Race Driver GRID (PS3, Xbox 360, PC)

The cars are fast, the asphalt is sticky, and you’re racing against the world’s best. How will you do? It’s time to hit the GRID.

Every year, loads of racing games are released. It seems like the one area where developers can sit on their backsides and produce something that anyone and everyone can play: a game that lets you drive cars against other cars in order to win. Pretty simple.

This year, we’ve already seen Polyphony Digital’s Gran Turismo 5 Prologue come out to be crowned one of the best racing games the world has ever seen.

Until now, that is.

Codemasters Race Driver GRID is a new game from the same team that brought you the legendary TOCA Race Driver series and Colin McRae games. Powered by a new version of the Ego engine used in the truly excellent ride Colin McRae DiRT, Race Driver GRID takes people on a smashtastic ride filled with bumps, dents, and dings that realistic cars will give you.

Providing more of an intimate experience, GRID puts you in the shoes of… well… you. Start the game off for the first time and you’ll fill in your name and country as well as a voice profile. Your voice profile is a name that sounds like yours or a nickname you want so your manager and voices over the radio can talk to you. Already, the experience is a little bit more interactive than your regular stock standard racing game.

Immediately upon hitting go, you’ll find yourself in the midst of a fast and furious Pro-Street race behind the wheel of something fast & ferocious. You’ll have to play to win but don’t worry if it’s your first time because your coach over the radio will be there to help you should you crash. If you do crash, you’ll have three options, one of which will be to rewind the camera back to a point before you crashed so you can try that section again. While not realistic, this adds an extra boost of “cool” to a game that already seems to excel.

Click to enlarge

Let’s talk for the moment about graphics: GRID looks great. It’s not the high resolution documentary style car graphics that made us all drool when Gran Turismo 5 Prologue drove its way into our hearts, but its certainly not shy of making an impression either. While I happen to think that much like Colin McRae DiRT, the yellows in dirt, sand and dust are a bit too contrasty, you cannot help but think that the landscapes, cars, damaged parts, and interiors all look fantastic.

Sound doesn’t shy away either as this is one game that doesn’t mess around. While there is music, it’s often hidden in the background of the game. Most of the time, the sound comprises of you, the engine, and any time someone taps you hard enough to get you to notice. GRID sounds amazing once you turn it up, with high roars for engine sounds, directional damage noises, and an imprint that’s loud enough to make you feel as if you’re really there in the cockpit of a car.

Then there’s the gameplay which is just pure gut busting fun. The more professional of gamers will find that the AI likes to really mess with you, letting you take the lead for just a moment before tapping you nicely on the side and causing you to spin out. You’ll find cars competing nicely and in any of the modes, you’re sure to have a ball.

Click to enlarge

You’ll find your way in GRID by competing in events to earn yourself in-game money as a career, bouncing your way through the various tracks and event types as time progresses. If that doesn’t suit you, you can always hit some of the modes, and there are a lot of modes to try. Choose from drift cars, street racers, open wheelers, and more. Much like how DiRT had more than just rally racing, GRID has more than just street racing. Events like the 24 Hour Le Mans even make an appearance with you being given the opportunity to race in as low as a few minutes all the way up to the full 24 hour race. That’s a lot of racing. I was going to try it, but wasn’t sure if I could handle it.

It wouldn’t be a racing game if there wasn’t online support so head online and you can race with other drivers eager for a taste of your tires and blood. With up to twelve racers heading against each other at any given time, you’ll find that there’s loads of fun to be had in GRID.

While the multiplayer is decent, it’s kind of a shame that the maximum number isn’t just a few higher or that the game lacks split screen support. It’s not entirely problematic that you’ll need separate Xbox’s to play against friends, but it is kind of unfortunately, especially seeing that almost every other racer has had split screen in it for some time now.

Click to enlarge

If you’re one of those people into tuning, you might want to stick with your previous option. For all of its realism, Race Driver GRID lacks the ability to change settings on your car. This didn’t particularly bother me as I usually don’t play with car tweaks as it is, but if you’ve loved it in previous racing games, it’s something to be aware of that’s missing in GRID.

You can’t have a GRID review without talking about the current reigning game, Gran Turismo 5 Prologue. While only a demo, GT5 Prologue is probably at the forefront of racing games at the moment.

So where does Race Driver GRID come in proximity to GT5 Prologue?

While Gran Turismo 5 is brilliant to look at, the structure of the game as well as the lack of physical damage can turn a fair few drivers – err, racers, ahem – off of the game.

Well, GRID brings them back as it is one fun game altogether. And while you might tell me that “oh, it’s not like the real thing” and “it’s too easy to get hit”, it has one thing that Gran Turismo 5 Prologue lacks: pure, unadulterated fun.

And don’t get me wrong, GT5 Prologue is a great car simulation, but it’s just nowhere near the action packed car bumping, speed filled, brilliant mass of a game that Race Driver GRID is.

Should you buy this game?: It doesn’t have the same drool-factor as GT5 has but I found it loads more fun… Yes. Go buy it. Now.

Click to enlarge

Developer: Codemasters
Publisher: Atari
Classification: G
Formats: PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Windows PC
URL: Race Driver GRID

Reviewed by Leigh D. Stark