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GRID Autosport review

AT A GLANCE
  • Superb car handling that’s both deep and fun
  • The best AI in any racing game
  • Looks sensational on Xbox 360
  • Excellent split-screen mode
  • Fixes everything GRID 2 did wrong
  • A few under-developed features like pit radio

No modern-day racer captures the romantic ideal of driving a racing car like GRID Autosport. I’m talking about the roar of the crowd and the squeal of big, fat, slick tyres over smooth asphalt. Lock-ups into hairpins as you dive down the inside of the leader on the last lap. The sensation of riding the knife-edge of grip and wrestling your car back from the brink of disaster as you fishtail over a kerb. Approaching a fast corner wheel-to-wheel with an unyielding opponent and wondering if either of you is actually going to give. Every little drama is reflected in the superb sensation of movement, making it feel like you’re in GRID Autosport, not just influencing it.

The game is rooted in simulation, certainly, but you will spend significantly less time in the gravel than more straight-laced sims. The action is exaggerated too, with extremely fallible AI that not only makes believeable mistakes, but can experience a blowout at 160mph and end up flipping against a tyre wall, sending gravel and rubber flying into the air. This larger-than-life arcade excitement may be too chaotic for fans of ultra-serious sims (especially when there’s almost always a track-wide pile-up after the first corner), but everyone else will love the ‘highlights reel’ feel because, fundamentally, it is exciting to play.

That excitement isn’t limited to witnessing and dodging incidents, as the AI drivers exhibit the finest track behaviour yet seen in a racing game, making extended battles feel like a showdown between two great rivals. Get into a close-fought race with one of these guys and you’ll witness defensive driving lines, late-braking overshoots into hairpins, and fiendishly clever cut-backs to instantly regain lost positions. As a result, a normally-disappointing 8th place finish can feel just as rewarding as a win, especially starting from the back with the assists switched off.

Indeed, playing on the hardest setting is a blast, simply because it sets your ‘Flashback’ count to 0, meaning you can’t just undo errors Prince of Persia-style with a tap of Y, forcing you to consider your car’s damage levels as you drive. For maximum authenticity, you can even turn off the HUD and rely on aural feedback from your pit engineer by asking him about the condition of your car, or how you’re doing in the race via the d-pad.

Version differences

The PC version is magnificent and would easily pass as a PS4/Xbox One game (though sadly the game is not coming to those machines). The Xbox 360 version may not have a 60fps frame rate or 1080p resolution, but even so, it’s astonishingly close to the PC. With 3D spectators, real-time damage modelling, and 16 cars on-track, it’s a technical masterpiece. The PS3 version, however, is not quite as slick. It looks noticeably rougher, is more susceptible to frame drops and screen tearing, and the textures look comparatively muddy. Still impressive, but if you have the choice, get the PC or 360 version.

Many of the game’s triumphs come from the fact Autosport has been quite openly designed around feedback from the community over the good-but-disappointing GRID 2. Normally, I would argue it’s a very bad idea to listen to the more vocal sections of the internet when designing a game. But in the case of GRID Autosport, it has absolutely turned out to be the right thing to do.

Let’s tick off the key improvements that this feedback demanded. Instead of having no cockpit cam, Autosport has two. Demolition Derby is now playable right from the beginning of the game, instead of tacked-on DLC. The drift-centric, simplified handling of GRID 2 has been replaced with responsive, nuanced control. The optional driving assists like traction control and anti-lock brakes are all back. The track list is a best-of compilation of GRID 1, 2 and real-world locations (and point-to-point tracks are all gone, to make this a more traditional racing game), while the career’s structure is much more focused on what you want to do.

That last one’s made a huge difference to how extended sessions feel. The game’s front end has been massively simplified and split into five disciplines, the branches of which can be dipped into at your leisure for a season at a time. You could just play single-seaters forever (and I wouldn’t blame you--they’re wonderful), but if you do level up your XP evenly over all five categories, you unlock special, multi-discipline race series, so it is worth exploring all the avenues. Some seasons can feel a little too long if you do enjoy variety, but if longer play sessions are your game, you can multiply the lap count in the options.

There’s a decent sense of rivalry with other drivers in the championships (curse you, Nathan McKane!) which gives even quickfire races more meaning when the name of your championship rival is superimposed over his car as it whizzes by. It’s not as integral to the experience as the likes of TOCA Race Driver 2’s excellent scripted narrative, and GRID 1’s constant aural feedback on where your opponent is currently running is still superior to Autosport’s, but the experience is richer for having clear rivals to beat.

More Info

Release date: Jun 24 2014 - PS3, PC, Xbox 360 (US)
Available Platforms: PS3, PC, Xbox 360
Genre: Racing
ESRB Rating:
Everyone

What doesn’t work quite so well is the team-mate mechanic. The idea of telling your AI buddy to push forward or hold up others (via the shoulder buttons) is strong, but the reality is that they always seem to be struggling, and they’re not much use at the back of the pack. Another element that could be amazing--if just fleshed out a little more--is the in-environment commentary that can be heard when you pass a crowded spectator stand. It mentions individual incidents on the track, which is fun to listen out for, but it’s usually the same few soundbites, which sadly breaks the spell. Similarly, the pit audio repeats itself far too quickly and doesn’t always make perfect sense.

One particularly enjoyable new feature is tyre wear, which is only enabled during Endurance races. Wheelspin, running wide, and sliding all damage your tyres, forcing you to drive neatly and constantly weigh up whether you can afford to push a little harder. It becomes so integral to the driving process, you’ll find yourself looking for the percentage indicators in other modes every time you hear the wheels slip. Perhaps it would be one too many things to consider if it was implemented game-wide, but it works very well and really adds to the tactical element of the Endurance branch of the career.

For all the positive steps forward, we’re not quite looking at the ‘perfect racing game’. There are still elements of the original GRID that are superior, such as its hazy art style, or the sense of having someone really guide you through an actual racing career. But the simple fact is that GRID Autosport looks better than the original, handles better and gives you greater control over what you play and when you play it. It’s a tightly delivered, yet content-packed, experience that will serve as the real GRID 2 while we wait to see what the EGO engine will look like on Xbox One and PS4.

In correcting the many small mis-steps of its predecessor, Autosport finally gives us a worthy successor to 2008’s revolutionary Race Driver GRID.

This game was reviewed on Xbox 360.

21 comments

  • avila-marcos - July 7, 2014 6:50 a.m.

    i have to congratulate codemasters for the years of fun that i had ...from toca race driver to formula one, i keep seeing people bitching and speaking crap about codemasters cars handling but i really dont get it because these developers have made an incredible job, i believe that these people who keep throwing codemasters down are simply a bunch of spoiled kids who never raced in a zx spectrum 48k computer (1983) so ungrateful, is so much fun to race in Dirt (1,2,3) im hooked to formula one series and now after grid 2 we have Grid autosport??? man i only see joy here, and i say this because we dont find much developers that are doing for racing games what codemasters already did thats why i really get mad with those spoiled kids that keep racing with the outside camera and like to leave shitty comments like " whoa it's awful and painful to drive codemasters cars...get a life you dam haters that just suck life out of things and dont make any contribution for anything, so once again thanks so much codemasters for the epic job
  • Djinn_Herk - June 28, 2014 12:12 p.m.

    This game is incredible....After Grid 2, i was skeptical with this one (especially coming a year after) but damn, this one reminds me of Toca Racing Drive.....
  • avila-marcos - July 7, 2014 6:38 a.m.

    totally agreed, i have to congratulate codemasters for the years of fun that i had ...from toca race driver to formula one, i keep seeing people bitching and speaking crap about codemasters cars handling but i really dont get it because the have made an incredible job, i believe that these people who keep throwing codemasters down are simply a bunch of spoiled kids who never raced in a zx spectrum 48k(1983) so ungrateful, so once again thanks so much codemasters for the epic job
  • rxb - June 25, 2014 7:08 a.m.

    I think I may literally have to dust must steering wheel off.
  • salam-a-al-saffar - June 25, 2014 12:38 a.m.

    thanks for the review,it really got my fired up! still,the first GRID was the best.no racing game ever gave me the same feeling of satisfaction..man all that drift in yokohama docks was sensational.
  • varin_omega - June 24, 2014 8:58 p.m.

    i dont come here often, just for the racing games reviews by Justin. He is by far my favorite reviewer in the genre... why? because he's a pro at them and love racing games as much as i do. Thanks for the review man, im glad to see Codemasters going back to the roots with this game.
  • jedisamurai - July 2, 2014 3:25 p.m.

    Articles like this are literally the reason why I started coming to this website. For the longest time it seemed like i was the only one who got what a huge leap forward GRID was over all other racing games at the time, and how incredibly under-rated and over-looked it was. GRID 2 might not be the Return of the King we were all hoping for, but I still enjoy it quite a bit. I can't wait to give this game a try.
  • TheAsterite - June 24, 2014 8:07 p.m.

    Does this game still have that terrible engine braking issue that Dirt and Grid 2 had?
  • usmovers_02 - June 24, 2014 6:47 p.m.

    And yet STILL the same 2 tracks and only ONE car for derby... Why can't they at LEAST allow us to use all cars in derby?!? Why can we ONLY race the jupiter on those tracks and the Jupiter can't be used on any other tracks?!? Why have ANY cars locked to specific tracks? It's stupid!
  • ThatGamerDude - June 24, 2014 1:43 p.m.

    I loved GRID 2 so I might check this one out in the near future!
  • universaltofu - June 24, 2014 11:59 a.m.

    I liked grid 2, so this sounds great, need to get those laps in.
  • sunof-phoenix - June 24, 2014 11:37 a.m.

    "The idea of telling your AI buddy to push forward or hold up others (via the shoulder buttons) is strong, but the reality is that they always seem to be struggling, and they’re not much use at the back of the pack." Hey Justin, appears you raced using only weaker teams and not the front runners....
  • Mr Braindown - June 24, 2014 11:09 a.m.

    I take it with all this talk of tyre wear I presume there are pit stops in this game, the one lacking feature from the superb GRID?
  • hester2 - June 24, 2014 12:12 p.m.

    Based on another review I read (can't remember which one), this one still doesn't have them.
  • wiitard07 - June 24, 2014 10:48 a.m.

    Can't wait to pick this up, racing games are my jam. Though I should probably save some money for a wheel for some of my more realistic ones...
  • mothbanquet - June 24, 2014 7:43 a.m.

    I'm not sure whether it's the obvious quality of the game in question or Mr Towell's eloquently impassioned review but I really, really want to own this title.
  • hester2 - June 24, 2014 9:30 a.m.

    Whenever Justin recommends a racing or Sonic game this strongly, that pretty much means instant buy for me.
  • mothbanquet - June 25, 2014 2:19 a.m.

    Sound logic. This has gone on my Steam wishlist.

Showing 1-20 of 21 comments

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