T (Teen)Release Date:
June 3, 2008 Screenshots: LinkAmazon: Buy Now!Written By:
Each and every racing franchise to make its mark on the genre has focused on key elements to separate itself from the rest of the pack. Gran Turismo prides itself on realistic representations of its vehicles and backdrops, while Need For Speed prides itself on conforming to society and the current trends. Not too many people know of the Race Driver franchise of Codemasters simply because it’s all about the purity of the sport. It’s all about pitting one driver against another to see who has the best skills to come out on top. However, now that the franchise is tackling the next generation realm, it looks to make a name for itself in a big way. So for those who never played a Race Driver title, sit back as I present to you… Race Driver: GRID.
The world of GRID is broken down into three categories: GRID World, Time Trials and Multiplayer. The GRID World mode is an in-depth career mode with the basis of building your reputation as a great driver and earning lots of money to build your car collection. Within GRID, there are many different ways to earn enough cash to buy bigger and better rides to race with. You earn your income through winning races, playing on harder difficulties, winning over sponsors and being an active part within a winning team. Once you have built up enough cash, you have two options when purchasing your next car. You can either buy your car brand new or purchase a used car from eBay Motors. I will admit I prefer to purchase my cars secondhand through eBay Motors, but you do run a high risk of getting a car that’s just too banged up for you to do anything with.
For those who are all about customizing their cars with various parts, GRID isn’t the game for. Beyond giving your car a new coat of paint and decal stickers, the only way to upgrade your car is to buy a better car. However, just because Codemasters decided to forgo this feature, doesn’t mean that the completion will be lacking as well. The AI within this game is very competitive, often times causing damage to your car or put you into a wall if you get in their way. Due to this and the fact that Codemasters wanted to meld the worlds of simulation and arcade-style racing, they implemented a new feature known as the Flashback system. In the event of a mistake on your part or because of the AI opponents, you are able to rewind time, thus giving you a second just to avoid the situation all together. Since I’ use to arcade-style racing games like Ridge Racer, this was a welcome feature simply because it annoys me to hit a corner too fast, causing you to spinout in the dirt, thus losing your first place position for a non-ranking position. Some may think I just suck, however I am sure there will be plenty of players utilizing this feature to avoid wrecking their vehicle in order to secure a victory. Depending on the difficulty level you choose, you are given a certain amount of flashback opportunities. However, for those who feel this feature is pointless in a racing game, feel free to play the game on ‘Pro’, thus eliminating the feature all together from the game.
GRID’s racing circuits are divided among three different territories: Europe, the U.S. and Japan. Depending on the territory you are racing in, you make have to change you racing style in order to secure a victory. Races within the U.S. are focused on street racing, while Europe is all about track-based racing and Japan has a strong emphasis in underground street racing. When it’s time to head to Europe, you will able to race in famous locations Nurburgring, Le Mans, and even a city track based in Milan. For the U.S., your aces take place in various cities including Detroit and San Francisco. As for Japan, you will do quite a bit of drifting on short, winding tracks which will put your skill to the test. For those gamers who are all about cars or seen their fair share of car-based movies (2 Fast 2 Furious, Gone In 60 Seconds, etc.) should know that when dealing with Europe, the best cars to use are touring of GT cars. The U.S. is focused on muscle cars, which include Vipers and Mustangs, and for the drift masters down in Japan, it’s all about Nissans and Subarus.
There are very few racers that are considered ‘eye-candy’, but thanks to Codemasters’ new version of the Neon engine (Ego), I can certainly say that this title is ‘eye candy’. Though it don’t embody the ‘perfection’ parameter that the developers of Gran Turismo 5: Prologue aspired for, it does in fact hold its own against quality racing title, including DiRT and Motorstorm. Except for when your vehicle takes damage, the car models are very sharp and realistic looking. The backdrops give off an immersive feel, which often times has me stopping to take a look at the scenery when I should be focused on finishing the race. Though only running at 30 frames per second, the game runs very smooth and gives off a realistic since of speed. Practically every track you race on takes place within a sunny summer-time setting, with the exception of the Le Mans track, which does include the day to night, back to day time shifting. There is no whether affects, whether it is raining, hail, snow, or tornados within the background. All in all, the visuals are very solid and immersive, adding yet another solid piece to the overall puzzle.
For the most part, the controls within GRID are very responsive, and at times forgiving. However, what changes the whole game is the damage modeling and the competitive nature of the AI opponents. If you are side-swiped or slam into a wall, it can have a drastic affect on how your car performs. There have been times where I have turned into a corner a little too late (at full speed) and have slammed into a wall. As a result of my mishap, I could no longer drive in a straight line. I continuously had to press to the left on my left analog-stick in order to maintain a straight-forward driving motion. There are even times where if you are hit too hard, car looses all function, thus forcing you to either use flashback or simply retry the race all over again. Regardless of what shape your car is in during the race, the controls will cater to the affect, so don’t freak out if for some reason you can’t back up or accelerate.
For those who have experienced DiRT will feel at home with navigating through in-game the menus. Another nice touch to the overall presentation is that you are someone (during a race) reminding you about various tasks to perform and/or when you aren’t doing something correctly. I’ll admit after awhile, the speaker will get annoying, drawing your attention away from the race, but lucky for us gamers, we have the option of turning the speakers off (via the menu options). The musical score within GRID is ok, with the exception of the excellent intro theme provided by UNKLE. The music within the menu sections and during the races doesn’t add to the atmosphere of the game, and often makes you wish you have the Xbox 360 version so you can play your own music in the background.
In regards to multiplayer racing, GRID offers online support for up to 12 players via the Playstation Network. Though not as in-depth as other racing titles, you can compete in modes like ranking, player, or private matches. When setting up a private match, you have complete control of the race parameters. You can decide the race type, race length and whether to include damage or not. Within the ranking and player matches, race parameters are determined by everyone who is competing through a voting system. For the most part, the online setup is a balanced system, keeping the playing field fair for everyone involved, making each competitor rely on their skills and not what car they are driving. The lack of split-screen multiplayer will be a problem for those who have yet to go online with their PS3, but with the solid AI system, they will have their fair share of challenges to deal with.
As Codemasters first installment of the Race Driver series for next generation consoles, GRID is a very solid progression. Some may feel hesitant to purchase due to the lack of customizations options and online gameplay modes, but for what is included within the title, you couldn’t get a better representation of what racing is all about. IN an age of downloadable content, there is no telling what additions Codemasters could add to make this title better than it already is.8.5/
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