GRID Autosport is the 3rd in the GRID series of racers from Codemasters’ Race Driver franchise. One of the best racing titles of the previous generation, the original Race Driver: GRID found much success in it’s high contact, pack racing and forgiving controls. It’s follow up, GRID 2, was much anticipated but a stronger push in the simulation direction Codemasters is known for. It also strangely was void of a cockpit view which disappointed many that felt it could potentially be a better title than the mainstream front runners like Forza and Gran Turismo.
My gravitation toward the original GRID and GRID 2 was born mainly a deep-seated hatred for Gran Turismo’s lack of evolution. The decision to not build an intricate damage model has stalled the title, nullifying new modes and vehicles (though go karts are always fun). The frustration turned me off of the racing sim genre, where GRID’s slightly more arcade-like controls drew me in. Autosport picks up where GRID 2 left off, embracing a simulation style of racing but focusing more on the driving disciplines and less on the cars themselves. Instead of focusing on individual success, Autosport challenges you to take on one of five racing styles (Endurance, Street, Tuner, Open Wheel, Touring) with various sponsors and teammates.
The Street discipline takes place in tightly packed cities where overtaking without collision is a luxury. Endurance has you race for a set amount of time on the title’s night themed tracks that sadly lack a day/night cycle. Tuner encompasses time trials and the ever popular drift category that took a major step back in GRID 2. Touring is the most physical of the disciplines, matching very closely tuned vehicles in a multiple lap shoving match. Finally, Open Wheel drops the player into the quickest, most exciting vehicles in the game.
Four of the five disciplines are quite a bit of fun to experience with Open Wheel being most exciting and challenging. The fifth, Endurance, is an absolute chore to get through. Drivers revolve around a track for a set amount of time, having to be aware of tire wear and manage it efficiently throughout the race. In a strange omission, there are no pit stops. So, instead of feeling like you’re managing a longer race while making smart pit decisions, you just race extremely cautiously and hopefully block the others from passing toward the end.
During the racing seasons, you can choose whatever discipline you prefer to focus on. Sadly, you’ll have to eventually….endure the painfully boring Endurance races in order to graduate into the GRID championship series which is unlocked once you reach level 3 in each discipline.
While the single player focuses on sponsor goals and teammates, the online portion of Autosport cultivates the player and car relationship. Each vehicle earns individual XP the more you drive which will encourage the player to focus on their favorites. In a creative manner, Codemasters subtly attacks a usually online racer issue (reckless pack racing) by including wear & tear that transfers race to race as vehicles take more damage. This will force gamers to be a bit more careful and focus more on racing lines and less on using other cars as buffers to corner.
Cars accumulate mileage over time as well and these two things will affect your decisions when purchasing cars. Save money for a new car or grab a used vehicle and chance encountering possible race hindering damage? Choice is yours. Thankfully the online is a different experience from the single player season and increases the value of the title a solid bit.
The sounds during the races are very detailed. It realistically changes as your tires touch different surfaces, engines have appropriate whining or roaring depending on the vehicle and the player’s selected view, the crowd is exciting when present, and you can even hear the puncture in your tire rupture as you take damage. Sadly, the commentary does not receive the same love. Though you can use the d-pad to elicit certain sound queues concerning your teammates position, your own, your rival, and whomever is directly ahead of you, the statements do not vary much.
Graphically, GRID Autosport is very clean. The tracks are beautifully rendered and the cars are detailed well. The graphics engine loses its luster when the vehicles get damaged. Damage is realistic enough concerning how it affects driving, but visually pieces of the car awkwardly clash with the rest of the vehicle. Also, in some moments the damage seems inconsistent. You can sideswipe a wall on a turn and total the car or flip your open wheel car 8 times and continue the race.
Mentioned before, Autosport includes the cockpit view sorely missing from GRID 2 but it’s a blurry mess. It’s so blurry, in fact, it distracts from the road ahead. The Open Wheel vehicles have a view that’s uniquely their own due to the car’s style. It places the camera basically on top of the drivers head and it’s easily the best to experience the game in.
Over all, GRID Autosport is the best entry in the GRID trilogy, a very entertaining racing experience, and fitting swan song for the previous generation’s driving genre. Races get quite intense and the small goals set by your sponsors offer a solid illusion of advancement which get’s really rewarding when you up the AI difficulty and lower driving assists. Working in tandem with your teammate is engaging as well. Driving with a punctured tire that blows in the last couple turns while defending my teammate’s place ahead of me so we finish with a higher overall team score is just one of the many scenarios experienced during my review run. Definitely give Autosport a shot and see what drama you engage on the asphalt.
This review is based on a review copy of GRID Autosport for the PlayStation 3 provided by Codemasters.