Over the years, many great racing series have come and gone. Whilst some have overstayed their welcome – yes, I’m looking at you, Need For Speed – others, like Forza, have mastered the art of gaming longevity and are still going strong.
Way back in 2008, Race Driver: GRID (or simply GRID to most of us) made a mark on the racing scene, delivering some of the most memorable moments on the track I’ve ever had. Naturally, I figured it’s time to take a look back at 10 years of GRID and the sequels that succeeded it.
On 30th May, 2008, Codemasters brought the truly smashing racing title to the European market on the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC – later releasing on Nintendo DS, Mac and in the arcades. With the brilliant Burnout Paradise arriving just a few months prior and sitting pretty as the king of the driving genre for the time being, GRID could’ve flopped massively. It didn’t though as gamers flocked to get involved with what felt like an arcade and sim racing hybrid, if only to experience the highly anticipated damage physics.
GRID was meant to be an aggressive, wheel-to-wheel racer to enable the developers to put a lot of focus on the unparalleled – at the time – damage system they’d implemented. There would be crashes galore, with each collision usually more spectacular than the last and every single car had a load of components that could be damaged by the impact, depending how severe the bump was. Debris from other damaged cars was also a potential hazard as you flew around a circuit at top speed. It’d be a miracle if a race ended without your vehicle having dents and scrapes at the very least.
Sounds like a nightmare doesn’t it, especially seeing as the chaotic A.I. cars could end your chances of winning the race during a rough tussle, or you could go into a corner too fast and smash into the barriers all by yourself – then it’s almost definitely lights out. Luckily, Codemasters came up with the Flashback feature, which allows the ability to rewind time to before any such mishaps occurred. Hardcore players would do no such thing, but us mere casuals embraced the second, third and fourth chance at avoiding a crash. After all, winning races, drift events and demolition derbies was crucial to advance through the different career mode regions, and you can’t do that if you’re doing an impression of a crash test dummy.
Whilst the A.I. competitors were unpredictable and ruthless, they were nothing compared to the brutal online community. Multiplayer was a huge draw, as teams or solo racers rocked up in the lobbies to dominate their fellow players in order to rank up and become a true legend. Whether you’re battling it out on the real tracks like Le Mans and Spa Francorchamps – known for hosting the Belgian GP – or fictional creations in San Francisco, Milan and more, the first corner was always hellish. Surviving that was the key to any kind of success as cars ploughed into each other without a care in the world, and all without Flashbacks I might add. It was absolute carnage, making every race feel like the destruction derby variation.
That wasn’t a bad thing though, with races akin to a battle royale scenario and even if the gearbox was in tatters, or you were unable to turn either way, you’d keep going just to try and overtake those who were totalled or in worse shape. That was a triumph in itself. To this day I have memories of being ‘The Enforcer’ to help my teammates wade through the pack unscathed. Obviously, I wouldn’t encourage such unsportsmanlike conduct nowadays, but back then it just became natural to embrace the chaos.
I slogged away at climbing the ranks for years; right up until another game arrived from Codemasters in 2013 – GRID 2. For all intents and purposes, the whole game was refined, especially in the handling department. There was also more of a point to the career mode as you assisted in launching the World Series Racing event by gaining attention and fans from challenging drivers all over the world, before beating them and enlisting their skills for the event. There was a new feature in the form of dynamic races, known as ‘LiveRoutes’, but these were largely disappointing as the track layout would change on the fly and we know the most ardent racing fans tend to find success is in mastering the corners via repetition, which couldn’t be done.
Despite the many positives in GRID 2, for some reason, the pure magic of the original wasn’t there, and in part that may have been due to other popular racing games stepping up at the time. Not to mention, the next-gen consoles and the beautifully enticing Forza Motorsport 5, amongst other things, were lurking just around the corner. Still, that didn’t put Codemasters off the GRID series, with them taking the plunge to release another instalment only a year later in 2014.
Whilst plenty of gamers had made the jump to Xbox One and PlayStation 4, Codies instead continued their GRID legacy with GRID Autosport on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. A bold move, but it took the series back to its roots, this time geared up more towards the simulation side of the racing genre. The option to race across multiple disciplines was a welcome one, seeing Endurance Racing, Street Racing, Touring, Open-Wheel and Tuner events present in the huge, yet more simplistic, career mode offering.
Even though GRID Autosport was generally well-received – especially where we’re concerned – there’s been nothing to give a slight inclination of when we’ll see another GRID title on the gaming shores, if indeed we ever do. But that’s okay, because whatever happens, Race Driver: GRID will forever live on in our hearts and minds. I’ve hung up my Enforcer gloves for now, but I do hope to put them on again in the future, so if you’re reading this Codies… I want more GRID. Please!
What are your memories of this wonderfully aggressive racer from back in the day? Do any of you still play Race Driver: GRID today? Get in touch using the comments below and share your thoughts with us!