Codemasters is no stranger to the racing genre, and they have been producing high-quality racing games for many years. It should come as no surprise to racing fans that their recent entry GRID: Autosport delivers on all marks and pushes the excitement straight to the redline.
All possible race events in GRID: Autosport fall into one of five categories: Touring Car, Endurance, Open Wheel, Tuner, or Street. Each of these categories has a very informative introduction video to outline the guidelines of the discipline, but here is a quick (and simplified) overview. Touring Car events consist of racing modified road cars you may even own yourself. In Endurance races you will drive high powered cars; however, the challenge is to conserve tires as the races are going to be much longer. Open Wheel is my favorite and consists of speeding around a track in cars specially designed for racing such as Formula or Indycar. Exploring Tuner races will find you racing the clock to set the fastest lap, or drifting wildly around a track to score the most points. Finally Street events are similar to Touring Car races; however, the tracks will all be courses along city streets providing a different environment than the other four.
Utilizing every one of these disciplines, GRID: Autosport offers some expected single player game modes such as Career, Time Trial, and Custom Cup (which can be used to run a single race event). It also includes several multiplayer modes including normal races, leaderboard-based challenges, weekly community driven events, and split screen which is even included in the PC version. Most of your racing will likely be spent in the game’s expansive Career mode while changing gears to play in the others from time to time.
When launching Career mode you will begin by creating and customizing your racer. This is the avatar you will be playing as during the course of the game. After setting up a personality for yourself you’re given the option of starting one of the five aforementioned disciplines. Once a discipline has been chosen you will be presented with several events to choose from. Events are locked with a level requirement, so many of the higher tier races will be unavailable until you complete events at the lower levels. It probably wouldn’t be a good idea to jump right in to the top tier event anyway.
Once an event is selected a team option will appear giving the choice of who you will race for during this particular session. Teams are not specific to each racing type and you will often see the same appear multiple times. Each team will have different vehicles and different objectives awarding varying amounts of experience points. Race objectives are how you complete an event and are not about finishing first but rather completing a specific challenge. These challenges could be finishing ahead of a specific driver, or above a certain Driver or Team rank. As you perform better in these tasks and go up in level, more lucrative teams will offer contracts.
This varied contract racer method of running events is where the game has its best quality. None of the disciplines require participation of another to advance. What this means is that it’s entirely possible to focus on your preferred racing style while skipping those you either aren’t good at or don’t enjoy. This separation carries over to level also as experience is earned within each style so you will have an individual skill level for each discipline. There is one caveat however which is the “GRID Series,” which is a special 6th discipline and requires at least a level 3 in all others to unlock. Difficulty has no bearing on validity of completing events, so this isn’t too lofty a goal even for someone as poor at drifting as I am.
When racing, the driver AI in GRID: Autosport is among the best in racing and does an exemplary job in creating a special and unique feel across all aspects of the game. Endurance races will feel very different from Street events if for no other reason than your opponents driving personality. It would be awkward to see a Drift racer attempt a Formula C race, so it’s a good thing that doesn’t happen here. The AI also does not mimic some other games by driving on a rail attached to the perfect racing line getting in your way at every corner. They will try to take the best line through a corner, but are very aware of other vehicles and will attempt to avoid collisions wherever possible.
Above all else, the most important element of a racing game are the cars. Simply put if the cars in the game don’t look, sound, and feel great then the rest of the game doesn’t matter. Fortunately for us Codemasters has absolutely nailed it with the driving in the game. The cars all sound brilliant and vary in tone based on which of the views you are using. If you miss a turn the sound of gravel and dirt will ping and putter against the underside of the car before getting back onto the track. Open Wheel cars whine at high RPMs while Touring Cars will sound closer to the daily drivers they are based on. Other racers can be heard as they approach or drive past on the other side of a wall.
All of the vehicles are beautiful to look at, and damage is location specific. Slamming into another car will cause cosmetic and drivability changes depending on the impact. Cockpit view offers realistic interiors of all cars in the game, and racing from the driver’s perspective must be tried at least once. Open Wheel cars offer unparalleled visibility where Touring Car sponsor logos may obstruct parts of the windscreen. However if that isn’t your thing there are five other viewing positions to try with two of them showing off the highly detailed exterior models.
Immersion in the game does not stop with driving the cars. Your crew can offer helpful real time information about any damage to your vehicle, status on your rival or teammate, or give a distance to the car ahead all at the press of a button. They will also alert you to hazards in the race such as a collision or spin out up ahead. Similar announcements will sometimes be heard by the venue’s PA system alerting spectators to specific events. Being warned about a bad wreck and then being able to dodge it two turns later to take the lead is a thing of beauty.
There are a few issues I ran into while playing the game, though I believe they are far from game breaking. Chief among them is a lack of rules in any of the disciplines. The only penalty I encountered is when you cut a corner to get ahead of someone. You are given a brief time penalty where your max speed is capped for a few seconds until returning to normal. My issue is the AI doesn’t appear to be affected by this penalty, nor is it penalised when causing accidents. For one example, I was in 2nd place on the final lap and was spun out by the 3rd place driver who went on to finish second when I crossed the line in 12th. It does not happen often and I was driving in hard mode which gives fewer rewinds than lower difficulties. I would suggest to keep this in mind and possibly customize the difficulty to include more rewinds than normal to account for this possibility. Your teammate also will not perform nearly as well as you will, so do not rely on them to be the main source of team points (not that we would prefer it that way).
Despite the minor issues, GRID: Autosport is the best multi-discipline racing game to date. It balances itself nicely across the five racing styles offering a challenging and rewarding experience in each. The cars’ unique feel and sound make the driving even more fun, while the career mode and online challenges will keep you coming back to the track season after season. Racing fans should definitely give this game a shot, and it is a great game for anyone interested in picking up their first title in the genre.