Racing games and I go hand in hand. From the lowliest indie, to the most expansive AAA release – I don’t skip a single release that is put in front of me. And when I first heard about GRID making a comeback on the current generation of consoles – I simply couldn’t be more excited. As the original, as well as the numbered sequels, were some of the best games that PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 had to offer. While GRID might have finally made its grand return to the GRID, it has done so in a form that may disappoint few, if not many.
GRID 2019, is still the same old gritty racer, with hostile AI, sparks, smoke, and the screech of tires. Bu in transition from PlayStation 3, to PlayStation 4, it has lost some of its high octane soul. Don’t get me wrong, the core gameplay, as far as driving goes is simply superb. And the AI is miles above the ones of the original GRID’s. But the issues with this particular release stem not from the gameplay, but everything that surrounds it.
The career mode, which was the meat of the originals, has been watered down significantly in the 2019 iteration of the franchise. Drifting events are gone completely from the mode, and what’s left is a selection of circuit and sprint racers, which in truth are nothing to write home about. And sure, there are some events which have you race against the time. But those, just like Sprints, or rather Mountain Climbs, are few and far between, and make up only a fraction of the overall content package.
After looking earlier today at the trophy count for the final showdown, which comes at the end of the GRID world series, which in itself unlocks after beating four different showdowns – only 0.8% of reviewers, content creators, and other early adopters of the title, have completed it. This infers that either most didn’t have the time to play GRID as much as they would like, or that simply the career mode features very little in terms of incentive – which is true.
The in-career events are not varied enough to pull you in. The currency system is a little too lenient on the rewards, and player-level related unlockable are more of an afterthought – than anything else. Furthermore, the limited visual customization, which is limited to just the vehicle liveries, leaves very little room for imagination, and becomes nothing more than a forgettable feature after a couple of hours with the game.
Speaking on the personal level, if not for my favouritism for racing games, I would probably still be in the 99.2% of people who still haven’t finished the career mode. While nearly 2% of all players have unlocked the GRID world series. Then it, just like 90% of all the career events, has nothing to offer in terms of excitement, or satisfaction. And looking back now, I have to say that the newest instalment of GRID feels more like the next Project Cars, than a bona fide GRID sequel, or rather a reboot.
When it comes to sheer variety, GRID 2019 lacks in more departments, than just the career mode. As the selection of in-game vehicles feels rather limited, and GRID really doesn’t help the situation by allowing you to go straight into high-end vehicles, in under an hour of gameplay. And when I first jumped into this particular racer, it felt like whole new world, but after a couple of hours, I’ve felt like I’ve seen everything that the title has to offer.
Not to be overly negative on GRID, I have to underline one more time, that in terms of gameplay – it is simply second to none. It feels grittier that Dirt 4, it is much more responsive that Slightly Mad’s Project Cars. But most importantly, it is simply fun to play. And the fun factor, which is elevated massively by the core gameplay, gets pushed to its limits by the aforementioned new, and improved AI. All in-game, AI racers feel fairly unique, and respond to you and your actions in distinct, and truly personal ways. Some will do their best to block your path when being overtaken and are willing to go as far as to brake check you, as to slow you down. Whereas others, will remain in their position, letting you pass just before the corner, hoping that you’ll lose momentum due to braking, only to pass you yet again during the exit.
If you are planning to buy, or even try GRID out, I highly advise you to play on any difficulty higher than normal. As harder GRID becomes, the better it is to play. GRID does become more difficult with the higher AI thresholds, then it does also give you a leg-up, because on higher difficulties, your AI partners also put in more work. And at times, it is much more beneficial to invest your hard earned credits into better partners, as at times, your AI companions may be the difference between a crushing defeat, and marginal victory.
Now that we’ve spent some time talking about the good, it is now unfortunately the time to go back to the bad. These negatives are not as depressing, as the ones concerning the career mode, then they’re still significant enough, to impact your enjoyment with the title. And before we get into the nitty gritty, let me first underline that GRID runs at a smooth as silk framerate, and doesn’t stutter even for a fraction of a second. However, it does struggle with special effects and lightning – rather often.
If you had a chance to play Remedy’s Control in recent weeks, then you’ll know how far we have come in terms of special effects. And if you were to jump from Remedy’s shooter, straight onto GRID, you will straight away notice, that the latter is not quite up to par. Furthermore, GRID 2019, also has a real hard time with textures, and you will more likely than stumble across a moment where your vehicle, as well as the tarmac on which it drives, will need a couple of seconds to adjust, and load in completely. And by saying couple of seconds, I’m being rather generous, as I had races where my car would not completely load in, until the end of the second turn.
Not to overstay my welcome, I would like to add that the above-mentioned issues are not overly serious, and do not lead to any major problems. And if you’ll pick up GRID day one, and jump into the thick of it, right from the get go, you will probably not even have the time to notice those. Because the sheer intensity which comes with GRID, will simply not allow you to have time to sightsee the scenery, or even your vehicle.
To summarize, all that really has to be said is that GRID 2019 is a great racing game, but feels too little like the GRID’s of old, to which you and I go used to playing. And perhaps this might be a generational change, and drifting may now be passé. But this doesn’t really excuse the fact that GRID 2019 is rather light on content. And if you are looking for the next racer to play with your friends, or online, then you are going to feel right at home with it. But if you are on a lookout for an in-depth, single player centric racer, then perhaps you will be better off looking into Codemasters F1 series.