One of my favourite developers of this generation is Codemasters. The British developer has been killing it with their amazing racing games. We have seen great game followed by great game from Codemasters. Their F1 franchise has been superb. The DiRT Rally games and DiRT 4 are among the best rallying titles ever made. Even ONRUSH, which didn’t really find an audience, is an amazing game. In fact, probably the weakest entry in their oeuvre this generation is Micro Machines World Tour and even that isn’t bad. Well, to top this generation off, Codemasters has decided to revive one of their dormant franchises, GRID.
The GRID series started off as an offshoot of the DiRT and TOCA games. While DiRT is all about off-road racing, GRID takes the action onto the racing track with a mix of real-life and fictional circuits. The series spawned three entries on Xbox 360 but it has been five years since we’ve seen a new game. This means that this is the first entry to release on Xbox One. Of course, things have changed a little in the racing game space since the last GRID title. One of the main differences being the omnipotence on Xbox One of the Forza franchise. So, how does GRID compare?
GRID plays like a blend of Forza Motorsport and Forza Horizon. The tracks are very similar to Forza Motorsport. In fact, there is even some duplication between the games. The similarity to Forza Horizon comes by way of the handling. Yes, there is an overall skew towards a simulation approach. However, it is a little more approachable. The cars grip more than a strict simulator would. You also don’t lose quite as much speed when your car goes into a slide. This helps to make the game a bit more forgiving but still rewards skilful driving. The difficulty is also not as challenging. Codemasters’ F1 and DiRT Rally games allow you to perfectly shape your difficulty with 100-point scales. I was a little disappointed to find that GRID only has five difficulty levels. And even then, the medium difficulty is no challenge at all.
Career mode offers you seven different strands to work your way through. Touring is all about touring cars. Stock sees you racing stock cars. The Tuner category has you racing Japanese vehicles. GT is all about GT cars. The FA category is named after Fernando Alonso. Here you will be racing lots of different categories, working your way to a showdown with the former F1 champion. Invitational offers up twice as many events as the others and these become available as you complete races in other categories. The final category is the GRID World Series. This unlocks once you have completed four showdown events (the final race in a category). Once it opens up there are 6 events that you have to complete in order before facing the final showdown. To complete everything takes around 30 hours.
As well as the career mode, there is, of course, multiplayer on offer. You won’t really find anything different from the career apart from other racers. The AI racers in GRID are pretty good competition but nothing really beats other gamers (hence Forza’s brilliant Drivatars). There are always sixteen cars in an event. If there are not enough other gamers to take part, then AI fills out the rest of the grid. You do need to have at least one other gamer for the race to start. While you are waiting you enter Skirmish mode. This is basically a Destruction Derby event. However, when you’re the only there and are waiting for someone, anyone, to join then it gets a little dull. I can see how this would be great, though, if you and a few others are waiting for a race to end so you can join in.
Visually, GRID does a solid job. While it does not quite reach the excellence of the Forza games it’s still a great-looking game. Car models are spot on and the frame rate is rock solid. Codemasters has even managed to avoid texture pop-up which is rife in racing games at the moment (even Forza Horizon). This is particularly impressive on some of the city tracks where you’re racing down urban canyons at breakneck speed. Weather effects are a bit of a mixed bag. The animation for the rain is pretty good. Both the rain falling and the drops that appear on the screen look nice. What does let it down a little is the lack of spray kicked up by other cars. F1 2019 does this really well but it’s not really present here.
I’ve spent over 27 hours playing GRID and I’ve loved nearly all of them. It’s great to see the franchise back. It may not quite be on the same level as the Forza games or even the other Codemasters titles, but it’s still a worthy racer. The visuals are good but not spectacular. The difficulty levels offer a challenge but are not as adaptable as F1 or DiRT Rally. Career mode offers a decent amount of content but other racers offer more. However, on that point, most people do not complete the Forza games or a lot of other racers. With no Forza game this year, GRID does a good job of filling that void. Here’s hoping we don’t have to wait another 5 years for the next entry in the franchise.