Grid is an unashamed arcade racer which ignores physics, the weight of a car and the handling properties of that weight to give you a numb representation of what racing is about.
On the other hand:
Grid is an unashamed arcade racer which ignores physics, the weight of a car and the handling properties of that weight so that you can just have fun drifting around a circuit as fast as possible without worrying about tyre degradation or fuel consumption.
Both of those statements are true and equally valid and which statement applies to you will depend a lot on what you want from Grid.
If you buy Grid because you are looking for a new racing challenge and like to tinker with setups and putting in fast, consistent laps then you really should save your money and look at any of the dearth of racing sim titles on the market.
If you are looking for an easy, fun-filled riot and do not care too much for physics then Grid has an awful lot to offer.
Not a Sim
Grid is not a racing simulator and at the same time, it shares many qualities with one. It has a real-world car line up, there is a career progression system and real-world tracks. Where it splits off from reality is in car handling.
You can complete an entire circuit of Brands Hatch without touching the brake, even Druids. Moreover, this is actually the fastest way around the track.
I initially tried to play the game how I wanted, that is to say, I tried to drive around the track correctly. I was breaking for turns, looking for the apex and accelerating out but the cars felt terrible.
There was no way to predict what a car would do even if I took the same corner in the same way, with the same line I would get a different result.
After a few, extremely frustrating minutes I went back to a track I know very well, Brands Hatch. For me, it’s the litmus test of a racing game. If the game world is accurately modelled, the car I am driving is equivalent to one from a game I have played, then I will usually put in a very similar time.
My times in Grid were not only off from other racing games but off from each lap. There were between 5 and 7 seconds difference between laps and I never really felt in control of the car.
After a mistake where I came into a corner to hot, I let go of the accelerator, turned in, hit the break for a split second and accelerated again. I thought I would be initiating a doughnut but instead, the car went sideways and I held a drift.
I was running the Indy circuit and I managed to drift from Surtees all the way around Clark Curve and off onto Brabham Straight.
It was a revelation and changed the game entirely for me. Instead of fighting against the game mechanics I was working with them and the fun factor went from a frustrating zero to a sexy six.
There are a lot of other issues with the game that I will highlight later but in that the moment, I was having a good time.
After a few hours of messing around, I was able to complete an entire circuit of Brands Hatch without touching the brake.
It is faster to dab the brake to cause the drift but letting go of the accelerator, turning full lock and hitting the power hard has a largely similar effect.
Instead of slowing down for the three corners after Derek Minter Straight I can maintain a drift through Westfield Bend, Dingle Dell and Sheene’s.
So that’s the handling out of the way, what is the rest of the game like I hear you ask? Well, there are some really great moments and some truly irritating ones to accompany them.
If you don’t qualify you will start in a random place in the grid, this means third from the back every time.
When you start at the back you can get to the front on the first and second corner regardless of the track by not braking and using your opponents to ‘assist’ your turn. There is no penalty for doing this.
The AI is off, the opponents do not drive fast but they will move on sideways, apparently on rails to block your pass.
Starting in the last place and fighting to the front of the grid should have your crew singing your praises instead you are given pointless information.
“We’re in the last lap so hold the lead to the end now”
Really? I was going to move back to fourth because that’s how I thought I would win or what about when I was in second place on the last lap after a little drifting went awry.
I had just passed the start-finish line and was all over the bumper of the first placed car, a huge FINAL LAP appeared on screen, the radio opened up and I was told:
“Get that lead, this is the final lap, my friend”.
The race manager sounds depressed, his delivery is pretty monotone and I find him really irritating.
The load times are incredibly long too. I am not playing from the SSD however Grid 2019 certainly has the longest load times of any racing game I own.
When the game finally loads and you are flown down the pack of cars on the start grid I noticed a lot of stuttering too. This could be system-specific however, even reducing the graphics to high and then medium the same thing happened.
Career Mode Fail
I was hoping for a lot more from career mode. Codemasters had said this game was to be a return to what made Grid great. I don’t see that, all I can see is a list of races on different tracks in different cars, there is no sense of progression or accomplishment and worse there is no sense of ownership.
You can buy cars and change their liveries but you cannot design your own team livery and your co-driver is just a collection of statistics so I really feel there could have been a lot more here.
Driving me mad
All the previous statements, whilst true and my opinion don’t detract from the fact the Grid is a fun game to play. If you forget what could have been and judge it for what it is then you could score the game pretty well.
Grid is a massive missed opportunity for me, there is no sense of speed, no feeling from the cars or the tracks, no feedback and overall the experience of driving is a pretty numb one, however, even with all that missing, the game is fun to play.
Despite the flaws, I had a great time sliding sideways around race tracks. Challenging myself to not use the brake. It made me realise how spoilt we have become, expecting realism from every game.
I spent days of my youth playing Lotus Turbo Challenge 2 on an Amiga A500+ and never once did I moan about the car weight or handling characteristics being off, I remember it fondly as some of the best fun I had ever had gaming and this is what Grid is about.
Crazy, unrealistic realism and I am hooked.
I have moaned about a lot in this review, far more than I thought I would but there is a frustration that comes from what we could have had, not what is.
Grid, wonderfully flawed Racing
- Gameplay - 68%68%
- Graphics - 84%84%
- Sound - 84%84%
- Longevity - 65%65%
- Value - 58%58%
Grid is a wonderfully flawed racing game that just hits the mark in terms of fun but leaves realism on the starting line.