GRID 2019 Release: REVIEW – An exciting & entertaining racer thanks to revolutionary AI

Codemasters have a hit on their hands with this eclectic & unique racing experience.

Toby Durant by Toby Durant

Why should you spend your hard-earned money and purchase yet another game? There are a lucky few for who £50 or $60 is there to spend so they can risk buying a game that doesn’t truly captivate.

Developers always like to laud amazing leaps forward in gameplay or creative story-telling, but these are rarely things that can be tested in trailers or interviews, so hype is built around new features and often companies trade on credibility from previous titles.

Codemasters are in a similar position. After the success of F1 2019 they have a lot of credit in the bank with racing gamers. Using that credit to revive an old title like GRID could be a misstep unless of course, the game delivers on what it promises.

So, is GRID the unpredictable, adrenaline-filled, racer that Codemasters have been telling us it is?

An exciting driving experience

The first, and often only, thing a racing game needs is a reliable and fun driving experience, and that is what GRID delivers. On pad or with a wheel you will have fun with this game.

With the assists on anyone can enjoy the thrill of GRID, with them off GRID will bite back at the unprepared and the present a challenge to anyone. The difficulty settings, as well as traction control, ABS, and stability assists all have a nice gradient to them, allowing you to find your level and then make changes to keep the challenge up.

The cars are all unique. The powerful GTs feel like trying to tame a beast. The single-seaters are nimble and agile while the stock cars can feel like a bus in comparison.

READ MORE: Absolutely Everything you need to know about GRID

It’s a complete driving experience, with circuit racing around Silverstone and Sepang, or streets that have such high kerbs you can bounce your car onto its roof if you aren’t careful.

Completing the feel of this game is the sound engineering. Everything from the tone of the engines to the rolling bumps, the screech of the tyres, and the roar of the crowd all adds to the immersive feel of GRID.

Unpredictable racing

GRID’s tag line of #LikeNoOther is a very succinct way of telling you what they have tried to achieve; fresh and unpredictable racing. It’s safe to say that Codemasters have achieved that and then some.

The variety of AI personalities, 400+, can be felt in the way some will attack, contact, and defend around the circuit. The race choreographer doesn’t affect you, but it sprinkles in human error to AI drivers that would usually be perfect on every apex.

You’ll see AI cars spin, flip, and crash, but rarely at the same place or in the same way. The races all feel alive, more akin to online lobbies than solo races, only without the threat of being purposefully taken out.

Does Nemesis Mode work?

This tweak to the AI that sees them fight back at you if you cross the line has been a big part of the pre-release campaign from Codemasters. The effort to make racing full of drama and fun, to make it unpredictable, is at the core of this game, and Nemesis Mode does come through, though perhaps not as they expected.

The true work of Nemesis Mode is done in the mind of the racer rather than necessarily on the track.

Each AI driver has a different line of physicality they will accept, so you never really know when a nemesis will be triggered. When it is you get it flash up on your screen and a radio message that you successfully pissed your opponent off.

From there the actual race doesn’t change too much, if they are still ahead you’ll see some more erratic defending and a greater awareness of where you are. However, it’s not like they suddenly get a speed boost up to your bumper if you have passed them.

The real work is psychological, and that might actually be all the better. You become aware of your AI opposition, you remember their name for races to come.

READ MORE: How GRID’s superb Nemesis Mode will leave you for a dust

That alone is remarkable, I can’t recall the last time I was aware of a nondescript AI driver as much. Sure, in F1 2019 or MotoGP you know the field around you so remember who you have tangled with, but not in the likes of Forza or Gran Turismo.

What Codemasters have done here is create a universe you actually care for. You remember the names like Zoe Martin or Davi Azevedo after you create rivalries with them through your actions rather than some arbitrary choice in a menu.

Career mode contains choice, but lacks direction

Choice and freedom. That is what Game Director Chris Smith told us was a key element for racers in GRID. The career mode certainly has that, with 6 categories that give you a taste of everything this game has to offer.

The aim is to qualify for the GRID World Series and take on the best of the best. This can only be done by completing 4 Showdown Events, the final race of the category.

4, not 6. That means you have the freedom to pick and choose which races to compete in. If you don’t like stock cars you don’t have to touch them. That is a very good thing for such an eclectic racing game as this.

The downside is that career mode lacks much sense of achievement and story. There is no driving force behind your conquests on the tarmac beyond the desire of the player to race and to win.

While you have a teammate and need your team to do well in each series, there is not connection to him beyond the ability to tell him to push or defend.

READ MORE: Complete car list on GRID 2019

This turns GRID into a very individualistic racer. There is no drive to push the team forward like in F1 2019, or progression for you into a better team like in WRC 8. You are left to race freely. An amazing feature for some, but for many it will mean career mode is simply left alone.

Editions & additional content

The Launch Edition of the game comes in at £49.99 for console and £44.99 on PC, with the Ultimate Edition pricing at £69.99 for console and £64.99 on PC.

The Ultimate Edition has several perks, as you would expect.

90 extra career events (30 per season), 12 new cars (four per season) and seasonal rewards:

  • Season 1 (Hot Hatch Showdown)
  • Season 2 (Track Day Supercars)
  • Season 3 (Track Day Hypercars)

5 GRID® Edition Carbon Liveries (each with added XP boost):

  • Aston Martin Vantage GT4
  • Pontiac Firebird Modified
  • Chevrolet Corvette C7.R
  • Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution VI Time Attack
  • Renault R26
  • 10 Player Cards
  • 10 Player Banners
  • 10 Unique Liveries
  • VIP Status

Like most games GRID will have DLC, but the special thing here is that when new tracks are added they will be available to everyone for free.

You won’t be locked out of content due to a lack of funds, which is excellent news. Those that purchase the Launch Edition will have to pay for the new career events and cars though.

READ MORE: How F1 Champion Fernando Alonso helped shape GRID 2019

The Ultimate Edition is worth the money here. The extra cars you get straight away not only look the part with their matte black livery but allow you to jump into the Free Play section and race where you want, how you want.

The promise of extra content, both cars and seasons, are also worth it as while GRID has a lot of choice, it isn’t infinite.

Verdict

This is a strong racing game. The wide range of cars, locations, and circuit routes mean you aren’t likely to get bored with it any time soon. The racing experience is truly unlike any other too.

The race choreographer, as well as nemesis mode, are things that Codemasters need to put into every racing game in the future, especially F1 2020. They are masterpieces that really alter the way this game feels compared to a usual racer.

However, the directionless career mode is an issue, especially for those not confident enough to dip into the online lobbies. It limits the replay factor and doesn’t create any real separation from the Free Play mode.

Still, GRID is the kind of game you can jump in for a quick race or thrash around for a 5-hour binge and still enjoy. The variety of cars, tracks, and unpredictable races make it one you’ll come back to over and over again.

RealSport Rating: 4 stars (out of 5)

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Toby Durant