Race Driver: GRID Reader Review
The racing game genre has had a number of recent high quality releases Ė Forza 4, GT 5, Dirt 3 and F1 2011 all spring to mind. But when this generation of consoles finally bids farewell there will quite possibly be two racing games standing head and shoulders above the rest. The first is the much under rated Race Pro, to my mind the most accurate representation of a racing simulator game. The second is .
Race Driver: GRID, by Codemasters, has a fairly simple premise. Youíre a freelance racing driver, able to choose from a couple of different career paths based on geography and implied style. You can move between these paths freely, and choose to race in a number of set events. The events include a number of different racing types, from single-seater to drift racing, touring car style events and a fantastically chaotic stock car race. Do well in these events and youíll progress to higher divisions against more challenging drivers with faster cars. The events are bookmarked by a season-ending Le Mans 24 hour style race where you drive in a simulation of the classic day-night-day race. GRID then embellishes this by allowing you to create your own racing team. A neat system allows you to add sponsor decals to your car, and in return should certain race targets be met the sponsor will pay you money. This allows for a risk reward system where you can place the highest value sponsor deals on your car knowing theyíll only pay out if you do well in the race.
In addition you can also recruit a team mate who will also race with you. Your team mate canít progress through the career mode for you, but prize money that they accrue does help top up your coffers, allowing you to purchase better cars. Itís a well-judged dynamic and adds a significant investment in a race beyond what is just happening in your own car.
From a presentation point of view, Iíve never been particularly keen on the Codemasters approach. The swishing menus, the background music, the loading screens are all fairly typical of their style and it leaves me cold. Race Driver: GRID is quite an old game now, and the multiplayer community is fairly non-existent. In four attempts at an online game I found one game where there were around 7 or 8 racers at any one time, but the rest of the time the servers were very sparsely populated. Itís a shame because the one busy game I did play was tremendous fun.
So far so normal. But GRID has four major tricks up its sleeve.
The first is the complete removal of racing lines and indicated braking points from the list of driver assists. My first reaction was ďyou canít do that!Ē. Iíve learnt to rely on the racing line through a number of years of playing Forza and GT. But the funny thing is that when itís taken away it suddenly forces you to drive on your instincts, learn the braking points, judge the cornering speed. In other words drive properly. The cars all handle well, and if you make a mistake itís often possible to recover it before itís too late.
The second is the invention of the rewind feature, allowing you to replay the previous 10 seconds of action a set number of times. This has been repeated many times by other racing games including all of Codemastersí subsequent output and also in Forza 3. However, the removal of the racing line, while improving the raciness of the game does tend to result in an increase in the cock-up count, so its use here is far more valid.
The third is the track list. Often in racing games today tracks just get rehashed and re-released. Iíve driven Suzuka, Silverstone and Sebring too many times to mention. GRIDís blend of real tracks (such as Donnington) and invented ones (San Francisco) provide a refreshing playground for racers to have fun on. The graphics all stand up well compared to todayís efforts, surprisingly so when considering that the game is now over 3 years old.
The fourth, and arguably today still GRIDís greatest achievement, is the opposition driver AI. Put simply, . Drivers crash in front of and behind you. They overtake you, but follow them and they make mistakes too on corners, allowing you an opportunity to overtake. This ultimately is what a racing game should be like. Many racing games have robotic drivers all following a prescribed line lap after lap with no variation. In GRID you keep racing from seemingly lost positions knowing that a mistake may happen. And the real test of this is that if a car crashes in front of you and you rewind the moment, it may not make the mistake again. It produces the perfect example of chaos theory, where anything can happen at any time.
Ultimately this is what racing should be about Ė the fact that anything can happen at any moment. In achieving this Race Driver: GRID makes racing genuinely fun. Things happen, cars spin out around you, crash into you. Itís what all racing games should be like, but GRID is the only one that truly achieves it.