British developer, Codemasters, continues to dominate the motorsport gaming genre with the latest iteration for their circuit-racing franchise, simply entitled Grid.
The spiritual successor to their TOCA Touring Cars and Race Driver games, Grid fills in the gap between the clinical racing of their Formula One games and the messy off-roading of their Dirt games. Grid concentrates on events on asphalt racing circuits, street circuits and point-to-point street stages.
The game can be played via a career mode, freeplay and online multiplayer. There’s no local splitscreen.
The career mode dispenses with the superficial campaign-style narrative filler like interviews, agents and all that stuff that’s got in the way of racing in past games. The gameplay in Grid is more like that of 2014’s Grid Autosport.
Career has players competing in event, some of which have multiple races. As you progress, you unlock more events and earn money to buy new cars. For each event you can just get straight into the race at a random grid position or do a hot-lap qualifier to determine where you stand in the pack.
With 16 cars in a race, grid position is everything. Mid-pack can get quite tight. And if you hit another driver hard enough, they get angry and become a nemesis, out to extract revenge.
As with other Codemasters’ racing games, there is a rewind option to reduce the frustration of being taken out of a race for one slip-up or the car behind spinning you of the track.
If you just want to race in a custom event, you can set one up in the Freestyle option. You can choose the event name, vehicle class, track and race time/weather. You can also select from either a regular race or a time attack, with the driver with the fastest lap time taking the win.
Grid’s only real issue is that it’s predecessor, Grid Autosport, still very much holds its own, especially if you invested in that game’s DLC. Many of the circuits in Grid we’ve seen before in other Grid games and even F1.
The PC version of Grid Autosport, which I revisited for this review still looks great with impeccable car handling. If I wanted to be harsh about it, I’d say that Grid is just a polished-up Grid Autosport, offering players little extra over the 2014 game.
What Grid does include is thirteen locations each with many circuits various. I counted a total 63 different circuit combinations. Some of these are no more than reversed circuits, but many are physically different layouts. In the case of the Japanese downhill point-to-point races, they are entirely different routes. This is, however, still less than half of the circuits that Grid Autosport has. Unless Codemasters start generously adding circuits post-release, expect plenty of premium DLC packs to flesh out the base game.
Regardless of the above, Grid looks absolutely gorgeous. I played the game at 1440p running at 143hz running on an Intel i9 9900K and an RTC 2080ti with all the setting maxed out. The environmental and lighting effects alone are a vast improvement on those of Grid Autosport. The circuits are packed full of detail as are the cars.
On the subject of cars, the game ships with 73 different vehicles ranging from the humble Austin Mini to a Renault R26 Formula One racing car. Car handling is impeccable, bordering on perhaps being a little too forgiving. With each car having its own unique characteristics, it’s a game that still requires dedication to master, especially at the higher difficulties.
The controls are very responsive enabling for some nail-biting bumper to bumper racing and high-speed overtaking around some of the most impossibly tight bends you’ll ever race around. Unlike many more hardcore racing games, controlling cars in Grid is fine with a gamepad.
A racing wheel does afford players with a more immersive experience, especially if you want to start using automatic gearing. My Thrustmaster T300 worked a treat, as did the TH8A gear shifter. I used the in-game calibration to set up the wheel, with the on-screen representation perfectly matching the real wheel position.
It only took a little practice to get used to the extra control manual gearing afforded me, but I soon started to get the upper hand on my opponents by aggressively going through the gears. Grid takes no prisoners, however, if you don’t properly engage the clutch, slipping you into neutral if you mis-gear.
Grid is another technical success for Codemasters, slightly marred by the modest evolution from the last game and the dearth of content shipped with the base game. The lack of Grid Autosport’s local spit-screen multiplayer at launch is puzzling (as is two screen support also included in Grid Autosport).
I was pleased about the absence of role-playing touches to the career mode, preferring the pure racing gameplay rather than having to ensure a tiresome soap opera between races. Grid is a no-nonsense racer that gets you right into the thick of it, which is where you want to be.
Whilst I can understand if long-time fans are a bit annoyed at effectively having to buy the same game again, Grid’s visual improvements over Grid Autosport are very apparent running them side-by-side. Players both old and new to the series are going to be able to jump right into one of the most accessible street/circuit racing games in a long while.