REVIEW / GRID Autosport (PS3)

 

Codemasters has upped the ante with its newest addition to the GRID franchise with GRID Autosport on the PS3. This latest outing is focused on the player building their own racing career. The emphasis is on the teams, the rivals and, most importantly, the races. You are tasked with being a driver for hire, specializing in one of five disciplines or attempting to conquer them all in the high-stakes, high-pressure world of professional motorsport. GRID Autosport features more than 100 different routes across 22 amazing locations, authentic real-world car-handling physics, the return of the fan-favorite in-car view and the most sought-after classic and modern high-tech, high-performance race cars.

 

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Touring Car Races feature sixteen racers on the track at once.

 

GRID Autosport is a racing game to its core and showcases a type of racing simulation that is approachable by those individuals that aren’t into the large amount of tuning available in a Gran Turismo or a Forza yet would like much more of a hands-on experience than in a game like Need for Speed. You can jump into a game, pick a track and a car and race against your friends or online but the real nuts and bolts of GRID Autosport is in its career mode. To get out onto the track, you have your choice of two different teams to join to begin your career with. Each has its own pros and cons so you have to pick the one that best fits your style of driving and the type of experience that you want to have. Going with one team will have easier challenges to meet but the car you start out in can’t be tuned any further and you have to meet the contract requirements with the car as-is. Going with the other team, you will have more difficult challenges to meet but the car you start out with is able to be tuned somewhat and gives you a better chance of completing the challenges.

There are five disciplines in GRID Autosport that you can jump into in the career mode that allows you to make a name for yourself while racing against some of the best drivers in motorsports. You can test your mettle in aggressive Touring Car Racing, manage the wear and tear on your vehicle in Endurance Races, see how smoothly and precisely you can race in Open-Wheel Racing, demonstrate your prowess at controlling your ride in Drift competitions and show the competition why you are the best in Street Racing. Each discipline offers a unique form of racing and Codemasters has figured out a way to combine them all into an experience that isn’t found in most other simulation racing games. You can decide to compete in one or two or all of them, it’s up to you. There are different cars offered in each discipline and you get to race on tracks that are specifically made for that specific type of race so that it never gets boring racing on the same tracks over and over.

 

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Car damage is very authentic and can be set to affect the performance of the car or just cosmetic.

 

The graphics in GRID Autosport are a really impressive aspect of the game and I was very impressed at the fidelity of the car models and the more than 100 routes that are offered to race on. Being that the PS3 is coming up on eight years on the market, game developers have had plenty of time to learn how to squeeze the most out of the PS3 architecture and the people at Codemasters seem to know what they are doing. The car models look absolutely gorgeous and there were many times that I thought I was looking at a photograph instead of the actual car model. Curves are fast and fluid, paint sparkles and glistens in the sunlight and realistic damage will show up at the spot of bumps, rubs or full on impact points. The tracks themselves look absolutely amazing as well. The road surfaces show skid marks, reflect the bright shine of the sun and feel like actual road. Although the fan models of the people in the stands and that cheer along the sides of the race routes leave a little something to be desired, I would rather have the cars and the tracks themselves look as authentic as possible than the spectators that you don’t necessarily see that often. Overall, the hard work that was put into crafting the beautiful racing cars and the astounding racing routes that are provided come together to create a racing experience unique to the GRID franchise.

The sound effects in GRID Autosport is what really gets you into the rush of the many races that you will have to compete in in order to become the best. The growl of the engines at the starting line as the drivers wait for the green light feels weighty and full-bodied, the crunch of metal as cars collide is authentic and believable and the squeal of the tires as you drift around a corner is satisfying and will put a smile on your face. The soundtrack in GRID Autosport is a really good mix of upbeat, Hip-Hop inspired beats and Dance Funk tunes. You don’t get to hear any of the music during the races so you have to enjoy them in the menu screens. It would have been a nice feature, however, to allow the player to play their own music during races but alas, that particular feature didn’t make it into the final build of the game.

 

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Two drivers from one team compete in the same races.

 

I think that where GRID Autosport sets itself apart from the competition is in the fact that this game isn’t based on just finishing in first place. It’s about building your race career from the ground up and is going to entail working hard to get noticed by the bigger sponsors so that you will have access to a better team, better cars and better upgrades. In the beginning, I found it extremely frustrating that I kept finishing in last place or close to last place and I couldn’t understand why that was happening. However, once I realized that this game is about being as close to a real racing career as possible, I began to change my thinking about what being successful during a race is about. Instead of concentrating on finishing first, the game has challenges that you try to accomplish as a way to build up your racing skills while allowing you to gain points that will level up your driver and allow you access to bigger and better rewards. You are not going to win many races in the beginning but if you are committed to sticking with it and attempting to fulfill the conditions set forth in the contract with your sponsor, you will be working your way up the ladder and opening up the game at a steady pace.

As good of a presentation that Codemasters has made with GRID Autosport, there are a few areas that really felt lacking and should have been worked out before launching this game. There is a very robust real-world feel to the game but there were a few instances where the reaction of the AI or of the car models themselves and how they would react to the game world were not very realistic. There was one instance where I was coming up to the last leg of a race in 15th place and the AI controlled car in 16th place bumped me out of the way and speed past me. That in itself isn’t what jumped out at me but what did was the fact that as the car sped past, I noticed sparks flying from the rear passenger side wheel which was totally missing and caused the car no loss of steering, traction or speed. The other issue I had was with the level of aggression from the other AI controlled drivers in the Touring Car Races. Even on the easy difficulty setting, the AI racers were too aggressive and often battered me off of the track. On several occasions even my own teammate would bash the hell out of me in an attempt to place better than myself. Maybe this is authentic to this form of racing but it left me feeling that he and I needed couples counseling after many of the races.

 

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This game is fast and fun!

 

Aside from those few issues, I have to say that GRID Autosport offers a very realistic racing career experience. It was refreshing to be exposed to this type of experience in a racing game for a guy that grew up on Gran Turismo and migrated later to the Forza series. In those games, the player needs only to buy an upgrade or two and then you are the beast on the track that the other competitors have no chance of ever beating. That’s not happening in GRID Autosport, at least not in the beginning of your career. In order to be successful on the track, you not only have to be the best driver but the best thinker as well. Being able to leave your race rival in the dust, finishing in a particular place or setting the fastest lap in a race event takes strategy in addition to skill. For all of its faults, GRID Autosport offers a fun and challenging racing career experience that will keep you burning rubber for hours on end.

 

85

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