Keeping up with GRID
March 25, 2008 – Automotive games. It seems they come out all the time, and yet there are only a select few that stand out as exceptional entries in this flooded genre. When you think of great automotive titles, you no doubt think of Gran Turismo, Forza Motorsports, and of course, Burnout. Another series that has been consistently good has been the TOCA Race Driver series. Although this series has definitely flown under the radar recently, the folks at Codemasters have been developing this series since 1997, and the latest console entry, TOCA Race Driver 3, was released in February 2006 to generally favorable reviews.
The series has definitely not slowed down after all these years, and the latest entry in the series, Race Driver: GRID, looks to take the series’ precision-based gameplay to new heights while maintaining the series’ trademark look and feel. It is definitely placing itself in a different position than games like Forza, which feature an extreme form of simulation-based play. GRID looks like it is shaping up to be a more casual approach to the simulation genre, and hopes to present a realistic professional driver experience.
The game’s career mode has the usual goal of coming into your own as a professional racer. You’ll start off with a small reputation, and your task will be to place high enough in races to progress in the professional racing circuit. But this game entails more than just winning races. Along the way you’ll have to select partners and sponsors and manage your personal team. The game creates an intricate racing experience, but it is also a little less overbearing than other automotive games in a technical sense. Instead it favors a game that is a bit more approachable to non-gearheads. One way that Grid eases the whole technical aspect of automotive games is by eliminating car modification. While other games like Need for Speed and the now-defunct Juiced series had thousands of options and customizable parts, Grid only lets you upgrade entire vehicles instead of many moving parts. And while most people who played these games were into cars to begin with, I can appreciate the simplicity that this game is trying to bring to the genre.
Tracks in GRID will be located in various exotic places across America, Asia, and Europe. Events in each area are inspired by racing culture in that particular region. For example, races in Asia will have a good deal of drifting challenges, while events in Europe will feature lengthy circuit racetracks that will focus on straight-up speed. Tracks will also feature a mix of close-quarters urban tracks and long scenic rural tracks. The track selection seems to be very well-balanced over the course of the game, but if you’re really interested in one type of race, the game’s progression is non-linear so you can really make your own choices as to what type of racing experience you want.
And as great as all of this sounds, any racing fan will tell you that no matter how great gameplay may be, an automotive title must get the crashes right. And GRID is definitely looking promising in this respect. The game has extensive damage modeling, and it is possible to not only harm the body of your car, but vital parts like the tires, or even the engine itself. And since the game doesn’t have repair functionality, driving safely is incredibly important because any damage incurred to your precious vehicle will be, unfortunately, permanent. However, if you really mess up, there is hope in the form of a rewind function that allows you to go back up to ten seconds during a race and erase any damage you incurred. This is definitely a new concept in the automotive genre, and while I’m not completely sold on how well it will work, I’m rather excited to try it out.
All in all, GRID looks like it is going to be a real departure from current automotive games. It seems to be a more casual simulation-type game that is challenging some of the current trends in the genre. It takes a less technical approach to the world of racing, and excludes staples like car customization and repair functionality. But it has a pretty cool-looking, non-linear gameplay and some interesting new features. This title definitely looks like one to keep an eye on, not only for hardcore automotive fans, but also for those who want a more casual high-octane title!