Here, slightly mis-timing a turn isn’t going to ruin your race, and taking the lead from the back of the pack is not just viable within three laps but encouraged. GRID is about enjoying the fantasy of being a racing driver rather than recreating the reality of it.Grid – Codemasters has instead hit the reset button, opting for an overt return to this series’ 2008 roots rather than yet another metamorphosis. Grid Junior is very much the resurrection of 2008’s Grid Senior and, like its namesake, it straddles the line between arcade thrills and something slightly more demanding, delivering exciting and dramatic racing action alongside a modern makeover.The career in particular is very different, including the addition of F1 World Champion and two-time Le Mans winner Fernando Alonso. Driving his championship-winning Renault R26 from 2006 is quite something, especially when competing against the great man himself in one of the series finales.
After all the dazzle of the original Grid’s virtual garage this new one is merely functional, and it doesn’t offer up much either. To call it functional is generous, too – play through the lattice of events, split across various motorsport tiers, and to manage your team and recruit drivers you’ll have to head all the way out to a screen that’s, for some unfathomable reason, kept separate from the career menu.The handling is incredibly forgiving by default, letting you hurl yourself at the apex and recklessly power slide around corners. At the same time, racing enthusiasts can always dial the various assists down to take on a more demanding experience. It’ll never be a simulation racer, but GRID still manages its jack of all trades approach remarkably well. you don’t have long to play, or you just want something to enjoy in short bursts, it’s perfect. The variety is superb, with single-seaters, touring cars, different classes of GT car, American muscle, prototypes, even classic Minis. What you don’t get is an absurd roster of cars to collect, a la Forza. Instead, you get a carefully chosen selection from some of the world’s best race car manufacturers.Sometimes they are passive, allowing you to pass them with little resistance. Sometimes they’ll put you into a wall in retaliation. Sometimes, the action isn’t revolving around you and your vehicle at all. The AI personalities and dynamic events aren’t always easy to point your finger at and identify, but the Nemesis system most certainly is. If you get a little too wild and start throwing your weight around, the AI will definitely clap back at you and become your nemesis. This will definitely make things a little bit more difficult for you, however, the in-game system of rewinding the race make any problems you encounter pretty easily remedied.
After introducing you to its racing with a montage of three short events, GRID flings you straight into its career mode, presenting you with a literal wall of races. There are four main categories, including touring cars, stock cars, and a “Fernando Alonso” branded supercar category, each of which has fourteen events and somewhere between forty and fifty races. Add to that double the number of “Invitational” events, which let you race anything from Mini Coopers to Ferraris, and you’ve got around 30 hours of racing ahead of you.With some tinkering in the options menu it can certainly be massaged into a mildly intimidating challenge that’ll spin around drivers who grab too much throttle while trying to hustle through an apex – and there’s always the spectre of dealing with terminal damage without those optional rewinds if you so choose – but iRacing this is not. In its default state, Grid is a grippy, hard-braking, and super-responsive racer that errs towards the arcade end of the spectrum, and I can’t fault it for being faithful to the spirit of its forebear. It’s fun to drive.Each one takes you around the world in a variety of cars, with the aim to complete enough events to unlock the discipline’s finale. Note that I said “complete” and not “win”, as you don’t necessarily have to win every event to unlock the final race. That said, winning the finales is the way to unlock the overall GRID World Championship and the showdown with series veterans Ravenwest, the ultimate goal of the game.This is unashamedly an arcade racer, and like all the best arcade games it takes an experience so many of us pine for and distills it down to its very essence.
Plant the throttle and the screen fills with so much tyre smoke and shakes with the sound of rattling engines that you can almost smell the action – that acrid, exhilarating aroma of castor and hot steel. The cars themselves look overstated and arrive pre-loved with bumps and scratches – run a lap in them and they’ll be so filthy it looks like they’ve run 24 hours around a sodden Nordschleife. All this and, like any self-respecting arcade racer, on Xbox One X and PS4 Pro it runs at 60fps.So, if you’re in the lead and your teammate is in second place, you can ask them to block and hold the rest of the pack up while you coast to victory. You can also hire new teammates with varying specialties and abilities if your current buddy isn’t up to scratch. It adds a little extra flavour to proceedings, but I rarely noticed what my partner was up to.The new GRID has that nostalgic feel in its presentation, but actually playing it provokes a surprising reaction. GRID feels amazing to play. And that’s with a controller, by the way. It has full wheel support, but this is very much a game designed for everyone to enjoy.You have your single player career mode, and then you can either play free play or online. Within all of the modes, everything stays pretty much vanilla. There is a light progression system that carries over across all facets of the game that allows you to earn things like profile improvements and accolade badges. You’ll earn levels for competing in and winning races and the rewards don’t really feel all that rewarding. You’ll also earn currency as well, which can be used to purchase cars which increase in value as you get the rare end of the spectrum. As plain jane as GRID can feel at times, there is something curated about what’s here that makes it feel like it’s got just the right amount of content for a racer of this type.
If solid racing action is the only thing you care about, GRID has it in spades. The new features which lean mostly on the AI improvements to better the racing experience are a mixed bag, but they improve the overall quality of the game on the track.But you rarely find yourself being intentionally rammed off the circuit, or behind a wildly weaving Ferrari. The AI opponents battle, but generally speaking, battle fairly. If you leave a gap, they’ll go for it, and sometimes they’ll go in too hot and run wide. It makes it exciting; it makes you want to get stuck in mid-pack and have a proper race.I can’t say I counted that high, but there is some variation in how opposing drivers race. GRID’s other big innovation this time around is its Nemesis system. Though it shares a name with Shadow of Mordor’s system, you don’t have to worry about old racing rivals turning up with a steel plate welded to their face.Rub against an AI driver one too many times and they’ll be marked as after you, giving them an extra edge of aggression and perhaps inspiring them to lunge at you, brakes screeching and tyres smoking, as you approach the next corner. There’s clean racing here if you want it – and convincing, entertaining racing too – but push against it and it’ll push back. It’s enough to give Grid – and its AI drivers – a real sense of personality.