It’s time to don those fireproof overalls again, strap on your helmet and delve in to the wonderful world of club competition racing.
GRID Autosport sits in a very weird place as far as Codemasters previous games have been positioned. GRID Autosport is the culmination of about 12 months worth of community feedback over GRID 2 which, despite the reviews and depth, wasn’t exactly what the loyal and passionate fans were after. And so, the decision was made to appease these fans and create a new game for the existing generation to try and set the balance.
I got to have a good go on the game’s last preview build and straight away saw marked differences. In fact I’d go so far as to say they’ve completely trimmed the fat to almost modernism when it comes to the presentation of the menus and XP breakdowns. You could argue that the game has seriously channeled GRID: Race Driver more than anything, but in honesty, it’s taken it a step further.
Gone are the team decisions and the choices of rewards and livery. You are a lone driver now and you sign season contracts from already existing teams. No longer are you building your own team dynasty. As such you don’t have to make calls on reward targets from sponsors or customise the livery to give the big money guys the bigger spaces on the car. No, this game is purely about the racing and as such takes away anything that could distract you from that.
The racing is split in to five different classes: Touring Car, Endurance, Open Wheel, Tuned and Street. Gone are the various different competition invites and more arcade style game modes from GRID 2. This is all about the team racing and getting your own XP level up enough to get better and bigger contracts. No money, just XP.
The racing itself hasn’t changed much, if at all, from GRID 2. It’s been tidied up for the lesser car/track options and therefore polished a bit further, but is essentially what you get from the previous two games. The EGO engine looks as lovely as ever and still manages to impress me, even with the last generation technology it’s performing on. The car models are great, the tracks and lighting are wonderful (I even got slightly blinded in the Formula C car as the hot track reflected the sun into my eyes), and the cockpit/in car view has returned.
Slight warning: this isn’t the full release version that I played although it is as close as possible to it. The cockpit view disappointed me greatly. Not the level or the view of the track. That was fantastic but there was a very low level of detail in the car. It was very blurred, with zero mirror accessibility and it looked incomplete. Moving the camera view left and right defaults to the side car views. I just hope that the issue was that it wasn’t complete otherwise I fear the people who campaigned for its reinstatement will be rather aggrieved at the results.
Bare minimum is kind of how the game feels at times, but in a very positive way. I mentioned that it’s trimmed the fat and what I mean is that it’s lost a couple of stylistic stone to become much simpler and open about what it is: A racing game. Which is why the AI annoyed me a bit. Medium is far too easy, as is normal for me on a Codemasters game. Hard is a bit more challenging but AI cars are still too slow in the corners, not able to control the torque their cars have and as such take racing lines that are better suited for finding an escape road than an apex. It’s a problem that really gets on your nerves a bit more when you’ve made an effort on Hard to properly set up the car.
I did one race meeting, which is the same track twice (think GP2), with different setups in the Formula C open wheel and using the overhead camera shot (interestingly, the cockpit graphics looked better from this view than the drivers view so here’s hoping it’s just not finished yet). The first race I set myself up to be oversteer heavy and in a car that wants to whip itself into a donutting frenzy as soon as you squeeze the juice, it was tricky but manageable. I finished 5th thanks to a last corner tank slapper. The second race I optimised my setup to combat such oversteer and torque and get better cornering grip/speed. I finished third, I had an occasional wobbly moment but the biggest problem in that was how noticeably bad the AI cars were at taking these corners in the cars.
Hopefully these are all things that have been finessed out by the time we get our hands on the game proper next week. Or that is easily curable with a quick patch. AI has always been a tricky thing in the Codemasters games (ask anyone who’s played the F1 series – we love it but damn does that brake testing frustrate us sometimes). One thing they have done is taken the game back to its core components that made it fun, shed the fluff and come out with a decent all-access racing game with technology that they are now super comfortable with.
For the next generation people out there, there’s no news on a PS4/Xbox One version of GRID Autosport but Codemasters have been very honest about only releasing a game on the new systems when they feel they are ready to produce something of outstanding quality. From the feel of it, GRID Autosport will certainly take up some time while we wait and won’t beat around the bush either.
GRID Autosport is out Friday 27th June on PC, PS3 and Xbox 360. Check back on TheGameJar, Facebook or Twitter for further news and reviews.