RACE DRIVER: GRID XBOX 360 REVIEW

When it comes to racing, Codemasters is certainly no stranger to tarmacs, asphalts, the wild outback, and whatever comes in between. After all, the company has made a name for itself developing some very interesting titles over the years that include well-known labels such as Collin McRae, an off-road racing, and TOCA, a circuit-racing game. Last year, Codemasters produced a significant leap for the Collin McRae series with its release of DiRT for the Xbox 360. And we still play that one occassionally. We rated it as a solid performer being that it combined the developer’s excellent racing formula with amazing graphics and somewhat lenient gameplay. Needless to say, it’s only a matter of time that Codemasters would jump back into circuit-racing again. And that transition has finally become to be known as GRID.

GRID represents the very core of circuit racing: gorgeous cars, amazing speed, comfortable driving experience, and fantastic wreckage! There’s a huge list of licensed cars for you to drive but the emphasis here is not about collecting, customizing, or upgrading your vehicles. It’s about the thrill of racing! This is one of the main reasons we like this game so much, where you can just hop into different events and competitions, and just drive. The upgrade system here is very simple. Instead of buying new car parts, you just go buy something better. In fact, you have the option of buying either a new one straight from the manufacturer or settle for a secondhand on eBay Motors. You can always sell the car back if you don’t want it anymore. What makes GRID addicting is how light and responsive the controls are. It’s quite obvious that the developer didn’t just build a racing game around simulation enthusiasts but for all racing fans alike. Partly it’s because you can cut down on some of the driving pressures by flipping on the assisted braking, assisted cornering, or whatever that suits your fancy.

Thanks to the responsive racing mechanics, the game lets you stay in control despite running at top speeds. It gives casual players a sense of traction on their vehicle and at the same time, a way to maneuver around the tracks with some degree of ease. Given today’s standards for racing game, it’s no surprise that GRID has also included destructible vehicles. After a couple of laps, we have managed to wreck different parts of our vehicles, ranging from broken windshield and busted trunk to twisted hood and missing passenger door. Luckily the affects of damage do not have an immediate influence until the main components of your vehicles started to go red. Crashing and cars spinning out of control is a frequent sight in GRID and you’d hate to start the race over again. Fortunately, the game has included a very nice flash back system that allows you to rewind time, a few seconds back before your accident happens, giving you a second chance to avoid that costly mistake.

Codemasters is very creative with the dynamic challenges when it comes to implementing the game’s artificial intelligence. Depending on your difficulty setting, your AI opponents make smart adjustments such as using blocking techniques to keep their other teammate ahead of the pack. Sometimes they will play aggressive to the point of smashing you into walls. It’s exciting to see how these computers act much like humans; you’ll see them make mistakes from time to time as they suddenly swerve off the road during a sharp bent. These types of dynamic challenges allow for a much realistic behavior of racing experience, as opposed to seeing your opponents drive the perfect line with their pre-programmed robotic instinct. In addition, you build up rivalries with the other drivers; as you progress through different stages in your racing career, that drama between you and your competition becomes more evident.

You’ll start out your career as a lowly driver-for-hire and work your way up to driving for prominent teams. As you earn more cash, you’ll eventually be able to build your own team, where you have the ability to hire and fire teammates as well as choose which sponsors to sign for your racing club. The main goal of GRID is to increase your reputation and buy new vehicles with the money that goes with it. Every race you compete in will take place in three geographical locations: Europe, US, and Japan. Each has its own unique racing style. The European segment focuses a lot on track-based racing with Doninton Park and Nurburgring as amongst its famous backgrounds. The US competition centers largely on street racing with courses in San Francisco, Detroit, Long Beach, and Washington just to name a few. The Japan section is ripped with winding courses that are modeled specifically for drifting events.

Each geological stage will require certain types of vehicles. For US circuit, you will need muscle cars. For Europe, it’s the GT and touring classes. And for Japan, you’re going to be using tricked out Asian cars with brands like Subarus, Toyotas and Nissans. From pro-tuned races to demolition derby, it’s incredible to see that GRID gives players a wide variety of different racing disciplines to try from. And at the end of each season, you’ll be able to enter Le Mans 24 Hour racing competition. Don’t worry as this particular race is condensed into a 24-minute period. What’s nice about it though is the fact that you’ll get to see the full day and night transition. In terms of bonuses in career mode, signing up for sponsors comes as another way of racking up some more money. The sponsors give you details on how you can earn bonus, such as finishing first or driving without any damage.

Graphically, the game looks very clean and highly stylized. Menus are laid out with a lot of spectacular 3D effects and the details on the cars are simply remarkable! Though the game runs at an adrenaline pace of 30 fps, animation stays incredibly even during pileups! The environment is lit up with interesting visual accessories such as thousands of colorful spectators that line up the racing circuits. You’ve got great lighting effects with dynamic rotation of night and day during the Le Mans 24 Hour Race. Too bad, the game has missed out on some weather effects like rain and most notably the ability to choose day and night options for single races. The best of GRID’s presentation are its destructible components and how the camera pans out and captures that scene with such intensity. These little camera tricks offer not only a spectacular view of your driving but also make crashes all the more impressive!

In the audio department, the game pretty much excels in producing the best sound effects. The sound of the cars revving up has a bona fide racing engine noise to it. And the sound of crashes are so freaking real that you can almost feel its impact! The music rocks and its fast-paced beats add to the thrill of high-speed racing. The only downside to the audio is that the commentaries can sometimes get repetitive and somewhat annoyiing. At any rate, this is one of the best circuit-racing games we have played in a long time. Codemasters did an amazing job with balancing the gameplay to work for both hardcore and casual fans alike. It’s highly realistic yet quite forgiving at the same time. We can’t say enough about how brilliant the AI and how spectacular the crashes are in this game. GRID is all about you, your reputation, and the thrills that come with pure racing. The only question that remains is that are you ready?

FINAL SCORE: 8.5 OUT OF 10