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Wednesday | August 15, 2018
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RaceDriver GRID (PS3 & X360)

RaceDriver GRID (PS3 & X360)

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It would be safe to say there isn’t a shortage of racing games already out there. With Forza Motorsport 2 , Gran Turismo Prologue, DIRT, Burnout Paradise, SEGA Rally Revo and Project Gotham 4 to name a few, is there really a need for another? Developer of DIRT – Codemasters Racing Studio have released GRID as the title to cross over between tactical simulation and arcade racer. Just how good is it however?

The engine which has been taken from DIRT and renamed to EGO has been subjected to some minor changes for the new title. Many fans will recognise the fact that this could be a new face for the old Codemaster TOCA/Pro Race Driver series and the end result is an exciting, highly polished experience that offers a wide array of racing drama to satisfy even the most demanding race fans.

Style is the order of the day and right from the opening sequence GRID sets an impressive cinematic tone and this thankfully carries over into the game itself. Not only have you the usual views of hood, bumper, third person and cockpit but GRID has a full replay system so you can rewind, pause, fast forward and change views of your driving on the fly. The engine is extremely polished and slick and I would be hard pressed to find a fault with it on any level. The replay camera has such diversity that it deserves special mention. I was never a person to even use a replay system so the fact I spent so much time admiring crashes and other racing exploits speaks volumes and I would be surprised if it didn’t convert even the most sceptical of racers. The only negative aspect is, that once you leave a race, the replays are gone forever as the game doesn’t let you save them to the hard drive. I really hope they take this into consideration and offer a game patch to change this.

Thankfully there are no annoying camera angles in-game either and Codemasters deserve some credit for spending considerable time making sure the game flows consistently. Even the menus are subject to cool movement techniques which makes you feel as if you are interacting with the game rather than just clicking a static button.

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Initially you choose a character and give him/her a name and country of origin. Once you do this then you get placed immediately on track for a initial race, without a tutorial and without a menu or track list. A Dodge Viper is your virgin car and once you finish this race you are officially classed as a freelance driver. The object? To raise 60,000 towards a car of your own.

After several more races you have the cash to create your own team by naming it, and choosing your own official colours and design which will be applied to every car you acquire throughout the game. This is nothing out of the ordinary and other games, such as Forza 2 offer many more options. Not that this is a particularly negative point as I found Forza 2 totally overkill and GRID contains just enough options to keep it interesting and realistic.

The audio side of things is mostly impressive and the customisation helps to enhance the immersive atmosphere. Once you enter your full name, the game asks you to select a name from a preset list. If you are fortunate to have a reasonably common name then after selecting your support staff, they call you via that name throughout the game. Yes, they compliment you when you race well and insult you when you damage a new and expensive ride.

Even if you don’t have a common name, the developers have rather cleverly added support for nicknames which you can choose instead. Yes, if someone calling you “Dude” every time they speak gives you a chuckle, GRID has the option, dude.

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The audio experience doesn’t end there because other characters will incessantly talk to you, people such as your teammate or manager. While this sounds extremely positive, unfortunately there is plenty of repeating dialogue which ends up grating after extended play. So while the pre recorded dialogue is a nice addition there just really isn’t enough to keep it varied and fresh. I lost track of the times I wanted to reach into the screen and slap my virtual manager across the face for reminding me that another team could possibly give me more money (even when I had just moved).

The team “spotter” is also inaccurate. He would call me with crashes on the track which would never seem to be accurate and would often let me know about things after they had happened. He wasn’t wrong all the time, just frequently he appeared to be watching a different race.

Audio shortcomings aside the racing is brilliant and this is the meat of the game. There are three racing regions in GRID – USA, Europe and Japan and they are all accessible early in the game after you gain your racing license. However as you progress and increase your reputation (measured in a point system), then higher levels of competition open within each area. So if you are racing well and performing well, the faster these unlock. When you win, you earn trophies, brand name sponsorship options as well as the obligatory cash payouts.

Overall, all the race styles seem to cater for everyone, especially as there are street competitions, endurance races, mountain races and track races. Every one of these styles plays slightly differently and certainly increases the long term enjoyment.

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The focus is certainly on the racing and Codemasters even offer a Le Man 24 hour race and each hour is depicted by an in-game minute. It is enjoyable as the racing is intense and stimulating and the weather effects as well as day and night are accurately rendered. If you couple this with the fact that you can race in a Mazda 787B with a rotary engine, famous from the 1991 Le Mans then you arebeginning the see the possible enjoyment open to racing aficionados. Le Mans was one of my personal favourites even though I enjoyed the freestyle and grand prix events.

Those of you who like the wealth of 200+ cars in other games might be disappointed with the 45 cars offered in GRID and although they are all state of the art racing machines the choices do seem limited from time to time. This limitation is highlighted unfortunately when some races only have the option of a single car. No tuning is available which might also alienate the modders out there.

It isn’t all bad news however because the cars they do include have been handpicked to represent the best from each classification and my particular favourite is the Audi R10 TDi. The game covers a wide array of styles from classic ranges to modern racing weapons.

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The cars all handle differently and regularly the only way to deal with a specific car proficiently is to spend time playing around with it on track. The game keeps the difficulty curve steep because once you master certain cars you have to start again when the classification changes.

Damage freaks will be pleased to hear that GRID has a killer mechanic in place which puts many others to shame. This again is taken from DIRT and enhanced to the next level making the metal bending the most advanced we have seen to date. Bumpers fall off when hit too hard, doors crumple or even fall off when damaged and paint even chips when your car connects with another. This excellent system combines with the camera to showcase crashes worthy of a high budget Hollywood action movie. The cars even handle differently depending on the level or areas of damage. If your suspension takes a nasty blow then rest assured your handling will also.

GRID also has a flashback function which lets you rewind and resume the action. If you just had a particularly damaging crash then you can restart just before it happened and take a different approach. To stop this becoming a game ruining aspect, this can be employed only a specific number of times, depending on the difficulty level. On harder levels it can become a great tool for learning specific tracks or bends. I love it, however as in Pro mode this option is removed entirely to be more realistic. Additionally, only in Pro mode can you upload scores to the online leaderboards.

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Multiplayer is great fun and equally difficult, with 12 cars online and an optional full damage system it will entertain for many, many hours. I also noticed no lag on either PS3 or 360 versions so the action is intense and rewarding. All modes are available online which keeps things varied and attractive to everyone and there is also a full lobby system with matchmaking built in. Hosts can choose damage settings as well as catchup levelling and the code is particularly well handled as the bandwidth is split between the players and distributed on the fly as needed.

Both Playstation 3 and Xbox 360 versions have been specifically coded for, so we don’t see some ugly lame-ass Ps3 port but an equally impressive game which fully utilises the Sony hardware. As such there are very few differences noticeable. I am sure the Ps3 version is slightly sharper but the 360 has richer colours, but this is just me being subjective rather than running extensive line out tests with high end capturing hardware. Needless to say that whichever version you buy you won’t be disappointed. Both force feedback steering wheels work very well as the game also supports full wheel support across both platforms.

Sure, there are a plethora of racing games on the market but GRID stands out above them all. The game plays fantastically and the crashes are mind blowing in their detail and diversity. The presentation is top notch and the game engine is one of the best to date. The audio can be annoying at times and the car count isn’t jaw dropping but these are minor shortcomings which do very little to ruin the overall product. It is sure to appeal to people who like both simulations and arcade racers as both audiences are catered for, to varying degrees. Very highly recommended.

One of the most enjoyable racing games I have played.
Top drawer in every respect. Both consoles never fail to impress.
Overall it is very good, but there is a certain amount of repeating dialogue which can annoy.
There is a lot to complete in single player mode right to pro level and the multiplayer is fun too.
(Not an Average)
If you are a fan of racing on any level, then this is one not to miss.

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About Author

Stuart Davidson

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