If you were to ask me about differentials or the benefits of carbon over steel brakes you would see my eyes get a far-away glazed over look. If anyone were to query me about brake horse power, or the benefits of rear versus front wheel drive, you would alternatively get a look appropriately akin to that of a rabbit hypnotised by a set of oncoming headlights. In other words, I know nothing about cars.
My go-to racing games typically have to allow you to take a corner by simply edging slightly in the direction you intend to go, grinding the boundary and propelling yourself along the guard rail like a giant 1-ton metal projectile, all the while only slowing down by a few miles an hour, emerging from the other side relatively unscathed and road worthy.
So, it was with a deal of trepidation that I ventured back into the world of realistic racing that I had left behind before the turn of the millennium.
Thankfully, to my relief, the Grid series appears to tread a line somewhere between the realistic, simulation heavy Forza’s or Gran Turismo’s and the Need For Speed and Burnout’s of this world. That’s not to say Grid is a middle ground title or a happy medium. Make one mistake and this game ‘will’ punish you harshly for even a single mistake, and unlike arcade titles, there is no boost provided to allow you to catch up if you fall to the back of the pack, other than using the slip-streaming mechanics and risky cornering tactics you will find yourself employing throughout the game anyway.
Grid sets you up as a rookie driver, looking to make his mark in the racing world, and you are given access to five distinct disciplines in which to cut your teeth. These each have varying degrees of “realism” and grants you the opportunity to progress and improve in order to take on the more punishing modes with some modicum of success.
First up is Touring. Sitting you behind the wheel of a reinforced racing car, gives you a bit of flexibility in your driving and if, like me, you dont quite have the knack of sticking to the optimal driving line and timing your accelaration/deceleration and gear changes, it will allow you to compete successfully, if not in the most pretty fashion. After ten or so races, I found myself watching the other drivers, and intuitively gauging the distances at which I would need to brake to keep up optimum momentum into most of the corners.
With that under my belt, I moved on to Street. In this mode you are racing high performance cars around converted city streets, and although not much more unforgiving than Touring, the key in this mode is to watch for, and exploit, openings in the pack when they occur. This mode is as close to any realistic driving games I have played previously so I didnt at any point feel truly out of my comfort zone.
Endurance is a confusing beast. I expected to go into long duration races requiring you to balance speed, position and sustainability throughout the race. Although this is somewhat true, although I raced enough to unlock Grand Slam mode, none of them felt particularly long, but on some races I was extremely thankful given the lack of ability to pit in and repair any damaged components or my increasingly degraded tires. It feels like they tried to implement accessibility with difficulty and ended up failing to achieve either.
Tuner mode was the one that surprised me the most. The souped up cars you compete in are a lot of fun to drive, and drifting round a corner at just the right angle to sprint out in front of the pack was definitely one of the finer moments I encountered.
Finally, we have Open Wheel mode. This to me, was the worst mode I could have imagined. I have a loathing for ultra realistic games, but none do I shun more than the yearly iterations of Formula 1 games. Although the cars in Open Wheel mode are more akin to lower grade Formula 3 cars, the heavy reliance on perfecting the racing line and optimal speed made this the most boring and frustating of all the modes.
With each of the above modes, there is a plethora of options available to you if driving is your thing, but to really progress in the Grid Grand Slam Championship you must become competent in all of the modes. To unlock the “true” game, you must first reach Rank 2 in every mode. The championship requires you to compete in events the length and breadth of the categories and will challenge even the most ardent driver.
Handling in the game never let me down with seemingly perfect response, and any crashes that I endured, always felt self inflicted and even then, with the inclusion of the replay function that allows you to rewind from any particularly nasty wipe outs or crashes, you get a few second chances should your skill fail you. Sadly, the biggest bug bear I had throughout the game is with the driver AI. Each is programmed with different racing styles ranging from hyper aggressive to passive, but ultimately most of them are dumb as bricks. During my review, I had to replay as many times due to dumb drivers causing me to crash as from my own mistakes.
Another problem I did encounter a few times, was a lack of conformity to the amount of incident needed to cause system failure. One major crash could see me driving away with only minor cosmetic damage, yet a minor bump can see me running the rest of the course with a broken steering column or damaged engine block.
Overall, Grid Autosport is a gateway game to the more realistic titles I mentioned before, acting as a “How to” game that gradually and successfully improves your driving skills over the many hours you will pour into the game.
MLG Rating: 8/10 Format: Xbox360/PS3/PC Release Date: Out Now
Disclosure: Midlife Gamer were provided a copy of Grid Autosport by the Publisher for review purposes. The title was reviewed over the course of two weeks on an Xbox 360. For more information on what our scores mean, plus details of our reviews policy, click here.