GRID Autosport Review (PC)
Codemasters had a plan when they rebranded under the Codemasters Racing Studio banner. That plan was to have the GRID and Dirt franchises to release a game every other year in syncopation. This started with Dirt Showdown, followed by GRID 2. However, Codemasters have abandoned their plan after only a single iteration. Possibly in part to the release of the next generation of consoles and the learning curve required in developing for the new platform, but ultimately it can be put down to the fact that GRID 2 received such a mixed reception from the fans. No cockpit view? A story driven racing game? What were Codemasters thinking?
So what is GRID Autosport then? Codemasters claim that the “time and technology were right” to release another version, only a year later than GRID 2 had graced our shelves. What the fans really think is that GRID Autosport is an apology for GRID 2. One thing is for sure, it’s a fine game.
Codemasters went to a lot of effort in listening to their fans. One of the biggest gripes of GRID 2 was the lack of a cockpit view. Well GRID Autosport has two of them. Codemasters reason for leaving it out of GRID 2 made a lot of sense, saving on resources that could be better used making the rest of the game beautiful, something they definitely achieved. So while GRID Autosport has brought back in the cockpit view, it is relatively low detail, with no sign of dials or monitors anywhere on the dash to provide feedback to the player. This is still a bit of a sticking point, especially when the player is encouraged to play without any UI for an extra XP reward bonus each race.
The difficulty settings are pretty much back to the way they were in the original GRID. You get a set XP reward from your performance during a season, and this can be enhanced depending on the difficulty settings you pick. Not just the level of the AI, but driving assists, forcing the view to cockpit only and driving with no UI all help raise your XP bonus. It is rather key then that with the low end internal view that Codemasters provided some further form of feedback to the player. This is done in terms of a race engineer. In previous games the race engineer came onto the radio when the game felt the need, start of every lap, after a bad crash etc. In GRID Autosport you can request information from him at any point. Your position, your team mates position, your rivals position and a damage report are all just a button press away. This works really well during races, but Codemasters have still slightly missed out here by not having it available during the timed events or qualifying sessions. In these events, again if you are playing with no UI, you have no idea of the standings until you see the chequered flag.
A gripe of mine when it came to GRID 2 was the forcing of multidiscipline play. The GRID series has its origins set from the TOCA Touring Car games, and it has always been what they have done best. GRID Autosport goes some way to correcting this by getting rid of the whole story based driving idea and focusing a lot more on circuits over open road tracks. The selection of tracks is not huge, twenty two locations combine to provide over a hundred different track layouts. There are a couple of new tracks in there, but the majority of them are old favourites.
You can race on these tracks across the set disciplines available in GRID Autosport. These are Touring, Open Wheel, Endurance, Tuner and Street. The set up is a lot more like the original GRID where each season you pick a discipline, then select an event from that discipline to race in over the course of that season. Each event category will give you a couple of driver offers to chose from, with season objects set and XP rewards in that discipline for completing them. Once you reach level three in all disciplines you unlock the first of the GRID Championships. If you chose to complete a GRID Championship season you will compete across all disciplines, but the season objectives will be challenging yet rewarding. These are probably the best way to boost your XP across all the disciplines.
However, if you are like me then you will prefer one or two disciplines over the others. In fact, I see no reason for some of these to be in here at all. Tuner, for example, is mostly filled with Time Trial and Drift events. Who plays these? The Open Wheel discipline is nice, but all it does is make me look forward to the next F1 game. I wouldn’t be upset if these two categories were not in the game. Street is good, it has been a strong part in all the GRID games, though the loss of Live Routes is a shame, as it was easily the best feature in GRID 2. Endurance requires a lot of skill, with the minimum length of races being eight minutes and tire wear playing a huge part in each race. Endurance racing is very much about consistency, and it’s the discipline where you see AI mistakes more than any other.
Touring is the bread and butter though. I’ve already mentioned that the GRID roots are in the TOCA series, and to be honest, I’d love to see Codemasters go back and make a pure TOCA game again, and I don’t think I’m alone. The only thing holding back the Touring side of GRID Autosport is that they’ve had to sacrifice touring circuits to accommodate those used for other disciplines. The AI is probably at it’s best during Touring car races too, with many races really coming down to the wire.
The handling across all disciplines is spot on. Hit the throttle while your rear wheels are still on the kerb in Open Wheel and you are spinning out. Want to throw your street car into a drift round a corner in Barcelona? No problem. Going for the early brake and the cut back in a touring car? Absolutely prefect. The car models are nice too with all the fine detail, down to the Bugatti Veyrons air brake. The damage model doesn’t seem to have had any work done to it, and if anything has gone backwards it has, but maybe that’s just perception after playing Next Car Game.
The multiplayer side of the game works off the same experience system as the single player, with every race providing you with XP in the selected discipline. To begin with you will be loaning a car in each race you enter, but once you own a car you can start competing with it if the right events show up in your playlist. Codemasters have gone to a lot of effort to make the online experience a lot more personal. You can customise cars you own in terms of livery and sponsors, but each race also earns the car XP which will unlock upgrades for it. Smash your car about in a few races and you will notice a loss in performance until you repair it. Your car will also start to clock up mileage and will deteriorate with age. All this leads to a real sense of ownership and care over your online garage.
Overall GRID Autosport has taken a step backwards, but in a good way. One big shame in single player is that you never form your own team like in the original GRID, picking the livery and sponsors. You are just constantly a driver for hire. The discipline system works well though, and if you are not bothered about the GRID Championships then you can just stick to what you enjoy (yay! no more drift events!). Furthermore, it is disappointing that we are not seeing it on the next generation consoles. Ultimately though this feels like an apology from Codemasters. An apology that we are paying for.
But we forgive you.
4.5 apologies accepted out of 5