A year after the release of their previous GRID title, Codemasters have decided to have another go with GRID Autosport. According to the developers, this title aims to move the series back in line as a more authentic racing game and separate itself from the arcade-like racing style seen in the previous iterations. They seek to achieve this by bringing elements from the TOCA Touring Car franchise to expand the universe into 5 different disciplines of racing (Touring, Endurance, Open Wheel, Tuner and Street).
Right off the line, Codemasters have done away with the obnoxious viral video introduction from the previous game and it has been replaced with a classy announcer with some elegant background music. This had me bopping along while I set up my character profile and chose the discipline for my first event. Along with this choice came an option of a racing sponsor which included brands like Razer and Intel. These brands would give you objectives and a teammate to race with for the event.
With the teammate system being re-introduced, a push of a button means you can give “orders” to your teammate to push themselves higher in the rankings or to defend their current race position. Each teammate has varying levels of experience and will react differently to these orders. Unfortunately I’ve found that this makes little difference when it comes to the teammate AI, as they will continue to drive like any other racer. With most races, I had the same 1 or 2 opponents dominating the pack no matter what discipline they were racing in. With the odd surprising place this usually meant that my teammate would be at the back of the pack, dragging down my amazing racing abilities or trying to run me off the road.
I feel as though there is something off about the AI in this build. The AI opponents seem to race just as hard and fast as you which is great, but they do this regardless of how well they are racing. If you take an inside line for a corner and come off better, this should mean some gain on the opponents but a lot of the time that wasn’t the case . This all changes however once you eventually make it past them. It’s like the AI loses motivation and unless you make a big mistake, they never seem to want to catch up. This can lead to scenarios where i’m 5th in an endurance race all by myself because the guys in front are all doing the same speed, regardless of driving style and the guys behind just don’t care anymore.
While there are penalties for going off track, they do seem very inconsistent when it comes to the punishment time and frequency, which has been an issue since GRID 2. You may get bumped off track or take a corner a little bit too close to incur the penalty, but the kicker is the amount of time it takes from you. A penalty or two can sometimes mean the difference between a podium finish and being another one of those other racers. While the game frowns upon you cutting the extra millimetre off a corner, it doesn’t seem to worry about car contact. You can come full pelt into the first corner, bounce off 2 cars and as long as you didn’t go off track, the game doesn’t seem to care especially if you only have cosmetic damage mode on (but who does that?).
Being damaged from crashes has always been a natural part of the GRID series, and it’s great to see that it will affect your car in different ways depending on your chosen discipline. Touring races actually encourage the back and forth nature of trading paint but in the Open Wheel races, it is strongly advised against contact as the cars are very fragile, and the game will punish you if you decide to get a little hostile. AI opponents however don’t seem to be affected by this too much. With half their front end crumpled and only one front tyre, they still cruise along without skipping a beat. Then there’s you with a half broken front axle, wondering why I have to keep pushing right to stay on track.
One feature that has been brought back after being left out of GRID 2 is the car interiors. Usually this allows the player to have the most immersive experience when it racing games. The problem in GRID AutoSport is that they haven’t brought it back well, and interiors are extremely dull with this hazing that seems to block out a lot of what should be going on there. The detail even lacks when compared to the original Race Driver: GRID, which was released in 2008. While everything else looks great and the reflections are nice, the interiors really bring down the graphical quality that you would expect to see in something made for the PC in 2014. While it may not look pretty inside, one thing it does right is the sound design.
Each car has it’s own unique sound effect and you can distinguish the difference even while you are racing. On top of this, while sitting in the car’s interior the game changes the sound levels to make you feel like you are inside the car. The deeper sound set immerses you in the experience of racing, but I was becoming conflicted on the interior due to the visuals and the immersion is ultimately broken.
The great thing is you don’t need immersion to have fun, and the multiplayer has really stepped up in terms of having so many game modes to enjoy. The multiplayer lobby system allows players to choose the event they wish to partake in and create a room for like-minded racers to join. Finishing races will reward you with money and XP which can be used to purchase cars as well as their performance and visual upgrades, but you have to be careful while racing as you will lose money if your car gets damaged. If you don’t have a specific car needed to partake, you will be able to loan one instead.
These loaned cars are pre-driven and have had their own variety of histories that will affect the performance of the car. However, this helps level the playing field if you’re up against a high level racer who may not have the car of class you have chosen because everyone will get the same loan car. Seeing as the levels between single and multiplayer are separate, it was frustrating having to go from racing in hypercar events and then switching to multiplayer and having to going back to only owning the Volkswagen Golf R.
In the chance I had to partake in the multiplayer, everything worked extremely smoothly and I was amazed to see how short the load times were even when handling multiple players between states. Loading screens were almost non-existent when it
came to GRID Autosport. I barely had to wait for more than a few seconds and restarting races was almost instantaneous.
I feel that GRID Autosport is a decent racing game that I’ve had fun with, but I’m confused as to why it should actually be a thing. It feels to me more like GRID 2.5 than the next iteration of a franchise. The game has directly copy-pasted tracks and modes from the previous games and makes it feel more like a “GRID: Greatest Hits” concept than an actual step forward in the series. I would have preferred the developers take their time to enhance everything about the game and release a complete experience on the current generation of platforms.
Version Information (PC)
With PC being the lead platform for this title, they have gone all out with the graphics options. Pushing ultra settings I was still hitting about 70-90 fps during racing sequences, depending on crashes and cars on the screen. The game handles multiple monitors really well and even includes a “Second screen” mode. This provides you with a overlay of the complete ranking board as well as a cinematic camera that lets you take a look at the race from a different angle. it’s a really interesting feature that really shows that this game was focused for a PC release.
With fully rebind-able keyboard and mouse controls, each of them worked really well and I was happy to comfortably use either for long periods of time. Alt-tabbing works really well and upon return to the game, it’s waiting in windowed mode. Without skipping a gear, it launches you straight back into the action.