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In Memory
Sean Pettibone

Review

Grid (Playstation 3)

Codemastersí latest racing title Grid offers an expansive approach covering many racing disciplines on courses throughout the world. Grid falls in the middle between arcade and simulation approach, making for an accessible yet challenging racing title. Gridís extensive damage modeling is impressive and cars actually degrade in performance when crashed. Totaling your vehicle ends the race but players can use the cool Instant Replay feature to rewind the action and try again. Gridís robust career mode and large selection of licensed vehicles make for a deep title that will appeal to hardcore and casual racing players alike.


Despite a loose relationship to the classic Race Driver series, most players should probably approach Grid as basically a new IP in terms of approach and style. Eschewing many of the creaky conventions of the previous games, Grid is an edgier, and more stylish racer that feels contemporary while offering the challenge and depth that players have come to expect from Codemasters. However, instead of feeling dry and mechanical, the immersive and engaging experience that Grid creates is exciting and visceral, capturing the intensity of real-world professional racing. Unlike other games that usually focus on a specific style or approach to racing, Grid sets itself apart. The game takes a wider-view of the genre, for a broad stroke approach to racing including many different racing styles and disciplines. This gives players plenty of challenges and techniques to master and broadens the selection to include a huge array of vehicle types, styles and manufacturers. This is all done with a cinematic approach featuring dramatic camera angles, multiple racing views and slick production values. The expansive scope and style makes playing Grid an incredibly intense experience. This means that players can choose to race Formula One vehicles in European courses, master drifting techniques in Asian competitions or battle against muscle cars in America . These three distinct regions have their own trophies and awards, which makes it almost like having multiple games on one disc. Making the gameís design even better is its open-ended structure that gives you many paths to try. These multiple branching paths makes for a diverse and engaging title that offers plenty of variety and different challenges and techniques to master, giving Grid a surprisingly high replay value.

Gridís expansive design allows players to experience an impressive array of disciplines and racing styles including Grip Racing, Touge battles, Demolition Derby matches, Drifting and Endurance. Each racing style requires a different skill-set and technique which should test each driverís versatility and skill. Most races take place in packs, but there are a number of head-to-head modes which are even more intense. Each discipline also features different sub-categories of race, such as battle drifting, up and down runs on the mountainous touge courses, drifting points battles and many more variations. While there are many different styles, the basic techniques of driving are fairly straightforward and there are multiple control configurations available to suit your style. On the road, players can choose from either in-car or outside viewpoints, all of which give you a good look at the course. During each race, the cars will take damage if they collide with other racers. Unlike many other racing titles, Gridís damage system isnít cosmetic and actually affects your racing performance, and can do so significantly. The amount of damage is indicated on the lower right side of the screen and is divided into five different categories, gears, suspension, engine, steering and wheels. As each area degrades, so does your performance, which means you need to avoid collisions in order to keep yourself competitive. When youíve completely destroyed your car, you donít need to worry. One of Gridís most technically impressive features is the ability to use Instant Replays that rewind the action before your crash point. The usefulness of these is obvious, giving you the ability to replay sections of the track that were difficult or avoid another vehicle you didnít see on your path. Itís quite simple to use this feature, and it makes what would have been an otherwise extremely difficult title easier to play. You only have a few of these for each race, and fewer still at the higher difficulty settings. This makes Instant Replay a useful crutch, but not one that you can rely on indefinitely.

The gameís open-ended structure allows players to progress at their own pace, beginning with the Race Day mode where you can set up and race individual rounds which help you to get the feel of the road. Once youíve gotten past these highly enjoyable, arcade-style races you can delve deeper into the game with its Grid World mode. Here, you are put in charge of your own racing team and begin with a single vehicle. As you win races, youíll earn money and increase your reputation. Earning money allows you to purchase additional vehicles, while the reputation gives you additional invitations to special events. While things start off slowly in this mode, your gradual progress allows you to see more of the gameís exotic and high-powered vehicles. While youíre building your racing team, you can earn additional money by racing for other teams and completing objectives and tasks specific to each race. Thereís quite a broad selection of racing styles and vehicles to choose from, and these depend on which region you decide to focus on. For example, in the Japanese races, the emphasis is mostly on style with many drifting races to beat, along with more traditional racing. Once youíve garnered enough money and acclaim, youíll be invited to race in huge events such as the Lemans 24 Hour endurance race, where you can truly test your skills. Grid World is an incredibly deep mode of play, and one that requires a great deal of persistence to beat.

Players will find a huge variety of courses in the game including street courses, back alleys, shipyards, traditional racing tracks in a variety of locations including Detroit, London, Tokyo, Donington and Nuremburg to name a few. Thereís a remarkable level of detail in these tracks and the smooth frame rate makes each stage look beautiful and realistic. Players can choose from multiple viewpoints on the fly, but the in-car mode is particularly impressive. Light sourcing, reflection, shadows plus day and night racing makes the game even better visually. The engineís damage system is also impressive, and players can watch each crash in detail thanks to the extensive replay system. Gridís huge inventory of vehicles includes everything from muscle cars, to standard road vehicles, concept vehicles and open-wheeled racing machines. These come from a variety of racing manufacturers including GM, Aston Martin, Porsche, Toyota, Audi, BMW and Nissan along with a huge selection lesser-known boutique brands like Top Secret, Pagani Atomobili, Alan Docking, Team Orange and TXR to name just a few. Adding to the authenticity, real life parts manufacturers and sponsors also appear in the game. One of the more interesting results allows players to purchase slightly used vehicles from eBay Motors, instead of a generic shop, which is fairly interesting. Using real-life manufacturers adds to Gridís realism while allowing for a great deal of variety. In terms of performance and style, Grid has a diversity in racing styles and approaches thatís quite impressive and makes playing through a more engaging experience.

Gridís slick production values extend off the track into its beautifully designed menu system. Instead of a few static screens here and there, players are treated to full blown CGI renderings of their status, such as laps driven, highest drift score and favorite racing type. This gives the game an even deeper polish and helps to immerse you even further into the game. While many titles offer players the chance to use their own name, Grid takes this approach a step further by implementing a speech system, where players can enter their name and then hear the announcers drop it into the usual speech. It can be a bit jarring initially gives the game a more personal touch. As stated earlier, the graphics engine looks incredibly slick on the road, though some of the bleached-color effects can become distracting after awhile. Gridís sharp AI makes things realistic on the road, with very aggressive and near flawless rivals giving players very little room for error. This can make for an occasionally frustrating experience, though nothing that a little practice and persistence canít fix. Overall, Gridís huge selection of vehicles, racing disciplines, styles and approaches gives it plenty of depth, while its accessible controls allow players to jump right in without spending hours mastering its nuances. The gameís slick production values, challenging AI and varied gameplay make Grid one of deepest and most satisfying racing titles, making Grid another solid racer from Codemasters.

- Michael Palisano

Grade: B

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