After waiting for a very long time, and numerous cries and calls from fans, GRID 2 launched just over a year ago to excited petrol heads around the world. It’s reception was that of a mixed bag. Some of the original GRID magic had been lost and the shine it once had vanished along with it. Thirteen months later and we’ve magically got another GRID in our hands. How on earth did this happen so quickly?
It’s hard to believe that in just over a year we’ve acquired another game from the racing Gods – Codemasters. Any racer they’ve touched in the last generation turned to gold, so seeing a game so soon after waiting so long for the original sequel took me by surprise. What’s perhaps more surprising is that this game is only available on last generation consoles (and PC). So can we restore our faith into Codemasters once more?
What made the original GRID so special was that the people working on it really understood the world of motorsport, by introducing aspects such as a teammate and sponsor achievements. GRID Autosport brings that concept back to life, but this time round you don’t get to select your teammate. In fact, if you’re playing the career you won’t even select your own car. You see, what car you drive in any specific event comes down to the sponsor you choose. Select Intel and you’ll be driving off with a tuned-up Ford Focus. More of an Oakley fan? You get a Mini. The process feels exceptionally unbalanced. Instead of looking at the sponsorship achievements, you best look at the cars you’ll drive as it is the difference between winning and losing a race. Codemasters have also taken their time to divide GRID into several categories, and this is where things get a bit messy.
First up is the Touring Cars. It will bring back memories of the PlayStation 1 classic TOCA Touring Cars (also done by Codemasters) and is just as difficult to master. I found that the cars had some form of automatic breaking system heading into and out of corners. According to my options menu it was off, which became quite an annoyance. Endurance sees you driving in mostly evening races whereby you have to race for a certain amount of time, using some of the meatier cars in the game. Open Wheel continues the Formula 3-like theme, which is easily the most fun out of all categories. Tuner brings muscle cars into the mix – that’s drifting and setting fast lap times and Street brings back the original GRID recipe whereby you drive at breakneck speeds down city streets.
Each race will reward you with level points. Reach level 3 on each discipline and a GRID Series will unlock. Here you tackle the various disciplines in one tournament. Win that and you move up a class and aim for level 6, then 9 and later 12. The wash, rinse, repeat recipe gets old very quickly. More so, GRID Autosport feels more like a ‘best-of’ sequel, rather than something brand new. Most the tracks you’ve played in GRID or GRID 2 makes an appearance which makes this a delight for newcomers, but no so much for veterans. There are however other tyres to burn.
My experience with GRID Autosport has left me highly disappointed, nearly enough to all but abandon the franchise. I experienced a glitch that had my engine sound disappear randomly. I’d say that about 80% of my 15 hours I played consisted of me listening to ambient sounds while playing. It generally happened whenever I used a flashback at first, but then it completely disappeared whenever loading a race. I tried everything in the options menu and switched the PS3 off and on numerous times. Perhaps they’ll fix this with a patch soon. What I can tell you is that the tyres screech around corners and that you’ll often hear someone commentating on the race at certain locations on the track. Sometimes birds even tweet. What this means is that I could not play the game with a manual gearbox setup as I could not hear the revs on my engine, which made most customisation options pretty pointless to me. This literally destroyed my experience. Another gripe I have is that the bragged-about return of the dashboard cam is a blurry mess. You’re definitely playing from a dashboard point of view, but the dials and everything on the dashboard are blurred out. You might as well play the standard cars using the dashboard cam in Gran Turismo.
You can’t help but feel that this is a quick cash-in for Codemasters, before the current generation of consoles (and high spec PC’s) take over. You’ll definitely get some fun out of it when playing split-screen or online modes with friends or strangers, but it seems that Autosport is stuck on the grid while other racing titles enjoy a lap around the current generation.