411mania’s Marc Morrison burns rubber in Codemasters new addition to the GRID series. See if it manages to pass the finishing line inside!
Title: GRID Autosport
Players: 1-12 (Online Multiplayer)
Rating: E for Everyone
Another year, another Codemasters racing game. Codemasters games are on a yearly formula: Dirt 3 in 2011, Dirt Showdown in 2012, GRID 2 in 2013, and with 2014 it is GRID Autosport. Who knows, maybe next year will be Dirt 4, since they switch franchises every two years. Whatever they do, don’t go back to the “Showdown” franchise, please, do not. GRID Autosport’s main focus is to try to correct some of the fan’s glaring criticisms of GRID 2 and be a “distilled essence of the sport”. In pure racing terms, GRID Autosport is a fine enough game, but in a case of “Two steps forward, one step back”, it introduces some noticeable issues the deeper you get into it.
Like I said, GRID Autosport’s actual racing elements are good. The AI of other drivers is mostly good, cars feel good, and the handling model is solid. As opposed to GRID 2’s screwball country/racing system, there are just five disciplines in the game for you to care about: Touring, Endurance, Open Wheel, Tuner and Street.
Touring is on traditional style race tracks and is the most “GRID” like of the events, at least to me. You have two races per Touring event, where your position in the starting grid is reversed. So of the 16 cars, if you start first in the first race, you’ll start 16th for the second race.
Endurance involves you racing on the same track, at night, for a length of time, say 8 minutes or so (via a rolling start). Tire durability is a factor in this particular race (the only time it matters), but it never gave me a huge issue. By the last lap, you’ll tend to slide around a bit more, but that’s it. Qualifying first is my useful tip to you, since you can just bypass the other racers. Also, keep track of your flashbacks, if you intend to use them.
Open Wheel is basically like “Formula 1 lite”, given the nature/look of the cars. As opposed to Touring, the qualifying order doesn’t switch up between races, so qualifying first is a good idea in this school. The cars are more flimsy than in other race types so contact between them should be avoided, assuming you have damage turned on.
Tuner involves races like “classic” races, time attacks and drift racing. Classic racing is just a race with nothing really thrown in or different. Time attacks involve a rolling start race, where you’re trying to beat other racers time (as they also race) on the track. Drift races involve a mini-championship event where you need to qualify for the drift event, where they only take the top 8 (of 16) racers. Then you’re placed in a bracket, going from 8 racers, to 4 racers, to 2. You do two drift events, per heat, one where you lead, and one where you are following the other car. Drifting works like in most other games, try to kick out the tail on a turn and keep it from fishtailing or spinning. There’s a helpful meter that kind of tells you how close you are to losing it. Overall, I found the drift events incredibly easy in this game, like the other racer would have a score of 1,000,000 for both races (it’s a combined score from both races), and my score would be around 2,200,000.
Lastly, there is Street racing, which involves you racing on narrow street/city type courses. Unlike with other types, you don’t qualify in street racing, you just start at the back of the pack and have to overtake others.
In every race type, you’re on a team, with a given team-mate. You’re given goals by the team to place ahead other teams, or doing specific things in a race (like racing 15 miles, no collision in a race, etc.) However, this is the first major mistake of GRID Autosport – early on, your team-mate is an idiot. Like, a supreme, “why does this person have a license?” moron. You control their behavior with the LB/RB (Xbox 360 gamepad) buttons, with the team racer having 5 different behaviors; Defend, Hold, Balanced (what they start as), Push, or Attack. There might as well be a 6th option for “Random”, because that is entirely how the AI behavior feels. They can start a race in position 2, and end it in 14th place. Even if you tell them to defend or hold their place. Or they can start around 13th/14th place (which seems to always happen when you qualify for 1st), tell them to “attack”, and they may make it to 11th, but that is it. The team-member has a little dossier like “Rookie driver, has potential but needs coaching”, and a grid of attributes, but nothing changes. They stay morons from the start of the game, presumably to the end, or at least until you trade up to a better team.
Here’s the big problem though: you’re on a team with team points. Let’s say you come in 1st for an Endurance race and earn 24 points. Your team-member comes in 10th place and earns 5 points. So between the two of you, you have 29 points. However, another team (Ravenwest Motorsport) has two good drivers, so they come in 2nd place and 3rd place. For 2nd place, that driver earns 20 points and for 3rd place it is 17 points. So between those two drivers, they have 37 points. For those keeping score, 37 > 29. So even if you (personally) race and come in 1st, your team still won’t win the championship. I am actually extremely unclear if points matter at all, since this exact thing happened to me numerous times, but according to my progression I’ve come in 1st for what I entered, but it entirely kills the notion of momentum (pardon the pun) in the game. Why should I care about my team-mate at all, when they blow constant leads and flush what should be my victory, down the proverbial drain? One time, this got so smelly that by the end of the season (every time you pick a race type, it’s a season) my team was ranked in 3rd place, despite me coming in 1st in every race.
Another key issue in the game for me was a thought of “Why am I even doing this?”, or “What is this even for?”. Even if you disregard the team point nonsense, the only sense of actual career progression is filling up a bar graph with levels. There is no concept of money, team ownership, hiring other drivers, or any of the nonsense that people actually liked from the first GRID game. Oddly, money comes into play on the multiplayer side of the game, which makes it even more bewildering.
Another hiccup for the game is that you have to race in all the disciplines in order to get to the championships. You can be level 15 in Touring, but if you’re only level 2 in Steet, you can’t qualify for the championship event. Also, the deeper you go in the game the more tedious it becomes. Doing two or three races for the Endurance school is one thing, that can get long enough, but the first championship is 10 races long. Actually it is technically 14 races since a few of them contain two races, and there is I believe at least one drift challenge in this tournament. Having to do 10 races to complete a championship (which I still lost in points) is what you would call “overkill”. I started this championship at 2:10am and didn’t finish it until 4:00am. You can save and quit (only between races), but this is still overkill. Once you get higher up in the ranks the offers go from being “2 events / 1 cup” (a cup is a race with no team-mate), to “6 events / 2 cups”.
Graphically and aurally this game is good, but not exactly flashy. GRID Autosport has some very laid back music that only plays during menus. The sound effects/engine noise are good, but it can get a tad monotonous over long game sessions. Visually, the game is pretty solid, I encountered no framerate issues, cars look good and the environments have some nice detail to them. There is one minor issue with the dashboard camera though, it looks atrocious. It’s non-functional and almost completely covered in darkness. There is an alternate kind of windshield camera which is better, but if you’re not going to try with a dashboard camera, don’t bother to include it.
The last thing to talk about is with GRID Autosport’s online system. This is where the real meat and potatoes of the single player should have been, only it’s been crammed into the multiplayer. At the start, you basically do races to earn race levels in multiplayer and cash. You can’t upgrade the cars since you’re only “borrowing” them, for the race event. After you acquire enough money you can either buy a new or used car to start using in events. You can upgrade your own car to make it better but you also contend with durability during races and performance loss over time. Getting into an online race can take a few minutes, and while there are a lot of forum threads talking about cheating/cheaters, I didn’t see any behavior. Actually, it was the contrary, the second race I got into, another guy spun me on a turn, and he actually apologized. There are also RaceNet challenges, RaceNet clubs (for you and your friends), etc. If you like the racing in this game, and have at least one or two friends who also like it, you’ll likely spend a lot more time playing the full-fledged multiplayer over the threadbare singleplayer.
The actual racing part of the game is fun
The game looks solid and keeps up the framerate
The multiplayer outclasses the single player campaign
The single player mode has nothing to keep you interested
The team scoring mechanic kills enjoyment
Seasons go on for way too long & you do events you don’t want to
When you’re in an actual race, GRID Autosport is an enjoyable game, and might not be the best that Codemasters has made, but is good. It’s when you start wondering why the single player is structured in a haphazard way, the team stuff, why the multiplayer is so fleshed out, that you begin to notice the cracks. On the face of it, GRID Autosport is a better racing experience than GRID 2, but a lot more questionable design decisions come into play.
Blurry cockpit view aside, Codemasters games always look great, and this is no exception. Download the Hi-Res texture pack for more visual treats
Racing is fun, menus and a barebones single player is not. A lot of races tend to go on for a bit too long.
The music is really reserved and not played often. The voice work repeats itself a lot, but the engine sounds are authentic
The multiplayer blows the single player out of the water completely. Play enough SP to get good, then move to MP and have some real fun
If you are really into cars then you’ll have a blast. It’s a fun enough game, but isn’t the most exciting game on the market