Codemasterâ€™s racing games have always been comprehensive; from the first TOCA on PS1 through to the most recent V8 Supercars or the excellent Colin McRaeâ€™s Dirt. You could never hassle Codies for the sheer value that your massively inflated purchase price (yay, for being at the bottom of the world, eh?) buys you.
Whilst Grid is no different, Codemasters still felt it necessary to come out and say that Grid is not about ticking boxes on the back of the packet or about performing spreadsheet-like real world simulation. Grid, they say, is all about having fun in a high powered ball of steel at 200+ kilometres an hour. So they sayâ€¦
Gridâ€™s heritage is beyond doubt â€“ even if you werenâ€™t familiar with its excellent precursors, the quality of the presentation of this title will immediately allay your concerns over the teamâ€™s prowess, polish and attention to detail. The user interface is an extension of the excellent mould-breaking one previously used in Dirt, with things whizzing around in 3D space like no user interface widget before it.
The gameplay, too, is oh so very tight. No matter which class of racing youâ€™re currently participating in, be it supercar, muscle car, track car or Formula 1 - things feel great with a very real connection to the road. You can always feel the rubber as it starts to let go when hanging on the very edge of traction through that tight right hander. The adrenaline rush you get when hitting the track-side turf after overshooting a corner will be very familiar to V8 Supercars players that spent much time in the hills of Bathurst.
A brand new gameplay feature, which turns out to be a very important one, is the debut of the Flashback control. What it amounts to is this: at any time, you can call on the games instant replay feature and, thanks to the excellent controls of said replay, you can scrub through it (forward and backward in time. Bungie take note) to any point in the last 20 or so seconds of your lap (ok, Bungie win hereâ€¦). Where Grid stands alone, however, is that, at any point in this replay, you can press Square and continue playing from that point. Thatâ€™s right, you can now go back in time and retake that corner you just made a right meal of and perhaps not end up wrapped around a pole / off the track / or dead.
Thatâ€™s cool, right? Being able to go back in time? Sure it is â€“ mostly. However, itâ€™s also something of a significant negative, for one simple reason: the fact that you can go back in time at any point has allowed the gameâ€™s designers to get rather extremely over the top with the risk factor. These half-million dollar, team of engineer supported supercars are for the first time - extremely fragile. Further to that, the tracks are rather fraught with risky, death-dealing obstacles. Further still, the AI is super aggressive and the physics interactions with your opponents are rather too light for our liking.
The net effect is that, when youâ€™re around other cars, heading through a corner and traveling at anything near a competitive speed, itâ€™s pretty random as to whether youâ€™re going to get through the other side. Combine that with the fact that the replay takes a while to kick in (after youâ€™ve pressed several buttons) and that youâ€™re limited to four uses of the Flashback system per race. Suddenly itâ€™s nowhere near as cool as it could have been. The net effect of this system is that itâ€™s going to take new players a long time to get up to speed with the game; time that theyâ€™ll likely spend very frustrated indeed.
Graphically itâ€™s mostly hot sauce, like youâ€™d expect, however the lack of anti-aliasing (the game was tested with the PS3 set to 1080p on a 42â€ť Toshiba TV) really does take the sheen off. The 3D UI widgets alias like crazy and in-game, anything not at right angles to the horizon swims like Moss Burmester. The interior graphics (which you will see a lot of, as they feature in the cut from replay to flashback) are seriously low resolution too, which seems oddly out of place with the high polygon count elsewhere. However, there are still lovely God-rays coming through the trees in places and the tracks look really nice, filled with plenty of destructible components to accidentally slide sideways through.
So there are lots of modes, itâ€™s mostly loads of fun and the replay feature really is very well crafted. It looks nice, moves at a good clip and you always feel like youâ€™re able to control the car and know exactly when you lose your grip. The Flashback feature feels like something with a lot of promise and we canâ€™t wait to see what the next racing game that rolls out of the garage at Codemasters will be like.