Codemaster’s long-running TOCA video game series is back with a reboot of one if it’s most popular titles, Grid. Despite being the fourth title within the ‘Grid‘ sub-series, it’s technically the tenth game in the TOCA franchise, following in the ‘tire-marks’ of Race Driver: Grid, Grid 2 and Grid Autosport. Unlike their other popular franchise, Dirt, Grid is much more of an arcade title with an emphasis on speed and split-second decisions over the realistic simulation and management gameplay.
I’ve played a lot of racing games recently, the vast majority of which were simulation-heavy as they played by the rules and forced them upon you. So, is Grid the type of racing game I need to help me take a break from the simulation games? Let’s find out…
Grid is about as simple as it comes when you want to jump in and start a race. It’s also very loose in terms of allowing you to play what YOU want to play, rather than being forced to continuously play the same track over and over if you’re unable to finish in the top three.
Upon selecting the Career mode, you’re presented with a literal wall of events. 97 (yes, ninety-seven) events sit there, glaring at you just waiting to be played. These are all split up into sets based upon the vehicle types as well as additional ‘invitational’ events which utilise specific vehicles such as Mini’s and racing icons. However, unlike most games, you aren’t required to complete every event in order to gain access to the later ones, the ‘showdown’ event at the end of each set only requires you to completed ten of the thirteen events within that section. This means that, if you’re not too fussed about the trophies, you can skip the events you don’t like or aren’t’ that good at and just focus on the others.
However, there is still a sense of progression and achievement as you work through the career mode – I hate games that strip all of that out and make it a free-for-all – as events are greyed out until you’ve completed certain criteria. That may sound a bit contradictory to what I’ve just said, but it’s not as strict as other games. Take for example the Fernando Alonso events; once you complete the first event (come in the top three), the next two events open. Completing either of these will unlock the next two, etc… Also, not all criteria to ‘winning’ a race are the same, some require top three, some the top two, and others you must come in first for the overall event.
The events themselves vary between various disciplines. Each event is comprised of up to four races, each one being different even though some may be in the same location. Most of the races are your standard lap-based races, offering points based on your position which are then accumulated and used to give you an overall grade at the end of all the races within the event. However, there are also time-trials which see all the cars on the track at the same time, only at different points on the track, sprint events where you must get to the finish line first, and even some face-off races.
One of my early complaints about Grid was the grind I felt I was being forced through in order to play the new events. Sure, winning an event is enough to unlock a new one to play, but if you don’t have the right car then you’re all out of luck. The higher up the race selection you get, the more expensive the cars are that the game wants you to play with. Initially, it’s fine though, cars are quite cheap and you earn a lot of in-game cash in order to unlock them… that was until I got to a point where I needed over 400k for a brand new car. It was here where I decided to go and start some events in another category in order to obtain enough money to proceed in the first one. After a few races, I was back on track to winning the elusive showdown event!
Now, I know what you’re going to say – “if it only took a few races to get enough money, what’s the issue?” Well, we were given the ‘Ultimate’ edition of the Grid (which I highly recommend, but I’ll come to that later). This version of the game comes with a very important and key mechanic – VIP Status. Having this on your account means you get 10% extra in-game cash with every race. As such, I feel I progressed faster and more efficiently than I would have if I’d not had that extra 10% of income each time I won a race. Would it have ruined my enjoyment – no. I would have just had to move onto the other categories sooner, in order to save up for a new set of wheels.
Money doesn’t only come from winning races though. If you know you no longer need the cars you have and you really need some cash to buy a new vehicle in order to progress, you can actually sell your cars for a small loss. This is something I didn’t realise until I was a few hours into the game though. You also get awarded points within each race, points which are converted into cash upon completion. I’m not sure of everything you can do to gain these but it seems like drifting, overtaking, taking advantage of slipstreams, and not hitting anything are all such criteria. However, “The Lord giveth, and the Lord taketh away”; after each event, you’ll also get deductions to your cash based on your team payments and damages/penalties, then you get the extra 10% if you’re a VIP.
Get (G)rid of your opponents!
Whereas games such as FIA European Truck Racing Championship punished you if you knocked into an opponent, games like Wreckfest positively encouraged it by basing their entire game around smashing your opposition to pieces, literally. Grid isn’t quite as destructive as that, but it does want you to make your rivals bleed. As you zoom around the tracks, you’re bound to smash into one of two of the other vehicles – whether on purpose or by accident. Should you knock them off the track, bump them too hard, or spin them out of control, they’ll begin to see red and become your nemesis. This simple flag turns the AI into a bunch of bastards as they begin to play dirty and deliberately set you as their personal punch bag. However, try not to go too overboard as prolonged time off the track in the dirt, or taking a ‘shortcut’ will end up adding seconds artificially onto your final time.
Out of curiosity, I wanted to see if you could have more than one rival at a time, as other games limited you to a single rival who would stop at nothing to get you off the track. What I found, much to my delight, was no limit on how many people you can piss off. In a race with twelve of us driving, I managed to make eight people hate me! I’m not saying it was frantic but if this was Wreckfest, I would have been nothing more than a single tire rolling along the floor!
What I also found quite amusing was the fact you can piss off your partner. Every team in the race has two cars, two individuals driving around in order to acquire two sets of points to add together on the leaderboard. As a laugh, I rammed my partner right up his backside, to simply give him a helping ‘nudge’ within the race. What happened was quite unexpected, I received a firm telling off from the narrator/commentator and my employee – who I pay – became my rival with his own little red flag. Even though we were both aiming for the same goal together, I guess my partner didn’t give a toss…
If you’re not very good at racing games or prefer to always come in first without having to worry too much about the onslaught of angry drivers who you’ve just bashed into for the last five minutes, then Grid has you covered!
During a race, you have the ability to ‘flashback’ at any time. We’ve seen this in many racing games over the years as it’s a cool feature to have, albeit a bit of a cheat. Tapping the button lets you rewind time and then instantly carry on from the point you reverse to. This lets you retake corners, avoid a car and make the driver think you’re a psychic and saw it coming, or even line up the perfect offensive as you ram into someone and make them spin. How many of these you get will vary based upon what difficulty you choose (by default), so the easiest mode gives you infinite but medium and above limits you to 5, 3 or none.
The difficulty section in the menus, before a race, has a rather in-depth difficulty selection. Aside from the standard slider of Very Easy to Very Hard (which alters all of the following options accordingly), you can also change a variety of things such as Damage Level, AI Difficulty, Transmission, Racing Line and what level of ABS, Traction and Stability control you get. Although the game isn’t really a simulation like Dirt, it still gives you a decent amount of options and tweaks in order to customise the game however you see fit.
This customisation doesn’t stop with the difficulty either. For those of you out there who do actually like being in control of their vehicle and all the minor adjustments, you can do so before a race. You can adjust the Gear Ratio, Springs, Dampers, Anti-Roll Bars and Brake Bias before you start driving – I’ve not touched these once though, I just wanted the arcade experience.
There’s no I in Team, but there is ME – I’m in charge!
As I said previously, despite pissing off your partner who drives the other car, they are technically your employee. As such, you can pick who you want via a long list of available people. As you level up (by winning races), you’ll unlock new options and much better companions. Usually, I would say this section is all for show and doesn’t really do anything, but it’s actually really useful. As the wages for your partner goes up, so does their Loyalty, Skill, Attack and Defence stats. So, the more you pay for the second driver, the more likely they will also rank in the top three of each race and be more likely to bash your opposition into next week! Also, aside from the up-front fee to acquire one of these elite drivers, you also have to forfeit a percentage of your winnings to them – so make sure you’re happy with losing X amount of money before you waste your down payment.
There’s a bunch (probably a hundred or two) of unlockable in-game badges, banners, titles, backgrounds, etc… to unlock via completing in-game challenges. These are usually just “win this race”, but some are different. This gives you something to strive for if you’ve got nothing to do and just want a quick challenge.
One thing I would have loved more control over is the customisation for your team’s vehicles. As your partner has no say in the matter (it’s your team), whatever you pick will be the design you both drive. Not every vehicle can be customised, even if you’ve bought it and have it sat in your garage. Those you can customise, the process is simple – pick from a wide selection of liveries and then change the key colours. From what I can see, there are no customisations for the tires, trims, windows, bodywork, or even the decals – it’s sponsorships or nothing. I know it’s only a minor complaint but I would have loved the ability to do my own decals and fully pimp out my car.
I want to drive around in the beautiful night-time races with neon lights illuminating the underside of my car, just like in the old Need For Speed Underground games.
Aside from the brilliant and massive single-player mode, what else can you do? First of all, Freeplay is open from the start, allowing you to play on whatever track, route, time of day and winning conditions you choose. You can also set your own event name, discipline, vehicle type, class and grid size. Technically, you can create your own events with every single piece of criteria chosen by yourself. This is very barebones in terms of its presentation, but it gets the job done and lets you quickly jump into whatever track and with whatever vehicle you want. Also, if you don’t own a car yet you want to drive it (but not pay to own it), you can rent one during this mode.
My one complaint about this mode, which is the same with almost every racing game I’ve played recently, is that there is no way to save your created events. Having to pick the same options over and over, each time you wish to play it just seems silly. I would have loved maybe a ‘custom races’ section in the Career mode, where we could save events we make in Freeplay and quickly gain access to them.
Moving only Multiplayer and things don’t get much better in terms of customisations. Usually, you’d see a menu like the above, only for playing online. Not here. You can either create a private race, for friends or invited people only – no open – or you can jump into Quick Race. Quick Race just puts you in a seemingly random event with strangers, yet the private match can be customised as much as the above Freeplay mode. I imagine the removal of customising your games with strangers will result in more people being matched quicker, but it does mean you have no control over what track you’ll be playing on or which cars you’ll be using.
Just like Dirt 2.0, Grid is a beautiful game. I honestly can’t fault how gorgeous this game looks from the lens flares to the puddles, it’s one of the best-looking racing games I’ve played. The various times of the day which you’ll be racing all alter the light and atmosphere, with the dusk and night races being my favourite. The damage you inevitably end up with is also done in a very realistic way, watching as parts of your car flies off depending on where the impact was and how severe it was. My funniest moment was literally starting the second race in an event and seeing the doors from the car in front fly off as soon as the light went green. Now, I know that’s not realistic, as it was like they pushed a button and made the car fall apart, but I imagine it’s damage carried over from the first race!
The tracks themselves are among the best I’ve ever seen. The crowds, the tires that fly all over when you hit the sides, the reflections, and the level design is all beyond perfect. My only complaint would be the framerate on the PS4 Pro. Similar to previous Codemasters games, the framerate takes a tumble when there’s a lot of cars on screen at the same time, quickly righting itself to a stable 60fps once there are less on screen. It wasn’t that jarring and it didn’t pull me out of the immersion, but looking at the game as a whole, I wouldn’t say my experience was a very stable locked one.
Soundwise, the choice of music is great, as usual, yet there’s no music in the racing. I don’t play a lot of racing games but I think this is a theme, as I can’t recall the last one I played with music during the race. Instead, we have the realistic sounds of the cars, heavy smashing effects as we crash into everyone, and the constant yatter of the announcers. Okay, it’s not yatter, but they do talk a lot – most of the time simply telling you someone’s out for you or you shouldn’t have hit your own friend (in my case anyway).
What I really enjoyed though was how the announcers adapted to the situation. At the start of a race, they would talk about the track and the event as the camera did a fly-over the cars in the starting block. However, if you press Cross to skip the intro, one of them tells the other to be quiet as it’s about to begin or the one speaking will stop themselves and apologise as they’ve just been told the race is going to start. Small touches like that really help you to get even more immersed.
One thing Grid is missing, which I would love Codemasters to implement soon, is a photo mode. The game looks amazing – not having a photo mode is doing it a disservice!
As I advised above, we were given the Ultimate Edition of Grid for our review. This meant we got access to the every-helpful VIP status, which really helped with buying the cars. However, I also said above that I would actually recommend picking up the Ultimate Edition over the standard one – why?
First of all, Ultimate gives you access to three seasons of content which is being delivered over the next six months. This means you’ll have access to 99 new events (33 per season), 12 new cars (4 per season) and additional rewards which haven’t been announced yet. It also gives you access to unique liveries which boosts your XP (which I didn’t know about until right now), some new cars more cards and banners, and ten unique liveries (with no boosts).
The final benefit is, you can play the game today. All Ultimate members get the game three days early – with the standard game releasing on Friday this week. Personally, I’m against publishers doing this as I don’t think it’s fair holding early access behind a paywall. However, just based on the extra content you’ll get over the next six months, I feel the upgrade to the Ultimate edition is worth it.
For an apparent reboot of a very successful series within a major franchise, Grid far exceeded my expectations and brought me many hours of joy. Despite not being a massive racing fan, I love the format of this game with it’s quick and easy access to the events and simple no-fluff menu system. The fact you can progress without having to complete every single event (unless looking for trophies) means it’s more accessible to everyone, especially if you include all the difficulty and customisations options. I wasn’t too impressed with the simplistic public multiplayer, but at least the private matches are far more configurable for friends to play with each other.
If you’re looking for a new racing game which offers many, many hours of enjoyment as you work your way through almost a hundred events across some of the best looking tracks of the generation, Grid is for you. The game’s that good, I’m actually tempted to pick up a steering wheel for the first time in my life in order to enhance the overall experience!
- - Visually stunning
- - Tonnes of events to play within the career
- - Freeplay has access to everything from the start
- - Solid physics and controls
- - The Nemesis mechanic is fun
- - No custom online mode unless playing privately with friends/invite
- - Car customisation isn't the greatest
- - There's a few performance issues when there's lots of cars or during rain