Pedal to the floor, hands on the wheel, holding the extreme edge of control…driving games can provide an amazing buzz. Like a rollercoaster ride, they’re a facsimile of danger in a safe environment, retaining the excitement of supercars whilst removing the risk of being splattered against an immovable object at 200Kph. GRiD is developer Codemasters’ latest entrant into the genre; does it hit the redline, or is it a bit of a burnout?
This late-2019 release is the fourth in the GRiD series, at least on paper, but in reality is a franchise reboot. As with the original Race Driver: GRiD, gameplay is split into different race disciplines each featuring various car classes. You’ll start by charging Minis around tight bends in urban Barcelona, drifting Nissan Skylines around mountain passes in Japan, and carving up the streets of San Francisco in thunderous muscle cars.
As you progress, more unusual classes appear (vintage, truck, manufacturer-specific, and so-on) and you’ll soon find yourself investing in new whips and trying to wrestle a rig around Le Mans, tame a Super Tourer around night time Singaporean expressways, and mixing it up in loads of other cool scenarios.
Variety is not really a problem with GRiD, then, although familiarity can become an issue. Many of the circuits are representations of real courses such as Silverstone, Indianapolis and Sepang, and the rest are city or rural tracks set all around the globe. Most of these have appeared in
Codies’ previous GRiD games, though and – although titivated considerably in this one and with added (though limited) environmental effects – might be disappointing for anyone keeping *ahem* track of the developer’s output, and expecting virgin territory.
Success in this crowded genre comes down to nuance. It feels like all AAA releases settled into a comfortable rut around a decade ago when it came to feature sets: you have your rewind feature, you have multiple disciplines, you have pop-up XP gains mid-race when performing skillful maneuvers, you have the option of a racing line assist function and so on. But without good fundamentals in control – steering, braking, handbrake and acceleration – the fun can quickly run out the sump.
It’s reassuring, then, that GRiD’s handling is one of the most exhilarating committed to code. You can refine your braking profile, gearing and the like but it doesn’t demand you micro-tune setup just to scrape third place. Weight distribution under braking feels authentic, but eases back on the realism just enough to prevent constant under- or oversteer. The vehicles all have their own attitudes, some depending on handbrake to make it around corners, some drift-capable, some just complete rockets with insane top speeds. This is all by design, though, so making the most of the car’s idiosyncrasies becomes entertaining and, quickly, second nature.
The competition is also a thrill to race against: AI is not perfect, but makes up for its lack of sophistication with a professionally benign approach to jockeying and overtakes. You won’t find yourself constantly nudged off the road by other roadies seeking your doom, but neither will you find the pack parting like the red sea to admit you through.
GRiD is not the perfect package, though, and its biggest flaw is a lack of focus in the campaign. When you are replaying the same dozen-or-so courses over and over, you need a decent career structure to keep you incentivised. The game is consciously simplistic, and you pretty much conquer the circuits sequentially which, combined with the relatively small range of cars is, may repulse anyone looking for a Gran Turismo-type experience.
In the modern gaming landscape, with a diminishing range of top-tier, arcade-style racers being developed, GRiD is the clear leader. Superior to Forza Horizon 4, better than old stalwarts NFS: Shift 2 and the immensely fun DiRT 2, and equal to the game Driveclub eventually became, GRiD is a satisfying return to the vibrancy and energy the best of these games can provide. If you’re the type of gamer who’s happy to set aside simulation, parts economy, hours in the garage and just get the rubber on the road, this is the one for you. Rev it up and get racing, driver.
Review Supplied by @Treble_Alpha