Heading back on track.
Before senior developers Clive Moody and Andy Stewart introduced GRID Autosport, the next installment in the simulation racing GRID franchise, with a PowerPoint presentation, I noticed that the group I was assigned was understandably nearing exhaustion. This was our fourth or fifth game, in our third rotation, and possibly due to certain events that happened the night before in Las Vegas (something about what stays here...), several of us were only awake on fumes. I could tell that the energy in the room had been sapped, so when the developers asked how we were all feeling, I did the only thing I thought I could do without arousing suspicion of my sanity: I rose my arms and shouted, "Go Codemasters!"
Luckily, the developers were equally excited to show GRID Autosport, in part because its fans (myself including) felt its most recent installment DiRT Showdown veered too far off the road. This is their opportunity to swerve back to the center and create a more straightforward, bread-and-butter simulation racer that's not as clinical as a Gran Turismo, while still retaining several arcade elements for good measure.
In line with the emphasis on both accurate and entertaining racing, GRID Autosport will feature five flavors of racing that range from precise and technical, to wild and aggressive. Touring car races tend to have packed grids where rivals often trade paint, while street races highlight tight city roads, limited line of sight, and head-to-head competition. Endurance races, as the name implies, can last for an hour or longer into the night, with tire wear factoring into whether you want to attack early or bide your time for assertive passing later.
The new open-wheel racing will highlight Formula 1-style liveries that can reach ridiculous top speeds but will understeer easily if you're not careful with the gas pedal coming out of a wide-angle turn. This form of technical racing is also supported by tuner competitions that underline well-managed car upgrades and adjustments. Satisfying all five divisions, not solely one, is the only way to proceed through the career mode and gain the attention of ultimate teams like Raven West.
That said, the difficulty has a generous range of options that simulation racing fans will recognize, including ABS assists, the Flashback system which allows you to rewind time, and the layering of the racing line on top of the track. Any assists you turn off, in turn, will reward you more experience points than normal. You can enter qualifying races as well to better your starting position for the main event.
For better online interaction, GRID Autosport comes with an upgrade that many RaceNet fans have been clamoring for: car clubs. Up to 100 members can join a single club, and while there's currently no in-game reward for being a part of one, there will be bragging rights. Members within a club can also choose to have specific decals to show their colors and brew healthy competition. If you're a fan looking for friendly competition, you'll also appreciate the reappearance of Demolition Mode among the various game types in party mode.
GRID Autosport will release for Xbox 360, PS3, and PC on June 24, 2014.