GRID Review — The Peak is Never Passed
Codemasters' attempt to revive GRID has a lot of great ideas but struggles to bring them all together in a cohesive fashion.
PC, Xbox One
Review copy provided by the publisher
There are so many racing games on the market right now, but only a few actually stand out in the overcrowded genre. This is because developers have figured out ways to deviate from just making a simple racing game. Forza Horizon 4 is essentially Destiny but with cars. Dirt Rally 2.0 is a hardcore sim for rally racing. Even The Crew 2, which I personally did not enjoy, allows you to transform from a car to a freaking airplane on the fly. But GRID, the newest racing game from Codemasters, fails to truly differentiate itself in its attempt to appease two different audiences of the genre: those who want a racing sim and those who want a fun arcade experience.
The game begins with an introduction to GRID, giving you a taste of the various vehicles you’ll use, the tracks you’ll drive on, and the rivalry system. It briefly teaches you the mechanics and how to use its unique features in a tight, user-friendly experience. It was definitely a good first impression, with approachable systems that are great for both experienced players and newcomers to the genre. However, those mechanics wore out their welcome as I continued to play.
“GRID…fails to truly differentiate itself in its attempt to appease two different audiences of the genre.”
On GRID’s default medium difficulty, the gameplay and opposing driver AI all feel like they were designed for an arcade-style racer. You can essentially hit the gas for the majority of the race, crash into walls, and hit other cars without any penalty, really. It makes for a fairly fun racer, but the medium difficulty is ridiculously easy. Unless you are playing an event that is only one race and places anything but first, getting on top of the podium is effortless. After a few events, playing GRID felt more like a chore, as I was inching my way through the GRID World Series.
So, I changed the difficulty to hard which really changed the flow of gameplay. That would be great if it didn’t feel incohesive. The gameplay felt a bit more like a sim, with weightier cars, more sensitivity to damage, and fewer assists overall. However, the driver AI is a bit more difficult to deal with as they are more in tune with AI from an arcade-style racer. GRID wants you to drive the car a bit more methodically, while driver AI Is trying to crash into you for no apparent reason. The races are too fast and destructive to really think about every single turn.
Whether you decide to choose medium or hard as your difficulty option, GRID is incredibly repetitive. There isn’t much that makes every race feel different. Sure, there are a number of locations with different tracks, a day and night cycle, and rain weather effects that are supposed to change things up but every track feels the same and the rain effect doesn’t feel like it ever really changed the handling of my car.
If anything, everything felt like it was there to visually change how things looked. In that respect, GRID looks nice. It isn’t the racing game you would probably flaunt to your friends if you wanted to showcase your console’s graphical prowess, but the car models and environments have a good look.
There are ideas that are really great that could have made GRID stand out, but could use some retooling to make them work more effectively. Most notably, the rivalry and ally systems. In every event, you have a teammate that can help you anytime during a race. You can issue one of two basic commands, attack and defend, that will have them attempt to pass the racer ahead of them or keep the racers behind them. Additionally, you will have a rival that will attempt to ruin your chances to get on the podium, even at the expense of them winning.
Both systems don’t really feel like they matter, despite being the one differentiating factor from other racers. Keeping the teammate system simple is great, but too many times, I was told they couldn’t execute the command. It also doesn’t really seem to matter as I’ve placed first in races without issuing a single command to my teammate. There isn’t a reliance on it, which is nice in some ways. However, this is GRID’s most distinct feature, so, why not lean more into these more unique features?
This question can also be asked for its rivalry system. At the beginning of each race, a rival is indicated with an orange symbol. When I see the word rival, I think they must be the one I’m fighting for that top spot on the podium. But if I’m at the starting line at 16th and they begin at 15th and I move up 10 places in that beginning rush and they don’t, that surprising racecar drama GRID strives for isn’t really there since the rival becomes non-existent during almost the entirety of the race.
“GRID has variety at its side with the various types of vehicles you can drive, but it’s not enough with its repetitive courses and essentially non-existent rivalry system.”
If you are driving recklessly, you may earn yourself another rival. This is where that on-the-track drama starts to really show. If you hit an opposing racer the wrong way, you will get a notification on-screen saying that the driver is now your rival. At that very moment, they will start to ram into you, attempting to ruin any chance of you placing in the top 3. However, since GRID is so easy, they are hardly a threat. Rivals are definitely more a threat on harder difficulties, but as stated, the simulation-esque gameplay is at odds with the AI’s mentality which is to crash into everything.
GRID has an identity crisis. It is an amalgamation of ideas that are really great on paper that don’t really work in tandem. You can find better arcade and simulation styled experiences that don’t feel as disjointed or dull. Sure, GRID has variety at its side with the various types of vehicles you can drive, but it’s not enough with its repetitive courses and essentially non-existent rivalry system. With that being said, I do hope Codemasters does attempt to refine some of the ideas in GRID and implement them in future racing titles.