If you enjoyed the first GRID it’s likely you were disappointed in some way by GRID 2. Many of GRID’s best features were unnecessarily cut. The entire game went too far down the arcade route and lost sight of why it’s predecessor was so great. Managing to remain simultaneously focused but still offering a chance to race across many disciplines with handling a nice hybrid of simulation and arcade. Well Codemasters appear to have recognised this and GRID: Autosport sees the return of many of the ideas and features that made GRID so great.
Probably the most important change to Autosport is with the handling model. Autosport attempts to again find that sweet spot that is the balance between arcade and simulation from the first GRID. That satisfying sliding and skidding that would probably leave us critically injured in reality makes a strong return. But Autosport doesn’t let it get out of control and you don’t get those moments were you wonder whether you’ve started playing Burnout. As with the original GRID, Autosport dares to take itself seriously enough to become a racer but doesn’t require absolute perfection with every button press.
More than once I was reminded of how I felt during my time with the original. GRID is forgiving enough to encourage bravery at every turn but complicated enough that hitting an apex or being smooth with the throttle on the exit of a corner matters. It’s a fine line, and GRID 2 lost it’s way, but Autosport gets it right by looking back to the original for inspiration.
Car models help things by looking their best at all times, especially from the outside. I tend to play racers from the bumper cam anyway but the vehicles in GRID look great. And Autosport allows you to play from an interior camera too. Rejoice all those who will now briefly look at the interior of a car and then continue playing from a different view anyway! But it’s good to see Codemasters have included it anyway. The detail of the vehicle interiors isn’t quite as good as the rest of the game but I imagine statistically there’s very few gaming hours spent there and Codemasters’ attention has been correctly focused elsewhere.
During a bad collision that detail becomes obvious. The detail of the car models becomes clear as bits of car fly off, shatter and bend while the slow motion gives everything a cool weighted feel. There are some areas that don’t have quite the fidelity we might be looking for, particularly with next gen hardware around, but for a last gen title it looks very good.
One of my favourite things in GRID 2 were the tracks. There weren’t many of them and the tracks themselves weren’t always fun to race on but their detail was second to none. And the same goes for Autosport except there are loads of tracks on offer as well. There are a huge number of tracks for you to play on and each is detailed enough to stave off the boredom of hour after hour of grey tarmac rolling off the bottom of your screen.
Autosport’s career mode yet again returns to old ideas and replaces constant, repeated, first place wins with realistic objectives. In your first season your goal isn’t to finish in first place. In fact you shouldn’t be finishing first place in your first race and Autosport encourages you to continue playing and improving as your position gets better with practice. It’s so much better not to be expected to overtake 20 or so vehicles even in your debut event. And the return of an AI partner as your teammate allows GRID to again feel like a team effort, which was one of my favourite features of the original. With the AI helping create excitement every step of the way you can be sure you’ll get to do some actual racing.
This time your career is split across multiple disciplines; Tuner, Touring, Street, Endurance and Open-Wheel. If there isn’t at least something for everyone in Autosport I’d be surprised. And each discipline feels unique and separated from the others. Touring races see you fighting wheel to wheel in huge packs. Open-Wheel races favour F1 like precision. The only disappointments for me were that the endurance races really weren’t long enough (but then I like the old Gran Turismo style that took many hours each) and the Tuner class wasn’t quite as enjoyable or exciting as the others. But some people will no doubt prefer the races I don’t like. The point is there’s a choice for you. On the whole the multiple class system works well and offers loads to keep you playing even long into your career. Just being able to change things up a bit occasionally makes a big difference.
A lot of things were missing from GRID 2. And they’re all back in Autosport. Codemasters have really listened to what people want and actually made changes. The thrill of wheel to wheel racing the way only GRID knows how is so close to making a return. The handling model nearly finds that glorious balance between simulation and arcade. There are loads of tracks and plenty of good looking vehicle models. And then there are multiple race classes, realistic career objectives and a teammate. Although I would’ve still preferred to be able to fully manage a team, much like a more in-depth version of the first GRID. But some new features are what GRID needs now.
I wish I could have seen Autosport made for PS4 and Xbox One though as some nice next gen visuals would greatly increase the overall presentation of Autosport. It still looks good, especially for a last gen title but I’m still without a racer for my PS4 and GRID for some reason didn’t take advantage and fill that gap. Well done Codemasters for actually listening to fans but truth be told GRID Autosport is really just what GRID 2 needed to be. Still at least it’s safe to say GRID is back on track. What we need now is the next GRID to see were the franchise goes.