Codemasters’ new entry to the driving simulator genre, crowded by the likes of Forza Motorsport and Gran Turismo, feels like a very strong, bullish title. The presentation is top-notch. What really got my attention was the way they’ve made it feel like motorsports. The titular grid is a noisy, energetic place, with engine and crowd noise and great-looking smoke.
Going through my first few races, I was surprised by how difficult it was. I’ve played a lot of Project Gotham and some of the more direct competition, yet I had to restart two out of three races several times to get through in one piece. The difficulty is mostly a consequence of the damage modelling: it’s really quite easy to smash your car into a wreck or bang it up so much that you can’t really win anymore. The competition doesn’t drive badly, either. Not crashing is not enough to win the day, you need to be proficient in your racing.
They have tried to resolve the difficulty question with an instant replay feature. At any point in the game, you can pause and rewind for some 10 seconds or so and continue from a point you choose, hopefully clearing that corner in a balletic, not headbanging fashion. The feature helps the newbie and takes away most of the frustration often evident in the genre’s offerings, where one bad corner can cost you a long race. However, it’s too slow to engage and you can’t help but feel it’s a crutch to a problem they couldn’t quite resolve. Granted, I’m only a few races in, but the rewind doesn’t feel like it belongs. That’s not to say I wouldn’t use it, though.
We’re used to pretty graphics by now, but Grid did open my eyes. Gran Turismo’s or even Gotham’s slick cities have nothing on this beast. There’s grit and life here, all galloping along in a very smooth manner, with lots of cars and a good sense of speed. You can smell the burning rubber. They’ve gone overboard with post-processing, resulting in a sort of supra-realistic, better-than-life image. It’s very pleasing to watch.
The game is out tomorrow in Europe, I think, and I reckon I’ll be playing quite a bit of it over the summer.