Racing games can be incredibly fun with thrilling action and tense moments on the race track while en route to the finish line. But there’s a severe lack of that excitement in GRIP, a combat racing game from developer Caged Entertainment, that has you taking control of armored cars racing and battling towards first place. This doesn’t take away from how detailed or gritty the environments can be, nor how powerful and resistant the cars can be, all of which can look pretty good when in motion. Unfortunately, a combination of basic game types and non-existent multiplayer make GRIP feel like a far more meager package than it actually is. Racing fans can still find something to latch onto with the unlockable car part customization and alternate racing game modes, but beyond that GRIP doesn’t do well to distinguish itself as anything special.
The racing of GRIP hits all of the important bullet points when it comes to being a competent racing game. You have standard races, battle modes, and alternate game types that you and everyone else trying to complete objectives in your armored car. The easiest comparison one could make would be to a futuristic and gritty take on Nintendo’s Mario Kart, but with less personality. Controlling your car can be a hassle at high speeds, mostly because the handling of every car doesn’t feel that great when taking turns on any of the 22 race tracks included.
These cars are hulking tanks, so it’s understandable they would not handle as well as smaller cars. However, it can be a huge problem in races with many turns, causing you to get off the track more than a few times even when you’re being careful. Like other racing games with computer A.I. opponents, GRIP also suffers from a “rubber band” effect when competing in solo races. More often than not you’ll find that the computer tends to have more than a few miracle appearances when you’re dominating a race. It doesn’t always happen on every track or standard race type but does so enough to become very noticeable and annoying.
If you’re riding solo in GRIP, then you have a long single-player campaign to rev up to. However, the campaign can feel overly repetitive with its repeating races and multiple tier levels that seem to drag on. Many of the earlier tiers in the campaign are classic races with small tweaks to the track, but as you progress through the higher tiers races become different in some ways. For some, it will take a while before the campaign races start to get complicated and difficult enough to become more fun and less like a chore.
Completing races in the campaign will unlock new parts to take into the Garage and customize your car, but outside of a few aesthetic changes, these don’t affect how your car performs. Some of the unlockables (parts and full cars) are held behind a level cap, which can be reached by completing races and earning enough experience towards your player level to unlock them. Most car parts might not be worth the trouble working to unlock them, but there are a decent number of parts that can be obtained.
If you were hoping for GRIP to have a really fun online multiplayer component, then you’re going to be severely disappointed. While every race type can be played online or locally via split-screen, the online section of GRIP is almost non-existent. Unless you’ve already planned things out with a few friends who also have the game, you’re not going to find many people to race with online.
The matchmaking will have you lingering in the lobby waiting to join a game for a long time, before creating your own lobby and having you wait for others to join. Offline, however, GRIP can be fun to play with others locally. You have multiple options for how the screen can be split, as well as all track and race options open to you from the start. You can only access the cars unlocked in other modes, but it still is good to have the race types available without much hassle.
While not a bad game entirely, GRIP just doesn’t stand out as much as one would hope. The detailed visuals and overall concept of racing with armored cars are intriguing but the gameplay just doesn’t provide as much excitement as other racing games do. Online multiplayer is a complete miss and severely impacts the number of times you’ll want to come back to play GRIP, despite local multiplayer and other game modes working like a charm. As it stands, however, GRIP comes up short and finishes far from first place.
This review was based on a digital review code for GRIP: Combat Racing for the PlayStation 4, provided by Wired Productions.