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Where once we played a TOCA game which covered pretty much every kind of racing discipline, we now have a svelte and well-buff racer, and it’s left its past behind. “Hey TOCA! How are you?” we said - but it totally blanked us. It only answers to GRID now. It hasn’t gone all supermodel-thin by any means, but latest-gen tech is being tapped to angle for more realistic racing over sheer size, so that means the Scottish mechanic has carked it and with him the Story mode. Here are some cliches to help you picture what we mean. GRID has gone back to its roots. GRID is all about the racing. In GRID, you are the story.
Instead of chucking every conceivable motorsport into the game, which would have edged it precariously close to its stablemate Colin McRae: DiRT, GRID focuses on the hook of rivalries established around the globe, and on the sense of a global championship taking place around you. You might have a brush with a racer specializing in Japanese drift events and not see him again for ages, but then find him lining up on the grid beside you - mindful that your driving put him into the crash barriers the last time you met.
The Neon engine that was used to power DiRT has evolved into the EGO engine, and it’s responsible for giving GRID’s AI a humanistic air. Computer-controlled racers are fallible, and can crumble if you pile the pressure on them. When we played, we noticed cars losing it every now and again, getting the jitters not only from our icy driving, but from that of other drivers too. Driver error is compounded by the possibility of competitors suffering a terminal engine or tire blow-out, but these random events won’t afflict your own car.
This human element, of speeding through thronging streets and being part of a hubbub of activity, extends to the crowds lining the circuits. There’ll be up to 40,000 spectators at any one event, milling around, whooping at passing racing cars and panicking when they see a ton of metal careening towards them. Each one of them has been motion-captured, too, to top off the effect. When you think of leading racers of recent times, the one thing that has been tricky to nail has been that feeling of being watched by excited onlookers. Well, GRID will get pretty close to pulling that off.