Race Driver: GRID Xbox 360 Review

May 30, 2010 by  
Filed under Reviews & Features, Xbox 360, Xbox

The Race Driver series has always shown off plenty of diversity, with its wild and contrasting race types. The series has basically given you a rather heavy toy box of vehicles to play around with, and if you can’t find something to turn your engine on within these games, then the racing genre probably isn’t one of your main gaming attractions.

Race Driver: GRID may be without the TOCA name of previous games in the series and is less about the science of racing, although the diversity, and the passion for motor racing are still very much present. It’s the latest racer from racing game specialists, Codemasters (one of the few things that makes me proud to be British) after all, and many of us are very much aware of their excellent track record when it comes to four wheel racing.

This time around the racing has been split into four regions (Europe, America, Japan and Global), with each offering its own unique tracks (Nurburgring, Le Mans, Jarama and Instanbul Park amongst others) and race types. The race types include everything from touring cars, super cars, muscle cars, GT, tuned and formula 3, to the more outlandishness of drifting, touge events (racing along windy roads against a single opponent), banger racing (quite simply one of the most ingenious piece of thinking and something which has been present on my wish list for quite some time now, given Codemasters skills at crumpling and smashing cars up) and the ultimate challenge that is the 24 hours of Le Mans (the full 24 hours have been included if you have nothing better to do, fortunately an accelerated 24 hours is also possible). Sadly, there’s no off road racing this time around though, it’s all about the squealing of tyres on tarmac.

Grid World is the games’ massive career mode and is more fleshed out than previous Race Driver games. You’ll be buying and selling cars on eBay Motors (virtually of course), hiring and firing team mates, and organising sponsorships. Upon racing and being successful in each territory you’ll begin to earn some recognition, and with it comes new sponsorship offers and the opportunity for you to enter more race events. The seeds of your legendary status will hopefully then be planted.

Eventually you’ll be part of a team, and with a team mate racing on the track it presents the opportunity to make more money through reaching objectives set out by companies that have sponsored your team. You’ll earn sponsors as your racing stature grows along with your wallet, and this gives you the opportunity to play around with them until you are satisfied with the financial reward and are comfortable with their objectives.

Good intentions and all, but these additions are only small distractions from the main attraction of the racing.

Out on the track GRID is a very fast, attractive and unpredictable game. The handling may err away from the simulations of old, although it doesn’t ditch the realism completely, as like Project Gotham Racing, the game is a hybrid of sim and arcade. Less adept players can still turn on racing assists if they so wish (at the cost of additional reputation at the end of championship runs), whilst the more experienced can be ever so brave and go without such assistance. Speaking of assistance, lets move on to the rather helpful flashback feature.

So, just imagine if you could rectify mistakes during a driving test, everyone would pass first time. Whilst Race Driver: Grid doesn’t have you attempting to win yourself the right to use the road, like Squadra Corse Alfa Romeo and the Full Auto series, it does allow you to erase mistakes, by rewinding to before the error, and hoping that you don’t stupidly repeat it again. Flashbacks are a rather nice feature that means that restarts aren’t always required, and obviously gives you another chance to learn from your mistake (the amount of flashbacks in each race is determined by the chosen difficulty level), you may even begin to master nasty sections of the featured tracks if you keep repeating similar mistakes lap after lap, race after race in said sections.

The AI has no such liberties, although they’re remarkably humanlike in the way they behave on the track and quite a solid substitute for a full field of human racers online or via system link. They fight against you and amongst themselves for position, using every inch of the tarmac, and even are prone to some embarrassing and unavoidable mistakes. I’ve seen opponents overtaking me and then swiping the wall, giving me the realistic illusion that they were just trying too hard to steal my position, or perhaps they were just attempting to show off in front of family members (see, they act so real, that I’m even thinking that they may have families somewhere). The AI certainly makes the races eventful at times, as well as chaotic, noisy (glass smashing and metal crunching) and rather vision obscuring, courtesy of some lovely looking smoke. All this, and you’re not even playing banger racing.

Losing the Ultimate Racing Simulator title doesn’t only mean that GRID is less of a simulation, but it also means that there’s no vehicle setups, and some of the racing rules are no longer there. The excellent flag system of Race Driver 3 has been dropped, which means the online corner cutters are back with a vengeance and can do so without being penalised for their cheating tactics. The pit lanes are also closed, thus you can do a 24 hour Le Mans race without even having to stop off at the pits to refuel. These cars must have really big fuel tanks, or perhaps they continue to run off mere fumes when the said tanks are empty.

Graphically the game can only be described as a true thing of beauty, running on an upgraded version of the Colin McRae: DIRT engine. The visuals are near flawless, with fantastic looking motors that treat you to immersive interior views, as well as some great damage modelling if you or an opponent don’t treat them with the respect that they deserve. Little needs mentioned of the excellent sound, although I found the pit crew to be really annoying, with the man on the radio often warning you of a crash after it has already happened and sometimes even telling you that your car isn’t too badly damaged after hitting a wall at ungodly speed. Very helpful.

Race Driver: GRID will surprise some people, being the sim and arcade hybrid that it is. It may be without some of the great stuff from previous games in the series, although standing on its own feet (or wheels) it’s still an excellent and diverse racing game, that is fast, fun and very playable. Fans of previous games may be alienated by Codemasters different route, although if they approach it a little differently they may be surprised at this passionate motor sport tribute.