Grid Autosport
Developer: Codemasters Racing Studio
Publisher: Codemasters
Release Date: Out Now
Players/Online features: 1-2 split screen, 2-12 online.
Words By:

Starting my career with a manual gearbox, no assists, 5 flashbacks and on the medium (default) difficulty setting the first thing I noticed about Grid Autosport is how believable and competitive the AI drivers are. This extends way beyond competitive lap times and realistic behaviour (jostling for position, accidents, going wide on corners, brake lock-ups etc) and extends to some of the sneakiest, dirtiest driving I’ve ever seen in a video game-you will believe you’re racing against human opponents when one of the elite Ravenwest team drivers nudges your rear end on the final lap and passes you, possibly having spun you into gravel trap or wall and leaving you coughing and spluttering with indignant rage, and probably a badly bent car...

There’s no race steward to complain to so if you can’t right the wrong with a good old flashback and if all this sounds too much like a recipe for frustration, too annoying or just too much like hard work for you then you have two easier difficulty settings available and a host of assists you can turn on (auto gearbox, ABS, stability control, steering assist, cornering assist and racing line). Just dropping the difficulty to “easy” made the game far too easy for my liking and so I was soon back to “medium,” and after two seasons medium and having learnt the tracks this was upped to “hard.” I don’t like fiddling with difficulty settings too much and for the average gamer like me “medium” is just about perfect for a enjoyable and winnable series, and “hard” gives a good challenge, but there’s also a “very hard” setting if I improve further, but for now the game feels just right, and is as testing and fun and competitive as any racing game I’ve ever played (and there have been a few heck of a lot). Tweaking the difficulty up and turning assists off also rewards you with more XP, which in turn unlocks further race series. It’s also nice to see that gamers who play the game at its most difficult and from the in-car views are finally being rewarded, even if it’s only with a few more XP per race.

The handling seems to have changed a lot from the original Grid (a good thing) and while not being totally dissimilar to Grid 2’s, because I can now jump back inside the car and use my preferred cockpit view if I wish, Grid Autosport actually feels more like a DiRT game-on tarmac. That probably makes no sense whatsoever to readers unfamiliar with the aforementioned Codemasters games, but safe to say that Grid Autosport’s handling is believable and extremely responsive, with convincing, violent and even spectacular crash physics should you get things wrong. With the assists turned off, in the more brutally powerful vehicles, untimely gear changes can cause the wheels to spin or lock, and the game allows you to ‘lift and coast’ into corners, with engine braking working in a very realistic way. Driving every vehicle feels fast, edgy and responsive, and even at the bottom end (there’s classic Mini racing series!) the cars feel as fast as the real thing-the game really supplies and excellent impression of speed. Pushing the faster cars to, and beyond their limits is exhilarating and the handling model feels like there’s a realistically fine, ‘knife-edge’ of control on which you need to balance to get fast lap times. I’d even go as far as to say a touch too responsive at the top end with the most powerful rear wheel drive vehicles, and I think an option to turn the sensitivity down a notch or two would have been a good idea for the majority of gamepad players.

While it’s probably my least favourite motorsport, one thing that has been retained from the previous Grid games is the immensely controllable and fun Drift racing, and thanks to some more suitable realistic tracks and better handling I can now happily play a drift game successfully from the driver’s seat view.

Even to eyes that have become used to the HD delights of the Xbox One and the PS4 the game looks really nice, maybe not quite as eye-catching as F1 2013 but it’s fast and smooth, and never suffers from the frame rate jitters and horizontal tearing that spoils so many racing games (and Gran Turismo 6, I’m talking about YOU). The cars are all real licensed vehicles, and all have fictional liveries, but with plenty of real sponsors to make them look realistic. The cars are the stars and have a lot of detail, and can be damaged extensively with the brutal crash physics. Bumpers, spoilers, bonnets, engine covers and all fly off or droop and fall off after heavy contact, and doors will fly open and even fall off with heavy side impacts-which seems a bit over the top and not terribly realistic as in real racing you only very rarely ever see a door pop open, never mind fall off completely, no matter how violent the crash.

Clever and thoughtful pre-race options mean you can not only change the difficulty during a season, but also play the game as casually or as seriously as you like from race to race; jumping straight into races and starting from the back of the grid arcade-style, or using the 10-minute practice session to perfect your lines and set up the car before a 3-lap qualifying session. Many series offer an extra point for pole position so ignoring qualifying is rather a daft thing to do.

I was particularly looking forward to the Endurance series, and the longer night time races certainly add some variety. Strangely the races end when the time limit runs out (8 minutes in the early competitions), not a set amount of time + 1lap or the end of the lap started when the time runs out, which seems odd. This is the only series that features tyre wear, and this is simulated extremely well with the tyres wearing gradually as the laps pass but wearing much more quickly if you go off-track, skid, lock the brakes or spin the rear wheels. This means your car may be handling like a dream at the start of the race but drive too aggressively and you’ll end up with an evil-handling monster as the worn tyres reach that “cliff edge” of performance that the F1 drivers keep wittering on about.

As well as a driver’s championship to be won there’s a team championship too, and you can Influence your team mate’s performance levels by clicking the sticks, although the effectiveness of this seems to depend a lot on the individual driver’s ability and the quality of the team you’re driving for.

As has become the norm in Codies racing games during a race you’re constantly updated via radio by your engineer, and this can both be useful and annoying as he comes out with a lot of... well... what can only be described as complete bollocks at times. He’ll tell you your team mate has “crashed” when he clearly has only had minor contact, and also give you ‘top tips’ such as “take the lead before the end of lap 3” in a 3-lap race! He does, however, call you by your real name (if it’s in the rather disappointingly small database of names, and our old friend Duncan is going to be disappointed yet again) and the voiceover girl welcomes you every time you load the game up or congratulates you by name every time you complete a season. It’s a cosmetic yet nice touch.

Full list of cars & race series categories :

Touring Cars

TIER 1

Cat ‘C’ Touring Cars

1. Honda Civic Touring Car

2. Ford Focus ST Touring Car

3. Chevrolet Cruze Touring Car

4. BMW 320 Touring Car

Classic MINI Cup

5. MINI Miglia

TIER 2

Cat ‘B’ Touring Cars

6. Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG (Cat B Special)

7. Audi RS5 (Cat B Special)

Super Utes

8. Ford Racing Ute

9. Holden VE Commodore Ute

Mini Cup

10. Mini John Cooper Works Challenge

TIER 3:

Cat ‘A’ Touring Cars

11. Peugeot 408 SCB

12. ADC Presteza-14

Super Tourers

13. Ford Falcon FG

14. Holden VF Commodore

Classic Touring Car Cup

15. Ford Sierra RS500 Cosworth Group A

16. Nissan 1991 (R32) Skyline GT-R Group A

Endurance Racing

TIER 1
:
Endurance GT Group 2

17. Audi R8 LMS Ultra

18. Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG GT3

19. McLaren 12C GT3

20. Aston Martin N24 V12 Zagato

Shelby Cup

21. Shelby Cobra “Daytona” Coupe

TIER 2

Endurance GT Group 1

22. Nissan 2008 (R25) GT-R Nismo GT500

23. Honda HSV-010 GT

Ford GT40 Cup

24. Ford GT40 MK1

TIER 3

Endurance GT Ultimate

25. Lola B12/80

Mazda 787B Cup
26. Mazda 787B

Open Wheel

TIER 1

Formula ‘C’

27. Dallara F312

Lightweight Cup

28. Ariel Atom 3.5

29. KTM X-Bow R

Caterham SP/300.R Cup

30. Caterham SP/300.R

TIER 2

Formula ‘B’

31. Lola B05/52

Ariel Atom V8 Cup

32. Ariel Atom 500 V8

TIER 3

Formula ‘A’

33. Dallara IndyCar

Super Lightweight Cup

34. Caparo T1

Tuner

TIER 1

Muscle

35. Ford Mustang Boss 302

36. Chevrolet Camaro SS

37. Dodge Challenger SRT8 392

JDM

38. Nissan 2003 (S15) Silvia spec-R Aero

39. Honda S2000

40. Mazda RX-7 Type RZ (FD3S)

Classic Muscle Cup

41. Dodge Charger R/T

42. Plymouth AAR Cuda

TIER 2

Modified

43. Ford Mustang Boss 302 Modified

44. Chevrolet Camaro SS Modified

45. Honda S2000 Modified

C2 Drift

46. Nissan 2003 (S15) Silvia Drift Tuned

47. Nissan 2004 (Z34) 350 Nismo Drift Tuned

48. Mazda RX-7 (FD3S) Drift Tuned

Nissan Skyline Cup

49. Nissan 2005 (R34) nismo GT-R Z-Tune

TIER 3

Super Modified

50. Mazda Panspeed RX-7 (FD3S)

51. Honda 5zigen Civic

C1 Drift

52. Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X Team Orange

53. Nissan 2011 (Z34) Chris Forsberg Racing 370Z

54. Nissan 1993 (S13) Daijiro Yoshihara 240SX

NSX Cup

55. Honda NSX R

Street Racing

TIER 1

Hot Hatch

56. Mini John Cooper Works GP

57. Ford Focus ST

58. Volkswagen Golf R

Coupe

59. Honda Integria Type R DC5

60. BMW 1 Series M Coupe

Lancia Delta Cup

61. Lancia Delta HF Integrale Evo 2

TIER 2

Performance

62. BMW M3 Coupe

63. Audi RS 5 Coupe

64. Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG

Grand Tourer

65. Aston Martin Vanquish

66. Mercedes-Benz SL65 AMG Black Series

67. Alfa Romeo 8C Competizione

BMW E30 M3 Cup

68. BMW E30 Sport Evo

Alfa Romeo 4C Cup

69. Alfa Romeo 4C

TIER 3

Supercar

70. Pagani Huayra

71. SRT Viper GTS

72. Mazda Furai

73. McLaren 12C

74. Aston Martin One-77

Hypercar

75. McLaren P1

76. Pagani Zonda Revolución

77. Bugatti Veyron 16.4 Super Sport

78. Koenigsegg Agera R

McLaren F1 Cup

79. McLaren F1 GT

The track list is as impressive and varied as the vehicle list, and features six current Grand Prix circuits as well as a couple that have only recently fallen from the F1 Calendar. Two of my favourite tracks in particular, Okutama and San Francisco may not be entirely believable in these days of safety conscious racing with huge run-off areas but they certainly add a spectacular and fun element to the game. The use of alternative short, ‘club’ and ‘indy’ circuits as well as reverse direction on some tracks takes the total to over 100 possible circuits. I’m not normally a fan of reverse direction to artificially boost the number of tracks in a game, but if you don’t enjoy Brands Hatch GP or Spa in the reverse direction, or aren’t even a little curious about doing Mount Panorama the wrong way round then you’re a very boring individual indeed.

Racing Circuits:
1. Autódromo Internacional do Algarve, Portugal
2. Autosport Speedway, Japan
3. Brands Hatch, United Kingdom
4. Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium
5. Circuit del Jarama, Spain
6. Circuit Mont-Tremblant, Canada
7. Circuit of the Americas, Austin, USA
8. Hockenheimring, Germany
9. Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Indiana, USA
10. Istanbul Park, Turkey
11. Mount Panorama Bathurst, Australia
12. Okutama, Japan
13. Red Bull Ring, Austria
14. Sepang International Circuit, Malaysia
15. Yas Marina Circuit, United Arab Emirates
Grid Autosport also includes seven street circuits set in major cities around the world:
16. Barcelona, Spain
17. Chicago, Illinois, USA
18. Detroit, Michigan, USA
19. Dubai, United Arab Emirates
20. Paris, France
21. San Francisco, California, USA
22. Washington, D.C., USA

As you’d expect Grid Autosport has an extensive online racing component with Racenet Challenges intertwined to keep you competing with friends’ best times even when you don’t feel like confrontational head-to-head racing itself. The racing is just as good as the solo game, with tight netcode perfected in the F1 games that allows for close, bumper-to-bumper doorhandle-to-doorhandle racing, without any weird or overly punitive collisions to spoil things. Very few races we competed in showed any serious traces of lag, and for competitive and fun racing this might just be turn out to be the best ‘realistic’ online console racing game since the hallowed PGR2. You can join online playlists to suit your mood or set up your own custom cup. Serious racers will be glad to hear that they can create a lobby that forces in-car view, manual gearbox, no assists etc.

Online races and Racenet challenges earn credits which can then be spent on building your own garage of cars, upgrades and paintjobs. A nice touch here is that you can buy new and used cars; these vehicles may have done thousands of miles, had a few race wins and crashes and need minor repair but will be thousands of credits cheaper than one “straight from the factory.”

So, kind of unexpectedly and with little fanfare what we have here is genuinely something rather special. Grid Autosport returns to its roots in terms of straightforward, good, solid, realistic racing, while containing a small amount of entertaining fantasy racing to keep the fun element alive and kicking. The improvements on previous games are numerous; the AI opposition supplies just as much challenge as you want, the handling and physics are better than both the previous Grid games and the current competition, and every single series supplies exciting and thrilling racing in their own right. Other than not having any off-road racing (and Codemasters obviously reserve and deserve the right to save all sorts of off-road shenanigans for the DiRT series and F1 cars for the F1 franchise) it’s the complete package, and lives up to the confidently spoken proclamation (and perhaps a sideswipe at the Forza Motorsport series) at the end of an advert I saw for the game that says: “Grid Autosport, THIS is motorsport.”


Best Bits

- Tremendous variety of races, from Minis to V8 monsters.
- Classic GP circuits and exciting fantasy tracks.
- Top-notch online racing.
- Realistic yet playable handling and physics supply exciting racing and bone-jarring crashes.
Worst Bits

- Low-detail cockpit views work well, but look a bit lazy and lack rear view mirrors.


by: Jensen Buttons

Copyright © Gamecell 2014