Race Driver: Grid
When it comes to serious racing games there are only two choices: Microsoft’s Forza series and Codemaster’s Race driver Series, with Codemasters consistently taking top honours. Codemaster do have an unfair advantage over Microsoft however, they’ve been creating the best racing games in the world since the original Playstation with the TOCA series, which morphed into the Race Driver series. It’s also helped spawn the Colin McRae rally games and Codies recently announced they had secured the licence to create a Formula 1 game.
But I’m going off on a tangent. My love in touring cars, with a real leaning toward the Aussie V8s, so it has been with heightened anticipation that I’ve been waiting for Race Drive: grid to come out. Sadly, the first thing I noticed was the absence of the local V8s. In fact Codemasters seem to have thrown everything out the door, grabbed the code for Colin McRae and built a circuit racing game around it.
The 3D animated statistics that entertain the load screens is the first thing you’ll recognise form the last McRae game, not that this is a bad thing, the lack of racing genre will be the second. Codemasters have reduced your career down to three options: American Muscle, Japanese Drift, of European Touring. Take you pick and earn your licensee to drive. Earn enough money and you can start your own team, soon you’ll be in a position to hire another driver. It’s a nice touch, this managing your won team thing, but it really only gets in the way of what you really want to do; race,
With no V8 Supercars option, my lack of drifting skills and a huge dislike of American Muscle, the choice was easy for me: European Tourning would be my career path. The variety of cars and tracks is good, with each race having something different. The way the cars handle took a little getting used to – another similarity of McRae – the cars didn’t feel right to start with. Of course, never having driven a race car in my life it could just be that Codemasters have nailed the experience And I’m just not used to it.
No matter, as with any racing game, some things will be different and it didn’t take long for me to get used to the feel of driving.
All the cars feel and handle differently witch is great, because different care are supposed to handle differently. The graphics are jaw droppingly amazing, with the smoke and dust effects being the best in any game period. The sound effects are absolutely stunning allowing you to drive to the limit and rely on the sound of your tires to tell you if you’re pushing too hard.
Grid was an absolute blast to play, and joy to look at and made me want to turn the stereo up high.
Then I had to race in an open wheeler. Nothing wrong with an open wheeler, they can be very enjoyable. Generally very quick off the mark and they hug the road like no other car. There only draw back is their flimsy wheels have a habit of flying off if you hit anything. So there I was racing in the middle of the pack when a couple of cars come to grief ahead of me – oh right, I didn’t mention that did I? Another great thing about Grid is that the computer controlled cars are not perfect, they too will spin out, crash and create mayhem, just like in real life – so these open wheelers spin out up ahead and I’m suddenly blinded by all the tired smoke and smack – I crash right into them. It should have been game over, but I kept on driving, wheels intact. It wasn’t long after this that other things started to dawn on me. There were no penalties for dangerous driving or cutting corners. Grid was beginning to feel less like a serious racing simulator and more like an arcade game.
Sure it had the damage system of a simulator – with the exception of the open wheelers – the in car view, collision physics, spinney out grass and such like, but at it’s heart it drove like an arcade racer. It was almost like being in the twilight zone, a racing game that hung somewhere between Forza and project Gotham Racing.
Now it was a total blast to play, probably the most enjoyable racing game outside of Frorza – heck, it gives Forza a run for its money in almost every aspect, but the departure from a purely simulation game relegates it to being on par with, rather than ahead of, Forza.
And that’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it was a bit of a shock to see Codemasters take my favourite game, a series that I have played every installment of, and shift direction.
Reviewed by: Jonathan Read.
Release Date: Out now.