Codemasters do far more than just produce a series of Formula 1 games.
The latest proof of this is their upcoming title: GRID. It's more of a reboot than a sequel to their 2014 title GRID Autosport, and it offers avid motorsport fans the chance to race wheel-to-wheel around the world in some of the most iconic cars around. But it is more than just that.
We got our hands on the game recently to try out the game in all its glory, as well as a chance to sit down with the game director. So what did we discover about 2019's next racing title?
A pure racing experience
Codemasters have been very careful to produce a game that feels different from their F1 title, even though it includes a few F1 circuits. The whole package is more free and open for players to explore than your traditional motorsport game, while the AI has a dramatically different feel to every other racing game out there today.
We spoke to Game Director Chris Smith to get a feel for what GRID is all about.
"What we felt was missing from motorsport games was drama. A lot of motorsport games are parades. There were great handling cars, great circuits, but no drama [...] the AIs weren't racing against each other, they were easy to defend against. What we wanted to do was something special with the AI and adding drama into the game. There are small AI mistakes, AIs on form. And you've got the nemesis system."
If you have heard of nothing else about GRID you have probably heard about the Nemesis system. This is Codemasters' newest tweak to AI racers and it could well be a game-changer. The principle goes that if you get too physical with one particular driver they will become your nemesis and make it their personal mission to get in front of you and stay in front.
That doesn't mean pitting you or intentionally knocking you off the circuit, but their passing moves will be more aggressive, their defence more forceful, and they will initial wheel-to-wheel contact. They will hold a line where in other games they might concede to avoid contact.
It creates a much more fluid racing environment from the static one you can get used to. It means that your reckless driving carries a cost, but it also means that you get to know the 400 AI personalities throughout the game and recognise competitors from race to race more easily. It takes a field of 15 other racers and gives it the feeling of an alive grid, full of drivers that will take offence if you get overly physical and seek their revenge.
The inspiration for it comes from that feeling we all get in online races when someone cuts us off, divebombs, or out-right spins us. We want revenge, we want to get up the field and beat them. That's what Codemasters have put into GRID AI and it could well set a new bar for racing games in the future.
In our limited time with the game it took a few knocks to engage nemesis mode, but once it was on you'd get a radio message and red icon over that driver to let you know he wasn't your biggest fan. The difference in their actions when in nemesis mode is palpable.
GRID's handling is far more forgiving than a full-on sim racer, which is a good thing given the accessibility they are trying to provide, but with the assists off the cars are lively and all feel different. The Mini Cooper is a different beast to the M3 and the Cadillac DPi-V.R is its own challenge.
Fernando Alonso has been helping Codemasters develop aspects of GRID's racing, and he appears as an opponent in career mode while his championship-winning Renault is also available.
"When we get time with him everything he says is useful. We get a litmus test from him."
You can feel where the grip is even on the pad, and really push yourself to the edge. AI opponents battle with you and each other, while the handling is solid enough to cause excitement and fun in multiplayer modes.
The street races have kerbs that will punish the lesser cars by bouncing them up onto two wheels, while the high-end cars can handle them, creating havoc in the lower categories and a completely different experience in higher ones.
One race is rarely the same and the next, with AI battles everywhere and the racing line more of a suggestion than a necessity. It is this fact that opens up the track and provides GRID with the drama and rivalry the developers wanted.
GRID drops on 11 October with 3 days early access available via the Ultimate Edition. With nearly 80 track iterations and 60+ cars, as well as more promised via free DLCs, this game looks set to provide plenty of longevity and excitement for fans.
We can't wait to get our hands on the complete thing soon.