When I first played Codemaster’s newly rebooted GRID I had just come back from a weekend at the Wales Rally GB. A weekend of serious motorsport, off-road motorsport at that put me in the wrong mindset to play GRID for the first time. This isn’t a sim like Codies recent DiRT Rally 2.0 or their F1 series of racers. Nay, GRID is an arcade racer, and one with plenty of depth.
In my first few races in the Touring car class, I was trying to drive like this was a combination of DiRT and F1, a style which really didn’t suit the new GRID, and especially not on a racetrack. After a couple of races, I soon realised that leaning into GRID’s arcade elements was the best way to enjoy the action on course.
Everything is set about getting up close and personal with the other cars on track, while there isn’t any obvious rubber banding going on, the setup of the classes and events means that you will often end up in some bumper-to-bumper action, especially when diving into the first corner on any track. This action is encouraged as it plays into the Nemesis system which is highlighted as the great new feature of the game.
To be honest, I haven’t really noticed anything special with the Nemesis system. The theory is that if you get too involved with an AI competitor, they will become a Nemesis and potentially pose a danger to your winning chances. Sadly, despite being able to gain a Nemesis pretty easily after a few bumps, I haven’t observed any driving especially focused on knocking me out of contention. The handful of times I’ve been sent into a spin on purpose have been from random opponents I’ve overtaken rather than my Nemesis.
There is also a disappointing lack of longevity with this system. Within each class of racing there are thirteen events, culminating in a big blow-out Showdown event. As each AI driver is stated to have their own unique driving style and attitude, I was expecting to be able to build up a rivalry during the course of events within a class. Sadly not, with the Nemesis seemingly limited to a race-by-race basis.
It’s a missed opportunity, and one that turns what could have made for a meaningful series of races within each class into a block of standalone multi-race events. With something like F1 there is the narrative of the championship season, along with the ever-expanding routine of choosing development paths for your car. DiRT 2.0 has the challenge of the simulation, team management and championships to hunt for. Compared to its stablemates, GRID feels lacking.
Where it lacks in the niceties that have propagated through the genre, it makes up with variety. You have a number of main classes – Tuner for the fancy Japanese imports, Stock where you work your way up to a NASCAR truck, Touring which is a hat-tip to GRID’s roots in the TOCA games, while GT is my favourite featuring some of the highlights of the GT class in the World Endurance Championship. Aston Martin’s can steal my heart.
With different tiers of cars within those classes, there is a constant desire to complete events and earn much needed money to allow you to buy the next car up. Fortunately, to get to the Showdown events at the culmination of each class you only need to complete ten events. It’s a wise move in allowing you to get to a Showdown without being forced to grind through, or even get a podium, on ever event.
Beyond the main classes is a Fernando Alonso branded block of events. Clearly Fernando is bored in his time away from F1, but his name provides an easy way to shoehorn some single seater action into proceedings. However, like most games which aren’t the F1 series the single seaters here are fiddly and annoying to drive.
The invitational series though is the place to go if you want to get your hands on the best machinery. You don’t need to buy the cars here, saving you a pretty penny but still allowing you to get behind the wheel of legendary machines like the Ferrari 330 or the Porsche 917. Once you dig beneath the entry level cars in the regular classes, gems like these shine the game in a whole new light.
Even better, you don’t need to work through the invitational events in sequential order. A number of them will be unlocked once you have completed required events in the main classes. Just by completing five GT events, not even having to win them all, and I was able to take the Ferrari 330 out to Silverstone. Wonderful.
Despite the missed opportunities around the Nemesis system, the races are exciting. There’s a welcome mix of real and Codemaster’s crafted tracks, some of which you might remember from earlier entries in the series. It’s a thrill to see the AI racing each other hard, there aren’t any follow the leader races that you see elsewhere. I’ve seen opponents slide off wide at Silverstone, or get launched into the air around Havana while their tendency to flash you during night races is pleasingly reminiscent of real-world endurance racing.
There are options to perform a hot lap to try and qualify hire up the grid, but after a few of these I tended to avoid them. Starting from the default starting position of 14th is more than good enough to get stuck into the action and knowing that you can progress through events just by completing them takes the pressure off having to win.
Even playing on a standard PlayStation 4, the game looks stunning. The moody clouds of Silverstone contrast nicely with a sun kissed San Francisco, while a drenched city circuit around Havana pushes the tension up a notch or two. I’d love to see this in 4K on Pro, it’s sure to be a gorgeous sight.
The new GRID isn’t perfect, beyond the limited implementation of the Nemesis system you are liable to incur frustrating time penalties for corner cutting, great for a sim but feeling decidedly out of place in an arcade leaning racer like this. There are also some funky camera effects in chase mode where the camera zooms in closer to you when an opponent is close behind you. It’s disorienting and something I would have been happy to do without.
When I look at this new GRID, at first glance it seems a bit lightweight, especially when compared to its stablemates. But once you get stuck into the great racing and enjoy the variety of classes on offer, you’ll realise this is a welcome diversion from the sim heavy racing world we currently live in.
The Verdict – Headshot
Platforms Available – PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Platform Reviewed – PlayStation 4
Review based on review code supplied by PR. Please see this post for more on our scoring policy.