GRID Autosport Preview
The GRID series has always held an interesting place in my gaming library, I consider myself to be a sim racing fan. I love cars and car-culture so much that I can literally sink hours into any game like ‘Gran Turismo,’ ‘Forza,’ or ‘iRacing’ just trying to beat my own lap times over and over again, poring over the car selection and setting new times. Sim racing is something that defines me as a gamer, and it’s a genre that I will always love.
This is not to say however, that I don’t enjoy games that lean more towards the arcade style as well. I’ll still happily sink hours into games like ‘Burnout Paradise’ or ‘Need For Speed Rivals’. The thing I like most about the arcade-racing genre is the fact that authenticity takes a backseat to action. I see it as comparing ‘The Expendables’ to ‘Platoon’; ‘The Expendables’ will never be mistaken for an Academy Award winning film or an accurate depiction of mercenary work, but damned if it isn’t a lot of fun to experience.
GRID was a surprise when it launched in 2008. I was not familiar with the TOCA series at that point. Most of my racing experience was from the Gran Turismo series and Need For Speed, titles that I consider to be from two franchises at opposite ends of the spectrum. I was pleased to see GRID straddle the middle ground between arcade and sim racing. My driving didn’t need to be as precise as when playing GT4, but the handling in GRID also wasn’t as “go kart-y” as most other arcade racers had been designed in the past.
Fast forward a few years from that introduction and we now sit on the cusp of the third iteration of the GRID series, ‘GRID Autosport.’ While I enjoyed GRID 2, I’m familiar with many complaints about the game, such as the less than stellar story mode and the further push towards arcade handling. It seems that many were not impressed with the GRID 2 developer’s decision to abandon the team racing mechanics in favor of a story.
GRID Autosport should rectify that with fans in this installment. After consulting with the GRID community, professional racing drivers and Autosport magazine, Codemasters has left the story-based career mode behind and returned to the world of team based racing. The cockpit view has returned (finally, no more “No cockpit view? I’m not buying this game!!!!” posts on the forums), the handling has been tweaked and additional gameplay elements like having a teammate make this a nice, fresh entry into the GRID franchise.
The preview build of GRID Autosport that I was provided with consists of one championship series in each of the game’s five racing disciplines. Those include; Touring Cars, Endurance, Open-wheel, Tuner, and Street Races. Each of the different disciplines will allow players to experience a wide range of cars, from Hypercars to Single Seaters.
Essentially what has happened to the career mode is Codemasters took the wide range of disciplines from GRID 1 and categorized them. None of these are brand new styles, but they are now grouped into specific categories for you to choose between, depending on your favorite genre. Where GRID 1 had you choose between racing on three different continents, GRID Autosport has you choose which disciplines you want to tackle. You can switch at any time between the different styles, so if you’re getting bored with too many Drift events, you can easily jump into the claustrophobia offered by tight quarters Street Racing.
Perhaps the single biggest addition to the gameplay is the in-race teammate gameplay mechanic that you can control (to a certain extent at least). You can radio your race engineer to have your teammate change the aggressiveness of his racing style, making your teammate push ahead to clear a path for you or have them defend against opponents behind you, preventing any surprise overtakes. The more aggressive you force your teammate to be, the likely he is to make mistakes. This added some welcomed strategic planning to the races. When a race gets heated and you’re fighting for position amongst the pack of cars, proper handling of your teammate’s strategy could make a pretty significant difference in the outcome of the race.
The handling in GRID Autosport feels a bit more like the first game and less like the slippery cars of GRID 2. It’s not a significantly noticeable difference but worth mentioning. I mean, you’re not going to be mistaking this game for Gran Turismo anytime soon but anyone who has played all the GRID games should notice a lean towards a more authentic weight-based physics experience. Sure, it’s still a bit easy to kick out the back end of a car and maintain control but there is a noticeable weight shift when tearing around corners, and at least all the cars handle differently and behave like individual entities. It didn’t feel like I was driving the same car with a different “skin” on top.
With all this being said, it should be noted that this is still a preview build and therefore anything mentioned here could still be tweaked before the game’s launch next month. The teammate AI that I experienced is still unfinished and different performance optimizations still need to be made. One callout is that I experienced quite a few instances with some pretty noticeable framerate drops. In fact the game even crashed my video driver completely a few times, but overall, the preview build was solid and those type of instances are common in preview builds from time-to-time.
GRID Autosport is shaping up to be a very strong entry in the GRID franchise and signals a return to a less dramatic experience, but a more team based experience that favors authenticity. GRID Autosport is set to release on June 24th for the Xbox 360, PS3, and PC.