Race Driver: GRID Review for the Nintendo DS (NDS)

Race Driver: GRID Review for the Nintendo DS (NDS)

Grid Gets the Checkered Flag

I’ve maintained for years that the racing genre is getting stale. There are so many good racing games available I continually ask, “Does the world really need another racing game?” Well apparently so, because they still keep making them, and that means that people are still buying them.

GRID screenshot

There are two reasons that you are reading this review: Either you are thinking of buying this game, or you already have purchased it and want to see if you agree with my assessment. Will GRID take its place among the classic handheld racing games, or will it be quickly be relegated to the discount bin? I’ll let you know in the next paragraph if you promise to read the entire review. Deal? GRID is a darn good racing game. It will not reach classic status, simply because it’s too similar to the developer’s last effort, Race Driver: Create and Race. It’s definitely more refined, and that’s certainly worthy to note. With great graphics, controls, and plenty of gameplay variety, GRID is paving the path for the ultimate racing game that this series will eventually produce. Unfortunately, GRID is not that ultimate racing game.

GRID strikes a balance between arcade and sim. It’s easy enough for novices to get into, and it’s challenging enough for hardcores. The difficulty increases gradually, as the gameplay expands on the racing concept to include a series of technical tests and trials designed to improve your driving techniques. GRID is not just about crossing the finish line in first place. It’s not the destination, with GRID it’s all about the journey.

GRID screenshot

Comparisons to the console version of GRID are futile. There are no comparisons except for the title, but that’s a good thing. The game has been specifically designed for the DS, and it shows. I can’t find much to complain about. It looks good, it sounds good, it plays well, it’s fun, and it’s got some serious replay value with the multiplayer modes and the track editor.

A variety of licensed cars are put to the test on tracks all over the world. You will compete in a host of events, including different racing styles and challenges. Challenges include single races, time trials, and modes such Championship, Survival, Chase, Blueprint, Togue, and Drift Battle. Other challenges include tests such as Speed, Acceleration, and Braking. The controls are simple. There is acceleration, braking, and steering, facilitated by the D-pad and the face buttons, which are comfortable to access. Command-wise, the game is tight; it’s got a great feel to it! Cornering is responsive; the vehicles have a good sense of weight and don’t spin out of control unnecessarily. But when they do, the crash animations are great. So good in fact that they will make you feel a lot better about your accident, even if it’s the A.I.’s fault.

GRID screenshot

Combining acceleration, braking, and tight cornering results in powersliding, a technique that you will simply have to master in order to best this game. There are plenty of urban environments where powersliding will help keep you ahead of the pack, and there are also powersliding challenges that will not only test your abilities but help you develop them.

Points are earned for winning races and completing challenges. These points are then used to upgrade the vehicles. Engine, braking, steering, gears, and even the chassis are customizable. I noticed an increase in power with the engine upgrade, but the other upgrades were so subtle that it was difficult to judge their effectiveness. As you progress through the levels, you will notice that speeds increase overall, although all of the other functions seem to increase exponentially with it as well.

At times the A.I. can seem a little unfair, as they tend to lose control much more easily when bumped by you or another A.I. vehicle. In later stages, they tend to dominate the lead positions. You’ll always be playing catch-up, but they aren’t totally unfair. Some good driving and the proper deployment of your powersliding techniques will put you back into the running.

GRID screenshot

Overall the A.I. does a good job of simulating actual players, but if it’s real players that you crave, the developers have taken care of that also. Multiplayer modes can be accessed locally or online through the Wi-Fi connection (it will accommodate four players). There were not a lot of online players at the time of this review, but I did manage to find someone willing to let me beat them during the wee hours of a weekday morning. Gotta’ love those unemployed game addicts; the more the merrier with the multiplayer component. With the local network, you don’t need multiple copies of the game, but you are limited to only a few different races and vehicles.

The track editor is incredibly comprehensive. You will feel like a game developer as you literally plot your own course. Using the stylus, you outline the route of your track and select the various objects, obstacles, and scenery. New sections and locations are acquired in-game, further fueling your incentive to both excel in the challenges and experiment with the create-a-track mode. These new tracks can be shared with other players. You can even design your own billboards. Cool!

Thanks to improved camera angles, the draw distance has been improved dramatically. It’s easier to see the turns and obstacles in your path, which reduces the trial and error style of gameplay that occurred in Race Driver, where you had to memorize sections of the track. In GRID, you’ll have a few seconds to react, and that can mean the difference between overtaking an opponent or taking a guardrail on head-first. The scenery is impressive. It’s varied, colorful, and nicely detailed. The vehicles are nothing to write home about. They look great as display-models but lack the same details in-game. Just as well, as there is some perceptible slowdown on busy corners. Lighting and weather effects are subtle and highlight the realism without obscuring any of the onscreen action.

From the opening credits, GRID lets you know that it not only wants to be seen but heard. The tunes rock, the engines roar, the tires scream, and the crashes really make you feel as though a lot of things have been seriously broken. You will hear a lot of the same samples, especially with tire squealing and engine revving, but at least the impact sound effects are varied to complement the appropriate amount of damage.

GRID is a great handheld racing game. Compared to Race Driver, it’s more like an expansion pack. It’s very similar, although more refined. But if you haven’t played the original, this is the one to get.

Great scenery and draw distance. Some slowdown around corners. Cars not well detailed in-game. 4.8 Control
Exceptionally smooth and responsive controls. 4.2 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Authentic sound effects, though some are repeated with little variation. 4.3

Play Value
Lots of gameplay variety including multiple modes, multiplayer, and track editor.

4.4 Overall Rating – Great
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.

Game Features:

  • Extensive online and multiplayer options let players compete in adrenaline pumping four-player races.
  • Climb to the top of global online leaderboards for every race event, or share up to four individually created tracks with up to four players in the ultimate custom race series.
  • Gamers can also upload and download new tracks to GRID servers.
  • With a stunning selection of real-world settings, outstanding racing cars, a powerful track editor, and incredible graphics, GRID is the most exciting, fun, and feature packed racing game you can fit in your pocket.
  • Developed by Firebrand Games, the team responsible for the award-winning Race Driver: Create and Race.

  • To top