Race Driver: GRID exploded onto the racing scene in 2008 and we weren’t ready for its aggressive racing style. While Codemasters was already well known for its Colin McRae Rally games which had just begun to start being called DiRT, as well as the TOCA franchise, Race Driver: GRID was a fresh mix of street and circuit racing with explosive starts and competitive arcade online races. It’s been half a decade since we’ve visited the GRID franchise, and the racing game genre has certainly changed throughout the current generation. With Need for Speed Heat around the corner and no Forza this year, GRID’s release couldn’t have been more perfectly timed.
The menu screens that greet you in GRID feel very much like other Codemasters racing games, so those familiar with the latest F1 and DiRT games will find navigation quite easy, while newcomers can follow the helpful tutorials. It’s all simply laid out though with your singleplayer career, online multiplayer, and your player profile being the three main selections. Inside the player profile you can customise your player banner, check your garage and buy more cars, view objectives and leaderboards, as well as hire and fire your teammate.
Your teammate participates alongside you in every offline race, and as you level up you can hire more efficient, more aggressive, or more loyal drivers that may be more better suited to the class of vehicles that you’re racing with. We found they weren’t really much help though, and the d-pad orders you can give them to attack or defend their position was almost completely useless. Half the time, the teammate would say they can’t perform your order, however the game allows you to just repeat the order instantly, and we had no problem spamming the order 4 or 5 times until they said yes. It was rarely useful, and nothing like what you see in some Need for Speed games where you can call in some serious backup.
The GRID career consists of four main categories (Touring, Stock, Tuner & GT) and two bonus categories, one being a Fernando Alonso challenge, and the other an open Invitational with lots of races using specific cars on specific tracks. When you complete 10 events from a category you can do the final event which is a 2v2 race against your rivals. Winning four of these final races unlocks the GRID World Series event which is where the career technically completes. Most events don’t require you to come first, but instead end up on the podium after completing all races within the event.
GRID has optional hot-lap qualifying for each race which isn’t necessarily required depending on your skill and difficulty levels, but we found it was needed for some races where the driver in first place stormed ahead and wasn’t able to be caught. There is a rewind feature, however you’re limited to using it just five times each race which can become problematic on some of the longer races. Luckily most races only consist of two or three laps, though wet conditions and aggressive drivers can lead to requiring the use of multiple rewinds at once.
The vehicles of GRID handle quite well and generally respond the way you expect them to, which was as expected given Codemasters has a plethora of data from other games to use. Difficulty can be adjusted to make the game much harder and vehicles more realistic, though it still has a general arcade feel to it. In typical Codemasters style once again, money doesn’t come easy and some cars are quite expensive. The average race win will earn you around 20,000-30,000 credits and some vehicles cost over a million, meaning it’s going to take quite some time to fill your garage. We found with the leveling system that players should reach around level 50 by the end of the career, however it continues on and there’s actually an achievement for hitting level 99.
Aggressive racing is synonymous with GRID, and irritating the other drivers is half the fun of playing the game. We only had one issue with it where the race stewards are perfectly happy for you to smash into another car at 200KPH, but if you get bumped off track regardless of whether you end up saving time or not, they immediately issue you a 2 second penalty. This can knock you down a position or two at the end of the race, and we thought the AI stewards could be a bit more clever when deciding whether a penalty was issued or not.
One of our most fond memories of the original Race Driver GRID game was the 24 Hours of Le Mans race which saw the sun go down mid-race. Back then, this was something new and mind blowing to gaming, let alone the racing games genre, and we were really hoping that it would make the cut in the new GRID but unfortunately it hasn’t. There’s definitely night racing, but there’s no dynamic time changes, and even worse there’s no Le Mans. In fact, GRID only has 13 unique locations at launch with a mixture between street and circuit. We were expecting a few more circuits to be included in the game at launch, but it appears they’re going down the typical Codemasters route of releasing more throughout the upcoming seasons of content.
Surprisingly, if there’s any current-gen game that GRID reminds us of it’s The Crew 2. There’s no boats and planes, but the variety of cars and the way they handle feels quite similar to the open-world Ubisoft arcade racer. Even the 3rd person camera positions matched up closely to The Crew 2 compared to other racing games like Forza and even DiRT Rally. That said, the game plays best in cockpit view with a wheel and we used our Thrustmaster TX to go to town on most of the locations. While the wheel is a whole lot scarier, it’s definitely a lot more fun and engaging than using the Xbox controller, and required minimal (yet quite optimal) setup to get it to a responsive level that we were happy with.
GRID doesn’t look like a game that will age well. While the different locations (particularly the cities) have been stunningly designed, the game looks about as good as racing games from 2017 like DiRT 4 and Need for Speed Payback. It’s a shame they couldn’t get GRID out sooner, as we know its release date was pushed back at least once so that Codies could advertise it more. A huge shout-out is needed for the crowds on street circuits though, as they really help to bring the streets to life as they dangerously dangle their limbs out to cheer you on as you fly past the barriers.
With no Forza, there are slim pickings for racing games this year. EA’s Need for Speed Heat is just around the corner and it’s now looking like the two games will go head to head for best arcade racing game of 2019. It has been a big year for Codemasters with the launch of F1 2019 and DiRT Rally 2.0 already, and we did have high hopes for GRID but it looks like the game won’t feel complete until its season 1-3 content has been released.
Rocket Chainsaw reviewed GRID on an Xbox One X console in 4K. It is also available on PlayStation 4 and Windows PC. We used a Thrustmaster TX Ferrari 458 Italia wheel and a standard Xbox One controller. For more information, head to the official GRID website.
- Aggressive arcade racing at its best - Great attention to detail on city tracks
- Not enough content at launch - Frustrating penalty system