Race Driver: GRID
With Race Driver: GRID Codemasters wanted to bring the sould and excitement of true racing to console and pc and they managed to succeed in that. Even more than we expected!
While the Gran Turismo series and its makers keep driving themselves stuck in their sterile urge towards realism, gamers are slowly but steadily getting fed up with the fact that this also means that next to perfectly recreated car models there’s little to see. GRID is therefore a welcome, fresh and adrenaline-filled wind that especially on technical and graphical level immediately drops a small bomb.
A lot more than GT5P or Forza 2 this has become a beautiful game thanks to the improved EGO-engine (from DiRT). Not only are the visuals technically amazing, but they’re also added with a true soul. You can almost smell the oil-soaked tarmac and sweat-upholding driver helmets. Once you push the throttle in the faster cars the beautiful surroundings are reduced to stripes of color and light that flash by you. Too bad that the spectacular replays can’t be saved or edited and sent to friends. It’s not only the pixels, however, the pull you into the game, also the A.I. comes out surprisingly strong.
Where opponents in many other racing games limit themselves to driving in the nice parada, with the occasional flaw of an artificial-feeling slip, virtual pilots here move over the asphalt like they could eat each other for breakfast. Each position is furiously battled for and during some corners the whole pack can suddenly clash onto each other as a school of piranhas. No pre-programmed flaws here, but very realistic races as you would love to see on TV.
It’s during those moments that you’ll particularly enjoy the vast damage model. Scraps will fly all around and create some sort of obstacle track where you can drive past at 210km/h. Car wrecjs will add unexpected obstacles on tracks and races will constantly develop differently, no matter how you perform. One of the results of that is that you can sometimes be driven off the road by someone in the last turn. Where in other games this means an unavoidable restart, GRID allows you to use a Flashback. With this you rewind the situation to a couple of seconds before and you can retake your missed turn better or manage to barely avoid the crash. It makes that these crashes remain fun and purist needn’t worry: the higher the difficulty degree, the less Flashbacks (up to even none) you have at your disposal.
Smart move from Codemasters to make sure anyone has something they like. If you love the typical urban tracks like those from Project Gotham Racing, then the American races from the World mode are something for you. Gamers that rather prefer the realistic sides of racing will be happy with the tracks from Europe, while Japan of course stands of Need for Speed-like drifting. Real gearheads will not have everything they want (there’s little tuning), but you do get some small management duties on your plate like finding sponsors or selecting a team mate. All this brings a pleasant atmosphere of involvement and an environment that sometimes is missed with the more tight racing games. This same atmosphere is also nicely added with the 24 hours of Le Mans where it becomes clear that this game does require concentration and driving skills.
Soundwise, the makers have paid a tad too little attention to the roaring engines as even with a big surround system you never get those hairs in your neck standing up straight. Fun is that your mechanics and team boss will give you tips and updates during the race, with your own nickname.
Race Driver: GRID stands solid in my top list of racing games. It offers everyone both the necessary challenge as well as accessibility, a very beautiful presentation and gives more exciting moments in one race than many other racers together. We already hope to see more titles based on this engine. That this may be a rebirth of games where driving cars is exciting again.