The past couple years have been rocky for Codemasters as the acclaimed racing game developer has released broken games like Micro Machines World Series, laid of huge chunks of the studio after Onrush‘s commercial failure, and come under fire for a lack of content in recent releases. Despite this, the studio has been quite busy as it has released eight games since 2017 (including three in 2019). Earlier this year, Dirt Rally 2.0 offered up a great rally racing simulation that was held back by its DLC plan and lack of difficulty options. Now the developer is back with a reboot of its beloved GRID series, which became highly popular during the last generation of consoles due to its wide variety of racing. But just because Grid is back doesn’t mean it is better,
For the most part, the reboot of Grid is faithful to the original series. There’s still plenty of variety in the races ranging from touring cars to street racing, and it remains a jack of all trades from that standpoint. Not to be confused for Gran Turismo or even its own F1 series, this is less of a hardcore simulation and more of a title that enjoyably straddles the lines between sim and arcade racers. As such, it allows for players to drive plenty of cars that they probably can’t afford in a wild, yet somewhat controlled, manner as they drift around corners and bump into computer-controlled foes.
The good news is that Grid is specifically designed for that sort of bump and grind-type of racing. Codemasters has implemented a Nemesis System, which sadly isn’t a Shadow of Mordor-style succession system that has players taking the spots of other drivers by wrecking them. Instead, it is an adaptable artificial intelligence that will drive more aggressively based upon your actions. Drive in an overly reckless manner and you will find out quickly that opponents aren’t afraid to cut you off while taking a corner. It’s a system that will punish those that like to speed into corners and use their foes as a makeshift brake (something I’m all too guilty of), but also one that is lenient enough to know that some slight bumps are going to happen for even the most cautious of drivers. It’s nothing revolutionary, and Forza has long boasted “drivatars” that did the same thing, but it works incredibly well here and adds an interesting dynamic to each race.
Grid Review | A middle of the road career mode
The last Grid game to come out was 2014’s Grid: Autosport, which just got re-released on Nintendo Switch, so its well-done career mode is still fresh in mind. Sadly, Grid‘s attempt at iterating upon it largely falls flat due to a repetitive formula and the gating of vehicles that you need to compete in different disciplines. Reviewers received the $84.99 Ultimate Edition, which includes VIP status (which gives you bonus experience each race) and ownership of several cars straight off the bat. Even with these bonuses, I quickly found myself locked out of events because I didn’t own cars that cost over a million in-game credits. There was still plenty to do, as it still has multiple career-types you can focus on, but it showcased what a grind the mode ultimately becomes.
Not helping matters is that Grid hasn’t evolved any in the five years since the last release. While there are plenty of different types of races, there’s little variety in the event types themselves. 90% of the events are just series of lap-based races, which grow repetitive quickly. Occasionally, there will be a time attack stage or an endurance race to shake things up. It’s not only incredibly stagnant when other games are introducing crew management, but Project Gotham Racing 3 had a far more varied career mode that never began to drag and that was released way back in 2005.
Its first-person view is always a drag, which isn’t new for the series. While the interiors of the vehicles are more detailed than Autosport‘s poorly rendered insides, the mirrors are completely unusable. Considering you give up a lot of peripheral vision in the driver seat rather than a third-person view, it’s always important to be able to use your mirrors so you don’t hit other cars (and the Nemesis System ensures there are ramifications for doing so). However, the mirrors don’t accurately work in Grid and instead show a blurry version of the action that isn’t a good indicator of what is going on behind you. It was bothersome enough that I switched to playing third-person exclusively after a few races and never looked back. If you’re going to include that camera mode then do it right or don’t bother with it at all.
Grid Review | A more accessible racer
Grid is an accessible racing game and that isn’t always the case with Codemasters’ titles. Flashbacks, the ability to rewind a few seconds of the race in case you get into a wreck or mess up a turn, are once again a feature, and it’s fitting as they were once a staple of both Dirt and Grid. There’s also a racing line that can be toggled off or on, which is great if you want to be competitive early on and not guessing about how sharp to take a turn, and a number of in-game difficulty options. I found myself regularly winning with ease on medium, but there are multiple difficulties higher and lower than it, so everyone should be able to find a right degree of challenge here.
Grid is an enjoyable racing game that fails to do anything great. There’s a decent amount of content, but nothing to truly ride write home about. The career mode is relatively phoned in without any unique elements and can become a grind due to the game’s progression system. Returning fans will remember why they enjoyed the series, but they will also realize why it hasn’t been missed all that much in the past five years without an entry.