Posted: February 23
There's a problem with the Steam ratings system, and that's that you have a binary "YES" or "NO" as to if you'd recommend a game. I need a third category for GRID Autosport, a wavy hand, non-committal noise, a sort of shrug.
I'm a big fan of racing games in general and have been buying Codemasters racers since TOCA Race Driver 2. I’ve bought GRID and GRID 2 and enjoyed them both, I actually wrote a positive review of GRID2 on Steam. But GRID Autosport is...*does hand rocking back and forward motion*.
So what's wrong? The biggest fault in this game is the AI. It’s bad, not terrible, just pretty stupid. AI cars really want to hit that racing line. Quite often you'll find them piling up at the first corner as they all try to take the same line through. A savvy player can avoid the melee and gain quite a few places straight away. More annoying is when you're taking a corner and the AI clips your back end sending you spinning out. Of course, this happens in real world racing but it feels all to frequent in GRID Autosport making the AI feel cheap and frustrating. It made me wonder if the flashback game mechanic was implemented because they couldn’t be bothered to fix the AI and decided that the player could just rewind and take evasive action should they get rear ended and end up in a wall! But because the AI behaves so badly you don't really care about smashing them up to get ahead. This can turn races into something of a demolition derby and ruins the immersion somewhat. Far better was the system in Need For Speed: Shift which rewarded you for a more passive (or aggressive) racing style, that way you could at least play a persona. Also the less said about the total waste of an AI race partner the better. There's also nothing new here. If you've played the last two outings you've seen most of what this game has to offer. I might be mistaken but I think all the tracks are recycled and they've ditched the point-to-point racing that was so much fun in GRID2 (though you can get it back as DLC, it’s not part of the main career mode). Drag racing could have been new and fun (reminiscent of the ace drag racing from Need For Speed Underground) but again, that comes as a DLC and isn't part of the main career.
So what's right? Graphically it’s quite the looker. The cars are detailed (and there are quite a few of them), the tracks feel alive and interesting (racing through the construction site that is Dubai is a particular highlight). The car handling seems to have been refined from the previous outing and the multi-disciplined approach means you really have to focus on how you drive as you, for example, switch between the easy to drive, stable at speed Touring Cars and the fast but skittish GT Race Cars. Moreover the number of disciplines keeps things varied and interesting. You'll be bumper to bumper racing in Touring Cars, managing your tyre wear in Endurance, getting sideways in Drift. That you don't need to be the best in a particular discipline to progress is neat too (mid table finishes still earn XP, albeit slower than finishing top).
There's enough in this game to keep me coming back (and I will do until I finish it because I'm compulsive like that) so because Steam only gives me a binary choice I'll give a thumbs up. But this is likely the last GRID game I pick up. The racing marketplace is about to get a whole lot more competitive with the exciting Project CARS on the horizon, and I reckon the GRID series, without an overhaul, will end up languishing in mid-pack.