When I played a demo of GRID at E3 6 months ago, I walked away with it being my surprise favorite of the show. It was a completely unexpected but fun experience spearheaded by GRID’s unique take on AI opponents.
I was eager to play the final cut to see if the execution would carry over to the full game.
Well, I’ve been playing a review copy for a while now and I have to say that I had just as much fun with GRID as I did 5 months ago.
“Nemesis” and “Car-iorgrapher” Driver AI systems are the secret sauce
Again, what really makes GRID is it’s AI driving systems, specifically two systems that come together. The first is the “nemesis” system. It is pretty much what it sounds like. If a race against an opponent a little too hard, they will become a nemesis. That means when they get near you they’ll tend to be just as if not more aggressive to you than you were to them earlier.
Now, obviously if you race with manners you will likely not turn anyone into a nemesis. But I’m a jerk so I tried to do it whenever I could. It’s just fun.
The second half of the AI is the car-ographer system. Imagine a set of AI drivers based on 20+ different driving personalities. Now imagine those personalities being individually tweaked by the game and assigned to each race. That is essentially how the system works.
Though, the magic is how they race. All to often in racing games it tends to feel like it’s you versus the rest of the field all working together to slow you down.
In GRID, that is not the case. The best part about racing the AI here is that it’s not really about you. The AI will race each other just as hard as they will race against you. Sometimes they’ll follow the racing line but other times they will ruthlessly dice at each other.
This creates a psychological feeling of competition that I would normally only feel when racing against actual human players. Yet, GRID pulls this off with code. That kind of achievement can’t be understated.
If an AI driver runs me off or bumps me, it’s frustrating but it never feels unfair because I know that I’m not the only one being targeted. It is hard to explain but that element just makes the gameplay more frantic, exciting, fast paced, and most importantly, fun.
Arcade presentation but serious driving physics
GRID is more than just it’s AI though. One of the other elements I really like about this game is it’s arcade style presentation. Keep in mind I’m not talking about the gameplay but the presentation. The details make me feel like I am playing an arcade racing game from the 90s. There is a flashy UI with clean design and animations that keep things interesting. There are even announcers that make commentary over the crowd during passes or crashes.
There are visual effects that emphasize action like a slight blurring during hard hits, or cinematic slow motion sequences during full on crashes. You can see heat waves from exhausts. When driving on ocean side tracks the waves crashing against the side of the course are always timed just right. All of these elements amp things up and keep things fresh.
Though, that is where the arcade elements end. When it comes to physics GRID is much closer to the hardcore games like Gran Turismo or Forza Motorsport. While GRID is slightly more forgiving than those games, you won’t find exaggerated physics.
Handling however is a different story, and one of the negative points of GRID. At E3, I played the game with a racing wheel. During my review I used the typical Xbox controller.
One of the issues I found when playing with a controller is that driving smoothly is a little more difficult than it should be. With default settings in place, cars tend to snap oversteer and inputs tend to go to high too fast. Sensitivity adjustments can and should be made.
GRID flexes impressive visuals
Now would probably be a good time to talk about the graphics. GRID is a great looking game. Not necessarily the best when it comes to graphic fidelity compared to the competition but it still looks really good in my opinion. Surface textures are highly detailed and goes well with GRID’s environmental lighting.
Speaking of the environment, that is where the graphic power of GRID really shines. The cars look good but the track environments are pretty awesome. What’s more is that they tend to be full of action. There are 3D modeled spectators, balloons are released from the grandstands, tons of small elements all come together to make the environments feel alive.
The same can be said for the vehicle damage models. Instead of just dings, dents, and cracked glass, the cars in GRID destruct more like real race cars. Body work breaks off in unpredictable shards. Parts can shear and break off. It all encourages the overall franetic, exciting vibe.
Oh, and just to make a note. I played GRID on an Xbox One X. The game ran at 60fps at 4K resolution.
Not a huge car list but a quality line up.
When it comes to variety GRID is well equipped. There is a great mix of vehicle types on hand. There is everything from GT to open wheel available.This is a definite strong point. Though that is offset by a pretty small car list. Though, there will be more cars coming in the future via DLC. Out of the box however, the selection is small. Varied but small.
The vehicle types match various racing classes and event types. Though that leads to one more weak point. While there are a few types of racing. GRID also has “time attack” events. I don’t have anything against time attack in general, but in this game when so much of the fun comes from the tight competitive wheel-to-wheel racing, time attack kind of slows down the action.
It isn’t boring but it just doesn’t live up to the excitement that the rest of the game provides, thus making time attack feel out of place here.
Flaws aside, I think overall GRID is a great racing game that is incredibly refreshing. It finds that sweet spot within the spectrum of arcade and serious racers. It gives us something new and doesn’t try to be something it isn’t.
While it will not replace a Forza Motorsport or a Gran Turismo, it makes for a great change of pace. To wrap things up, check out my over all pros & cons below.
|Nemesis system brings “competition feeling” to racing against AI.||Car list could be bigger|
|Solid physics system||Handling can be tricky when using a control pad|
|UI presentation keeps things interesting||Time Attack events don’t feel as exciting as wheel-to-wheel racing.|
|Graphics combined with visual effects add to excitement.|