For as long as I could remember, Codemasters has often disappointed me with practically every one of their racing games since the PS2. Pro Race Driver was one of those first disappointments, as the game was hard on the eyes, despite screenshots featuring beaming details. And of course, with a game like Gran Turismo 3 to compete with, Codies had a lot to live up to. More recently, I found myself disappointed with their newest rally entry, DiRT - handling seemed too touchy, and the glare of the sun was annoying. So when GRiD was revealed months ago, my expectations were low. Thankfully, expectations can be overcome, and here I am sharing with you the details of what may be the best racer Codemasters have ever put out.
Even though Codies are known for releasing simulation titles, GRiD is an arcade game more akin to Need for Speed than Gran Turismo. The first thing that's instantly noticeable is just how immense the sense of speed is. You're blasted with this instant assault of speed, as the cars offered in this demo are all very fast. Once you settle down with the game's pace, you'll also notice that the controls feel better than its rival Need for Speed: ProStreet.
The cars are extremely responsive to your every inputs, but that's likely because of they are highly tuned for the demo, so I imagine that when you start out in the final game, you'll be dealing with a slightly more down-to-earth experience. Nevertheless, in their current state, the cars are a ton of fun to throw around. This demo of GRiD features a Ford Mustang GT-R Concept, Nissan Silvia, and a BMW 320Si, again all three cars are highly modified.
What's terrific about GRiD is how utterly intense its action is. Racing is filled with a lot of drama, as car parts fly around all over you; the opponents here are tough as hell. There's a lot of pushing and nudging, almost making this game feel more like Destruction Derby meets Need for Speed. Racing is a huge blast, and it really feels like Codies has spent a great deal of time working on making sure the experience doesn't feel too unforgiving, by immediately punishing you for damage; or, on the other hand, too easy by letting you crash into everything in sight, and take turns with reckless abandon.
To add to that, there are driving assists implemented into the game such as traction control, brake assist, and stability control. I suggest turning all of that crap off and learning how to modulate the throttle with the controller's triggers, or better yet, a steering wheel setup. While my Logitech G25 wheel doesn't seem to function with this demo, I do expect the final game to be compatible with it. What I had trouble with is the Drift mode, which takes some time to get used to, but certainly isn't impossible.
Finally, and perhaps one of the most crucial aspects, is the game's engine. Running on an enhanced version of the DiRT engine, GRiD is one of the smoothest looking racers out there. The framerate is locked at a solid 30 frames per second, while rendering at 720p. Considering that this is a multiplatform game, a smooth framerate is already a big deal. Moreover, if you though that the screenshots looked too good to be true, you're in for a surprise. The entire game looks superb, as the game makes hearty use of anti-aliasing, greatly minimizing the appearance of jaggies, and the environments are absolutely beautiful to look at, complete with gorgeous lighting that isn't overpowering like it was in DiRT.
Vehicular detail is great too, and even an in-car camera view has been included, as well. But it's the damage that'll impress, as every little nudge, bump, and crash will leave an imprint of some sort, be it minor or huge. Excessive damage will, of course, affect how your car behaves, but I noticed that you'd have to be an extremely lousy driver to total your vehicle.
The bottom-line is that from this nice three-car, three-track demo, I can see that GRiD is shaping up to be the best arcade racer to come out this generation, so far. I'm eagerly anticipating the final product. Read up on the first preview of the game for additional informations on more features.
5/8/2008 Arnold Katayev