Release Date: June 3, 2008
Facts. Figures. Excessive numbers and math. Tuning sliders. Collection. Crazy mods. The Pythagorean Theorem as applied to automotive aerodynamics. "Street cred."
We've seen all of these in racing games in the past few years, in an attempt to spice up the genre. However, these are the very things that developer Codemasters wants to get away from, through their release of the new installment of their Touring Cars (TOCA) Race Driver series. In the developer's words, all of these things take away from what makes racing games fun — that is, the actual thrill and rush of driving itself.
The irony is lost on no one. For years, Codemasters was known for releasing titles in the driving genre that were brutally, unabashedly simulative, and they didn't care who knew it. If you were good enough to wrap your head around the technical presentation of games like Indy Car and get a complete handle their super-precise steering mechanisms, then you'd have a blast. Otherwise, it was back to Need for Speed for you!
However, since last year, they've been overhauling their franchises. The first to get the treatment was their Colin McRae rally racing series. Re-christened DiRT, it made the video rally racing concept more accessible and featured driving controls that were exactly 20 percent easier to grasp than in their previous installments. The increased amount of tutorial voice acting and usage of less obtuse technical terms really sealed the deal, and the general public expressed appreciation for Codemasters' efforts with high sales.
Race Driver: GRID therefore continues the initiative whose foundation was laid by DiRT. The game will have you racing for money and respect through iconic locations throughout Europe, Japan and the United States (the three major video game markets — fancy that!), in a variety of classic and modern vehicles, and in circuit and street events. A career mode and quick races will be supported. Muscle machines, drift cars, and good old basic speedsters will be at your command, with aggressive driving being your main goal, but not at the expense of technique. With style straight out of a big-budget Hollywood flick (no, not that one) that's evident from the moment you boot up the game, GRID aims to make racing exciting and thrilling while at the same time not bogging down the player with particulars and aspects that don't have much to do with what goes on when you're behind the wheel.
As if to drive home their new vision home, GRID also comes packaged with a rewind feature. Imagine if the Prince of Persia were a race car driver, and you're pretty much on the mark. You can literally reverse the on-screen action and start over from a specific spot. It's great for giving yourself a second chance after a crash, or if you just weren't satisfied with how you handled that last turn. This power does come at the cost of post-race rank, however, so you'll have to use this power only when you think it's truly needed.
After getting in some playtime with a short preview build, I can definitely say that Codemasters is on the right track, and GRID is a game to watch. The steering controls are even easier to get a handle on than DiRT, though they're still nowhere close to super-simple arcade-style steering. It's a nice balance, which makes overcoming the game's challenges actually fun. Cars also steer better and more easily, depending on how good your model and tuning are.
We'll have more once a reviewable build heads our way, but between the atmosphere, change in driving mechanics, and Codemasters' vision, Race Driver: GRID looks to be a breath of fresh air from all of the hardcore racing sims we've been getting lately. (Hey, even Need for Speed's turned to the other side!) Stay tuned!
More articles about GRID