An Amazing Automotive Experience
When looking at automotive titles with a critical eye, one tends to notice the small things. Details like graphical upgrades, turn mechanics, vehicle rosters, and track designs are most likely to catch the attention of automotive fans. Titles that can implement upgrades in these areas are generally well-received at first, but soon disappear from public consciousness. Only titles that are truly vanguard in this genre are long remembered.
The Gran Turismo and Forza series both have a legacy in gaming, simply because they weren’t afraid to change the formula and shake things up. And in today’s market, where you have at least two or three automotive games released per month, it can be difficult for a title to break barriers to establish itself as an essential automotive game (or franchise). A title will have to take some serious risks and execute it almost perfectly in order to become an automotive staple. GRID takes some amazing risks, and I am happy to say they are executed wonderfully. But is it good enough to become a legend in the world of automotive games?
For the most part, when you first start playing GRID, it seems like a fairly generic racing experience. The main single-player mode is called GRID World, and has you predictably taking on the role of the newest hotshot driver in town. You rent out your skills to teams across the world to gain the funds necessary to start your own team. Once you start your own team, you can start entering events, accept sponsorship deals, and even recruit a teammate.
The different events and modes in GRID World are extremely diverse and cover almost every form of street and track racing you could possibly think of. All the standard events are here, including Grip races, Time trials, as well as Speed events. But there are also several specialty events such as Touge, which is a one-on-one race down a hill, Endurance, and Demolition Derby.
Additionally, there are several drift modes. What is really interesting, is the drift modes are actually quite fun and don’t feel tacked on or extraneous to the game. Drift modes focus more on points and distance rather than speed, which makes a whole lot more sense in-game. You can take your time planning and executing long-chained precision drifts to get points rather than hastily remembering to e-brake in the heat of a race. In addition to the standard points-based freestyle drift event, there are also downhill drift races and drift GP races.
Although the GRID World is quite expansive, it simply would not be a modern automotive title without online support. The online mode is quite simple and allows you to join a player, ranked, or custom match, vote on different tracks, and duke it out with online opponents. It certainly isn’t the most expansive online experience available, but it offers a satisfactory experience.
But it is not the structure of the game nor the vast amount of modes available that make this a truly innovative title. It is one extremely unique facet that has never been used in an automotive title before, and I can almost guarantee it will start showing up in more and more games. This groundbreaking new feature is called Flashback.
What Flashback actually does is quite simple. Let’s say you took a less than perfect curve. Or maybe you totally slammed your car into a wall. Whatever mistake you made, Flashback allows you to rewind time and re-attempt that curve, or give yourself enough time to brake before hitting the wall. It sounds like a very simple feature, but it fundamentally changes how you play the game.
First of all, it allows you to experiment a whole lot more with your personal driving style. For instance, if you’re on the final lap, and have someone gaining on your left, right before a sharp left turn, you’ll have a decision to make. You can either back off to take the turn carefully and concede your lead, you can attempt to slam into the opposing car and jet past, or you can try and maintain your current speed and rush into the turn. It is a nerve racking decision, but with the Flashback feature, you can try whatever you want, with no consequences.
However, because Flashback gives you so many chances to re-try your racing maneuvers, the penalties for reckless driving are fairly steep. First of all, even though handling takes a very fluid arcade approach, the control does not sacrifice precision whatsoever. You’ll have to be very exact going into turns; otherwise you may send your vehicle into an out-of-control 360 spin.
Damage in GRID is also very extreme. Any bit of damage you take directly affects your driving, and the effects can be punishing. There are five main areas that, if damaged, can seriously affect your driving: gearbox, suspension, steering, engine, and wheels. If you damage your vehicle’s gearbox or engine, you will hinder your car’s ability to shift gears and the top speed will be reduced. Damage to the suspension, wheels, or steering column will reduce your ability to control your vehicle. The damage effects get progressively worse and can start out as a minor hindrance, but if you damage your car too much you can loose complete control of your vehicle.
Visuals in GRID are fairly good, although you can’t help but acknowledge the 800 lb. gorilla that is Gran Turismo. While GRID can’t really compete with the photorealism of this year’s Gran Turismo, the game looks just as good as any other standard automotive title and has a great amount of vehicle and track detail. The game features a very speedy framerate that keeps great pace with the high-speed gameplay.
Sound in the game features some very basic background music, but the game makes up for the lackluster themes with some pretty awesome vehicle sound effects. The sound effects are very realistic, and you’ll be able to hear tires squeal, engines roar, and brakes scream.
So, is GRID the next big thing in the automotive game genre? I think so. The game has incredible arcade form, and I think the Flashback feature is one of the best new ideas we’ve seen come from this genre in a long time. This type of innovation is very encouraging and gives me hope that perhaps the automotive genre is not as stale as I might have thought. So, if you’re in the mood for an absolutely delightful and fresh automotive experience, you owe it to yourself to pick up GRID!
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 4.3 Graphics
Graphics look great, but definitely lack the extreme detailing and photorealism we saw earlier this year in Gran Turismo 5 Prologue. 4.7 Control
Very standard controls take a more arcade-style approach, but don’t sacrifice precision. 4.1 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Background music is generic, but the motor and crash sounds are awesome. 4.7 Play Value
The GRID World is very expansive, and there’s no shortage of single and team races. If you’re up for the challenge, you can take your race online! 4.6 Overall Rating – Must Buy
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.