"Luckily, Codemasters is a developer with a vocal following and their latest offering is a near perfect recovery."
Grid Autosport is Codemaster’s long-awaited return to hardcore racing. Despite being the third Grid entry, Codemaster’s new racer is more akin to the classic TOCA franchise first seen on the Playstation in 1997. While the original Grid carried TOCA’s fundamental driving genes, the 2012 sequel was a disappointing attempt at mainstreaming gameplay elements and pushing the franchise too hard towards an unwelcoming arcade route. Luckily, Codemasters is a developer with a vocal following and their latest offering is a near perfect recovery. Aside from hollow career progression and a lack of customization options, racing fans will relish in Autosport’s flawless handling and unforgiving AI. It’s just a shame there are no PS4 or Xbox ONE versions with updated visuals.
If there’s one thing Grid Autosport does wrong from the get go, it’s the career mode structure. While I’m all for clean, simple and cluster-free menu designs and campaign progression, Autosport is completely void of any frills that embrace the racing culture and tournaments. Instead, we’re treated to boring low-resolution videos narrated by a disinterested announcer and morbid menus hungry for diversity. You can’t even select vehicles for races anymore; rather each tournament assigns specific cars with only two sponsors to choose from before each race. While Grid 2 felt too much like a bloated advertisement filled with clichéd TV clips and over-the-top menu designs, Grid Autosport is like a desolate dark cave. Luckily, all is forgiven and forgotten once the engines start revving. Once surrounded by tons of grinding metal, the adrenalin rush will diminish any thoughts of presentational shortcomings.
"The result is a satisfying sim/arcade mix that reminds us what made the original Grid so excellent."
Grid Autosport is divided into five disciplines: Touring, Open Wheel, Street, Endurance and Tuner. Only one discipline can be raced per season and each tournament follows a linear progression system. Upgrades are automatically installed and there’s little need for tuning considering each race offers a very specific vehicle to use. Autosport has a rather bizarre starting-lane position mechanic where winning races places drivers in the back during round two and vice versa. It’s a little odd to be punished for winning races, but I suppose it keeps the challenge high if you’re doing extremely well.
"Grid Autosport places absolute emphasis on racing and succeeds on nearly every turn."
The handling within each discipline is simply brilliant. Gone is the predecessor’s frustrating drifting mechanic yet the game still carries a subtle arcade-like foundation. The result is a satisfying sim/arcade mix that reminds us what made the original Grid so excellent. Every car handles differently, yet you’ll never find yourself fussing around too much when switching from vehicle to vehicle. While the AI is brutally difficult, every loss feels like a result of player negligence, which makes skilled and careful driving extremely rewarding. Grid Autosport places absolute emphasis on racing and succeeds on nearly every turn. The track selection is diverse and makes each discipline feel refreshing, the AI is consistently challenging and smart and the career mode can take weeks to complete. On the downside, there’s little to do outside of the races. The reward system is very automatic and you can’t really collect cars the way you can in other racers. This may disappoint simulation enthusiasts but those looking for a hassle-free adrenaline rush will love Autosport’s structural simplicity.
"It’s somewhat shocking that Codemasters hasn’t decided to make a new-gen version, especially considering the lack of racing games on both platforms."
Graphically, Grid Autosport does little to raise…or even meet technical standards. Its visuals are serviceable, even pretty during some of the city races, but the entire package feels underwhelming. The PC version is vastly superior and undoubtedly the best choice. Both the Xbox 360 and PS3 have steady framerates and a few highlights here and there…but they’re clearly struggling behind. It’s somewhat shocking that Codemasters hasn’t decided to make a new-gen version, especially considering the lack of racing games on both platforms.
Ultimately, Grid Autosport is a must buy for Grid and genre-fans looking for a serious challenge. Despite the game’s shallow presentation, the racing is really where the title shines and there are very few games out there that can match Codemasters’ racing expertise. If this is any indication of where the series is headed from now on…it can only get better!
Review by: Tin Salamunic | Reviewed on: Xbox 360