GRID: Autosport will be released on Xbox 360, PS3 and PC next week and we managed to grab a hands-on preview of a near-on final build over at the distributor, Namco Bandai’s offices. So are we looking at a return to form for the GRID franchise or will petrol-heads be left wanting more?
I’m pleased to say that initial reactions are good. Very good in fact.
The preview version we had time with was pretty much what we’ll be seeing when Autosport hits the world next week (You’re looking at a 24th June release in North America and a 27th June release elsewhere), although as is usually the case, a couple of key features were locked down; in this instance the online and split screen modes. Yes, split screen is back and so you’ll be able to hit the tarmac with your mates from the comfort of your own living room, throwing banter back and forth as you tear each other up round some of the numerous circuits.
With 22 tracks supplying over 100 variations in all, there’s going to be some decent time spent in the latest GRID racer. Anyone who has had previous experience with either the superb GRID 1 or GRID 2 will be right at home with the vast majority of circuits. You’ll be visiting the likes of Brands Hatch, Hockenheim and Indianapolis as well as taking in the sights and sounds of some of the worlds most iconic cities; Washington, San Francisco and Barcelona among others. Each have been replicated superbly well, with only some poor crowd images a letdown (remember this isn’t next gen stuff), but take to one of the streets in a night race and you’ll be witnessing fireworks and camera flashes going off around you as you race. The inclusion of the night races alongside the daytime stuff really brings something new and exciting to GRID and it’s a joy to behold.
But of course, the tracks and surrounding areas are only as good as the racing on the track and Autosport seems to excel here too. With five disciplines; Tuner, Endurance, Open-Wheel, Street and Touring all available from the get go, there is plenty to keep you busy. We’ve detailed each of the disciplines in previous posts so if you would like to know more on each one, hit the links and get engrossed. I did have a slight niggling feeling in the back of my mind that there wouldn’t be enough variety between the disciplines, both in terms of handling and excitement, but I’m pleased to say that couldn’t be further from the truth. Hit the Open Wheel class and you’ll find a car that responds to your every move, gripping the corners and begging to be blasted down the straights, but take a turn in a tuned drifter and you’ll find the exact opposite. I’m not normally a fan of drifting events, normally preferring the full on races but I can see me spending a fair bit of time flinging the odd Nissan or three around in competition.
The racing for all disciplines seems tight and aggressive and with five difficulty levels, plenty of scope for tuning each vehicle (brake bias, diffs, suspensions and the like), you certainly aren’t going to get bored for a long time. You can of course, leave all the tuning and upgrades for another time if you so wish and this should happily cater for both experienced and new racers alike, with the numerous camera options (including a cockpit view) also helping both types of driver.
And with tight, aggressive racing comes a fair old whack of bumping and grinding. We all know that ‘rubbin is racin’ and Codies have seemingly taken this to heart. The damage models found on the cars looked excellent, with minor rubs being picked up well and full head on crashes totaling your car. Those who decide to take the ‘rough’ approach to the latest GRID title will be left cursing as their steering fails, brakes stop working and top-end speeds are diminished. However, let’s just hope that the online options give any host the ability to play with simulated damage off…..else things could get very messy!
With a career mode that spans all five disciplines and covers many races, the single player guys out there will be more than happy with the depth of things. The sponsor objectives that are a well loved part of the Grid series are back but this time are much less intrusive. They now sit there just waiting to pop when you hit a certain speed, complete a race without collisions or perhaps beat your teammate. Career XP is generated across the board and whilst it will most definitely reward the driver who takes in a bit of each discipline, if you wish, you can just focus solely on one race craft and still get an awful lot out of the game.
Alongside the career, the ‘custom cup’ option gives you the go ahead to play the game exactly how you wish. Choose your track, choose your setting, choose your car and then go race or hit the time attack scene. I’m guessing this is where the usual RaceNet leaderboards and features will really come to prominence once the world gets racing.
An intriguing final option that was greyed out was that of a DLC store. We know that GRID: Autosport will be coming with a standard and a Black edition and perhaps the store is there just so the extras from the Black edition can be picked up at a later date…..but does it mean Codemasters have got an extra circuit or two up their sleeves? Extra cars would also be a great addition.
Overall, I was very impressed with the preview of Autosport and can’t wait to see the full game hit home next week. The racing is hard, fast and ultimately rewarding, with fans of the original GRID having absolutely nothing to worry about.
GRID feels like it’s gone back to it’s roots and that’s a good thing!
Now……Anyone wanna race?!?