race, such as the ability to attack or defend other drivers. Unfortunately, save for some of the higher cost characters, any form of strategy with your AI partner tends to be a non-factor.
In fact, the only mechanic worth mentioning is the returning flashback mechanic from previous GRID games. Allowing the player to ‘rewind’ a section of the race, the mechanic continues to be a tool for players to help them survive difficult sections across a track. Players can also limit the number of uses during a race, offering another customizable challenge that caters toward their own skill level.
Of course, the real meat for most players will be online play. GRID offers a few options for creating your own online races, with choices for name, vehicle category, and class, even the amount of flashbacks and rounds can be tweaked. Online play is also where many of the unlocks – your banner, your vehicle’s paint job, even your accolades – can be shown off to the public.
It is, like most of GRID, solid but basic. This is not necessarily bad, as the options are just enough to get people started with online play. The online community will be the true test for GRID’s longevity, though if the AI races are any indication, hardcore racing fans will be impressed by the options, despite the limitations on content.
GRID Review | Final Thoughts
Ultimately, what you see is what you get with GRID. It's a solid, respectable racer that doesn’t try reinventing the wheel with its mechanics. If anything, the simplistic use of tweaks and sliders make it more accessible to non-racing fans. Still, GRID retains a lot of the more advanced mechanics you need to really test your skill along the track.
That is pretty much all you can ask for with a racing simulator. This isn't a game I would normally play, but for racing fans looking for a pure experience without many gimmicks attached, GRID is a solid choice to pick up. It also serves as a good starting point for those curious about these types of racing games. The small changes of accessibility go a long way here for GRID, which puts it in a sweet spot that can cater to both fans and newcomers alike.
TechRaptor reviewed GRID on PlayStation 4 with a code provided by the publisher. The game is also available on Xbox One and PC and will come to Google Stadia.
- Simplified Vehicle Stats and Mechanics...
- Visually Impressive...
- Solid Racing Action...
- The Flashback System Returns...
- ...That May be Too Simple For Some.
- ...Lack of Standout Music.
- ... Not a Lot of Vehicle Customization.
- ...The Nemesis Mechanic is Rarely a Factor.