GRID Autosport Review
When the first GRID game launched in 2008, I was pleasantly surprised. Having been a racing fan all my life (especially of sim racers), I always welcome the addition of new racing franchises to the mix, but find myself generally disappointed at the number of subpar arcade styled racers out there. ‘For every Need For Speed: Most Wanted’, there are ten Doomsday Racers. Needless to say, even though GRID was made by the same folks that produced the excellent TOCA series, I didn’t go in with what I would call “high hopes”.
As it turned out, original GRID was a lot of fun. I enjoyed the focus on the actual excitement of racing as opposed to insane detail, physics, and total car-count of the other sim racers I was (and still am) so in love with. I also enjoyed the fact that GRID was not SO ingrained with arcade-physics that I would be able to “go cart” my way around every corner. It was a wonderful balance between sim and arcade racing. GRID 2 then came along a few years later, and while I enjoyed that game as well, the storyline of the career mode left a lot to be desired, and the handling got much more forgiving. Suddenly, I was able to slide around any corner without any consequence…something I really don’t like in my racing games.
GRID Autosport marks a return to the “roots” of the GRID franchise, with a career focus that is more in line with the first GRID game, combined with a handling model that is much less “arcadey” than GRID 2. Make no mistakes though, GRID Autosport is still not going to be mistaken for a sim racer, and that’s just fine with me.
Let’s start with the handling. While the seasoned sim racer will still find GRID’s handling to be a bit on the forgiving side, it’s definitely a system where you do need to apply some real-world driving techniques to your game. Brake too late and then accelerate too quickly out of a turn, and you WILL spin out. The more powerful cars will struggle to maintain traction and control if you mash on the accelerator from a standstill. If you stomp on the brakes while tearing around at 100+ MPH, you’ll find yourself swerving under the strain. It’s a fine balance between Burnout handling and something a little more grounded in actual physics. It makes Autosport much more accessible to newcomers, but still gives racing vets something with more complexity than your normal arcade racer.
The career mode of Autosport is divided into five distinct racing disciplines (Touring, Endurance, Tuning, Street Racing, and Open Wheel), each of these different styles offers a unique feel, though some, such as Street and Touring for instance, start to feel the same after a while. Touring offers high intensity, high contact racing on various circuits around the world, you’ll find yourself visiting old favorites like Yas Marina and Spa, and also various street circuits like San Francisco and Chicago.
While I appreciate the focus on different racing disciplines, there are a few bones I would to pick with the selections. GRID Autosport feels less like a new entry to the franchise, and more like a “Greatest Hits” package of previous GRID games. The game should be instantly recognizable to anyone that played early installments, and there’s a familiarity to seeing the same tracks from previous games and participating in, what’s mostly, the same racing styles from previous games as well.
I would have liked to see Togue make a comeback personally. For instance, Touring and Street racing are presented as two distinct disciplines, but other than the fact that Touring takes place on closed circuits and Street takes place on city courses, there’s not much difference.
Open Wheel mixes things up a bit with a drastically different type of vehicle, but you’re still experiencing the same type of racing on the same courses. Endurance had a lot of potential, but because most gamers probably wouldn’t want to sit through an actual 12 to 24 hour race, these have been trimmed down to eight minutes. There is no ability to pit during this process, so even though your tires wear-down throughout the course of an endurance race, the lack of pitting and the fact that races are just too short to begin with, makes tire-wear kind of a moot point. You can’t change them out anyway, and even if you could, the races certainly aren’t long enough where you would need to.
You can choose to focus on one discipline or partake in a mishmash of different ones, but at some point, you will need to participate in each one to some degree. Once you hit level 3, the GRID Grand Slam opens up, which is a championship that packages together a variety of the different disciplines into a series. Having some semblance of knowledge with the different styles comes in handy if you want to dominate the Grand Slam events and put Ravenwest (the game’s top team) in their place.
Besides those gripes however, Autosport presents racing in the bone crunching, white knuckle way that gave the franchise its claim to fame in the first place. The AI can get super aggressive, especially if you set the AI difficulty to a higher level. It’s thrilling to tear around a track with the opposing racers, all of whom are out to get your head. They’ll have no qualms about side swiping you right into the tire wall if you try any funny business, it’s well put together. It gives Autosport more of an action movie feel than other racing games, though it doesn’t go as far as the NFS series in that regard.
This time around, you are given a teammate to “control,” which means you can request for your race manager to order your teammate to drive more or less aggressively. In theory, this can be an invaluable tool since you can have your teammate block other drivers for you, if they are further up ahead. A few things stood out with this system: 1) your teammate is pretty terrible and will almost always end up in the back of the pack pretty early on, making them useless. Second, as long as you go through the trouble of qualifying, you can pretty much guarantee a high position on the starting grid, where you won’t really need your teammate’s services anyway.
Also, because this is team based racing, your teammate’s points count toward your total team score, meaning if your teammate is consistently bad, you will always suffer in total points. I was winning race after race, but because my teammate was always coming in near the bottom of the pack, I had to watch as Ravenwest always ended up with more points than my team. Sure, as you level up and get signed by better teams, you notice a bit of improvement, but overall, the teammate system seems like wasted potential.
Visually the game is pretty much on par with what we saw in GRID 2. GRID 1 had a weird haze throughout the whole game, but GRID 2 had fantastic visuals with beautiful tracks, sharp looking cars, and some nice environmental and particle effects (especially in the Chicago street circuit). Autosport looks pretty much like what one would expect from a racing game coming at the tail end of the last generation of consoles.
The PC version I was provided with looks razor sharp with the visuals maxed out and seemed to run pretty smoothly even spanned across three monitors. Honestly at this point in the last generation of consoles, I’d expect nothing less than excellent visuals, and GRID Autosport delivers on that aspect, both on consoles and PC.
GRID Autosport is what I would have expected GRID 2 to be. It focuses on the racing itself with a look at individual racing disciplines. There’s no career mode with a laughable storyline and the twitchy handling from GRID 2 has been toned down to more closely resemble that which we saw in GRID.
In the end, Autosport is the true GRID 2, with GRID 2 being a one time spinoff. It’s a blast to play, is instantly accessible to a wide range of players, and even though there are a few gripes, Autosport was still a fantastically fun game to play. Toss in a completely separate online mode, and you’ve got a triumphant last-gen swansong for Codemasters and their GRID series (assuming the next GRID game will be on current gen systems).