The racing genre is always a difficult one to pin down, especially as its fan base is as hardcore as they are varied in what brings them to the track. Thankfully, a series that has made its mark in bringing experienced and inexperienced drivers to the circuit is back with a new game that’s even more expansive than the last. But, sadly, while Codemasters’ GRID Autosport is an advancement for the series on some levels, a number design of decisions have made the experience more of a real life endurance run in patience than a weekend get away at the track.
Instead of the normal garage-based system that we normally see in modern racing games, Autosport’s career system is designed around maintaining and securing sponsorships. This means that instead of deciding which car you want to use for a race, you are stuck with your sponsor’s chosen vehicle and can only modify it under certain circumstances. This isn’t a terribly big issue, but given that you will have to spend a significant amount driving around specific cars, even if you don’t like the way they handle, simply because you are limited to the sponsors available. The way to get past some of the low level teams is by simply doing better in that particular category, but this will require a great deal of repetition — something that you will have to get used to if you want to play Autosport.
In the middle of the pack.
Normally the concept of racing in its very nature is something that can be considered repetitive, but Autosport takes things to a new level. Once you have successfully completed a race, which can consist of around four or more laps, you will have to do that exact same race again, so that you can get an overall ranking. In one instance, I was forced to do the same track eight times in a row (1 lap each time), with the only difference being that it was done backwards after the fourth race. This blatant abuse of content really starts to drag the whole game down as you really find yourself simply hating the fact that you are just wasting your time trying to do double the work for no reason. Thankfully, there are times where you will only be asked to only do a track once, but those reprieves act more as a reminder of how normal games feel when compared to Autosport’s grind.
Not being someone who considers themselves a “gearhead,” I still have done more than my fair share of perfecting lines on a few tracks. But, even still, trying to play through Autosport without any of the assists on was an eye opening experience that showed just how much depth hardcore racing fans will find in it. Simply by going through the game’s menu, you can go from a well balanced arcade/sim racer to having to a complete simulation experience that requires you to balance out structural damage so that you can simply make it past the checkered flag.
Going flat out.
If you are a fan of circuit racing, Autosport will really have you covered, as it does include five genuinely unique race types. The first option is Touring Cars, which involves heavily modified street vehicles that can move around a track with ease, as they knock into each other for position. This was one my favorite categories early on, as it felt like the most balanced mode and was easier to handle without having to turn all of the assists on. Endurance races are pretty much what you would expect, except that the omission of having the ability to actually do a pit-stop, which seems to completely ruin the idea and make it little more than a “tire wear manager” mini-game. Open-Wheel easily became my favorites once I dropped the game into easy mode, simply because it felt like it had the least amount of grind to get to the upper-tier vehicles.
The class that literally gave me multiple headaches was the Tuner; which is a mixture of muscle cars and drift cars. Muscle car races are a mixture of normal races and time-attacks, which are fine and were relatively painless. The drift mode was by far the worst part of the whole game, as it really does nothing to prepare you for the insanity of noise and terrible controls for the monster they stick you behind the wheel of. Simply stepping on the gas will cause you to peel out and slide around, which is met with the extremely loud screeching sounds from your tires melting away.
This was the moment that made me realize that this game doesn’t have in-game music at all (only during menus), you are only able to listen to the squeals of yours and everyone else’s car. Finally, the last mode was Street Races, which used standard street vehicles to drive around closed street circuits on locations around the world, which is handled quite well, as both the locations and the track layouts felt natural and diverse.
If campaign modes aren’t your style and you want to take up some challenges online, you’ll find that this is where Autosport starts to feel like a normal game again (in a good way). With the ability to earn money by competing in various types of races, you can purchase and upgrade the cars you want. But, unlike other racers, instead of having a garage full of cars that carry little to no history with them, each car you unlock will keep its own vehicle XP and mileage. Putting too much wear-and-tear will have ramifications on its stability the further you push it, which is an interesting concept as the more you get used to its handling, the get closer you get to retiring it.
Also, Codemasters have tied in Autosport’s online component into their RaceNet service, which will allow players to group up and see detailed stats of how they are doing in each race, as well as find events to compete in. Sadly, most users will probably find little use for this service unless they are a hardcore racing fan or have a dedicated group of friends playing. So, as cool as this feature is, it was difficult to find the time to manage yet another social network — especially one strictly for racing. Although, if online isn’t your thing, but you still want to go head-to-head with your local friends, Autosport does allow split-screen multiplayer — a welcome addition, since it seems that more and more games are moving away from it.
One of the other aspects that was difficult to really be fair on in regards to this review, was the visuals in Autosport. Being that it’s a last-gen only title, meaning PS3 and Xbox 360 (not counting PC), it will obviously look a bit dated when compared to the now-gen racers already out and those only a few months away. But, the game is still a mixed bag of quality, as certain cockpit views look haphazardly put together and some car models look impressive on the outside. But, overall, the visuals aren’t really something that I would be looking to impress anybody with, as more often than not you will see a decent amount of aliasing issues on the PS3 version, reminding you that you are indeed still playing on an 8-year old console.
None of this means that GRID Autosport is a terrible game, but that it is really only for a select group of people out there. Causal racing fans looking to simply mess around with their dream cars will find more tension here than it is really worth to get what you want out of the game. But, hardcore racing fans who have no concept of repetition being a bad thing, will find the game’s 22 different locations and five very diverse race types an interesting departure from the status quo.
A review copy was provided by the publisher. For information on scoring, please read our Review Policy here.