The GRID series has always played a second, or maybe even third fiddle to the bigger arcade racing franchises on consoles and PC. The likes of Forza Motorsport, Need for Speed and Gran Turismo get the most love on the PlayStation and Xbox platforms, but Codemasters’ GRID franchise has stood the test of time. Between the actual games named “GRID” and the “TOCA” titles that Codemasters has released this is one of the longest running driving series in video games. Codemasters does great work on their racing games, and that’s mostly because they focus on what matters… the actual racing. In a world where their biggest competitors have a repeatedly shot themselves in the foot by focusing on monetization instead of what matters, Codemasters’ GRID is a refreshing, albeit standard, racing game.
GRID is about what you expect from a Codemasters racing release. It’s incredibly competent, with much of the love development love sunk into the driving experience instead of progression systems and ways to make you spend more money. That said, it doesn’t stray too far from it’s own conventions. It offers a fairly sterile arcade racing experience, rivaling contemporary racers in terms of visuals and presentation, while falling a little bit short on the content side. It offers a single player campaign where you’re tasked with racing your way to the top of multiple circuits that have you racing in a variety of car-type specific events, a highly customizable multiplayer mode, and free racing. While the selling points of GRID in terms of marketing are that “no race is ever the same” due to the fact that there are numerous racing personalities, the ability to gain nemeses in a race, and that there are dynamic AI events in each race, the end result is somewhat of a mixed bag.
Codemasters attempts to improve AI racers in GRID to make for a more authentic driving experience
The racing in GRID is good and it’s because of the aforementioned features of the game, but it’s not always apparent what that stuff means. There are a number of different situations that you can encounter in a given race in GRID as well as many different ways to race. The AI is as advertised, it’s varied, and you can’t always anticipate how other drivers will react to you in this game. Sometimes they are super aggressive, swerving into your lane to try to impede your progress. Sometimes they are passive, allowing you to pass them with little resistance. Sometimes they’ll put you into a wall in retaliation. Sometimes, the action isn’t revolving around you and your vehicle at all. The AI personalities and dynamic events aren’t always easy to point your finger at and identify, but the Nemesis system most certainly is. If you get a little too wild and start throwing your weight around, the AI will definitely clap back at you and become your nemesis. This will definitely make things a little bit more difficult for you, however, the in-game system of rewinding the race make any problems you encounter pretty easily remedied.
GRID has approximately 80 cars in the game and there are 13 tracks with each one having different circuits or variants in them. GRID is by no means the biggest racer in terms of content. In fact, it’s fairly run of the mill when it comes to the content in the game in terms of cars and tracks, and there aren’t that many ways to play either. You have your single player career mode, and then you can either play free play or online. Within all of the modes, everything stays pretty much vanilla. There is a light progression system that carries over across all facets of the game that allows you to earn things like profile improvements and accolade badges. You’ll earn levels for competing in and winning races and the rewards don’t really feel all that rewarding. You’ll also earn currency as well, which can be used to purchase cars which increase in value as you get the rare end of the spectrum. As plain jane as GRID can feel at times, there is something curated about what’s here that makes it feel like it’s got just the right amount of content for a racer of this type. You’ll hop into the action from the jump and it will be interesting because you aren’t necessarily starting out at the very far end of the automobile spectrum, far away from anything that would be considered fun to drive. GRID gets you into the action right away, and it’s exciting because of that, but everything else just feels middle of the road.
A lot of GRID feels “middle of the road” when it comes to features, content, and modes
While the grind through career dangles the carrot of bigger and better vehicles, it just doesn’t have much else to really engage you. On one hand, GRID is a very simplistic experience and it’s better because of it. On the other, the standard set of modes with little else keeping you engaged can feel somewhat boring at times. GRID is still a fine racer though. It’s got a great racing feel, a wide enough variety of cars and tracks, a slew of difficulty modes and customizable options that allow you to tailor the racing to your likes and skill levels, AND it’s a got a great presentation that rivals the best in the genre. It’s hard to go wrong with GRID if you’re looking for some good old fashioned arcade racing fun.
Those looking for the types of customization that we see in the bigger modern racers aren’t going to find it in GRID. There are a ton of different custom liveries that you can apply to the vehicles in the game, and these can be edited with different color palettes to make them truly unique. However, you won’t be spending much time doing any creation of your own. This light touch to customization is also seen in the tuning of your vehicles as well. Tuning is done prior to the race and it’s really only a handful of sliders to customize the experience per race. It’s not quite the level that you see from other racers that allow you to really change things about your vehicle with a more granular approach.
Ultimately, Codemasters plays it safe with GRID, for better and worse. There’s certainly a lack of features, less modes, and a lesser number of cars and tracks than other contemporary racers. This is a no-frills arcade racer, but a very good one. If solid racing action is the only thing you care about, GRID has it in spades. The new features which lean mostly on the AI improvements to better the racing experience are a mixed bag, but they improve the overall quality of the game on the track.