Codemasters has always produced really solid racing games, dating back to the days of TOCA and even more recently with the V8 Supercars titles. If Codemasters is behind a racing game, then it's a pretty safe bet that the game is a good title. Rather than update either of the aforementioned franchises for the next generation of consoles, Codemasters has developed Race Driver: GRID, which is a game that can be best descriped as a simulation and arcade hybrid racing game. So has the team delivered again or fallen to the back of the pack?
The main mode in Race Driver: GRID is the Grid World mode. The objective of Grid World is to win races and improve your reputation; as you win races (or even as you just participate in races) you will earn money, which can then be used to purchase new vehicles. The game is split up into three geographical regions: the US, Europe and Japan. Each of these geographical regions has different race types and tracks, such as the Nurburgring, which is in Europe and when racing in the US you'll be able to race in San Francisco. As you progress through the Grid World mode you'll need to purchase newer vehicles. Vehicles can be purchased brand new or secondhand through eBay Motors. Anyone who downloaded the demo for GRID will have realised that there is an eBay motors cup and the fact you can purchase cars secondhand through eBay Motors may have a few people cringing. But, they shouldn't be, it works well in the context of the game and adds a sense of realism to the title.
In-game, GRID feels a little different to Codemaster's previous racing games, but it's definitely for the better. The controls are easy to pick up and it is possible to pull off some incredible braking manouvres. The game also incorporates a new flashback feature. The flashback feature allows players to rewind a big crash, or take a second chance at a dangerous corner and is triggered by simply viewing a replay and "rewinding" back to the spot you would like to "retry". This is a fantastic addition and as the flashbacks are limited, you'll need to weigh up whether a minor accident at the start of the race is worth wasting a flashback on. It is worth adding that the flashback mode can be turned off, for those who don't want forgiveness.
One of the reasons that GRID is such an impressive game is the brand new damage model and the brutal AI. The AI is simply fantastic - they will bump and grind your car, fight for every position and even drive differently. At times it really did feel as if we were racing against human opponents and this means that the game stays engaging throughout the single player mode and will have players wanting to beat these opponents. The damage model is also really impressive. Cars literally fall apart. The first time you have an accident you'll hear and feel just how bad it affects your car. Your car will slow down, pull to the left or the right and while steering it you'll feel like you're in a Datsun. It's brilliant and some of the best damage we've ever seen in a racing game.
Race Driver: GRID also includes some multiplayer support. The game supports up to twelve players online and every event from single player can be played online. The online support is sufficient and we wouldn't be surprised to see some downloadable content present itself in the future but the lack of split screen multiplayer is a huge disappointment and actually feels like a step back. We spent hours on the split screen multiplayer in Codemaster's previous V8 Supercars games and to not have it included in Race Driver: GRID is a large disappointment and its omission definitely sours the multiplayer experience.
GRID doesn't just play wonderfully, but it looks remarkable as well. The game is running on the Ego engine, which is based on the Neon engine which was utilised in Dirt. The bloom has been turned up but overall the game looks fantastic. The damage is realistic and the tracks look amazing. The sound is relatively solid. At the start of the game while you're naming your profile there is a list of names and if your name if one of the listed names then the game will actually say your name in the middle of races, (such as "great racing Luke"), which is an excellent feature. The cars themselves sound fantastic, but some of the other chatter does become a bit repetitive once you've played the game for more than five hours.
Race Driver: GRID was developed by the team behind the V8 Supercars series and so any Australian is likely to be disappointed by the complete lack of Australian content in GRID. When the next generation of consoles arrived, one of the first potential games we (and likely most Australian gamers thought of) was a next generation V8 Supercars title. We're disappointed, we'd like to see the cars back, but there is no denying GRID really is a very solid game, even without the Australian content.
Race Driver: GRID is a fantastic game and a title that any racing fan should have no hesitation in adding to their library. The racing genre is a crowded one, with titles like Forza Motorsport and Gran Turismo leading the pack, but with its incredible AI, fantastic damage system and unique flashback feature GRID brings enough to the genre to justify a purchase. Sure, there is no Australian content, but it will take most players about half a lap to forget all about the V8's...