Tuesday, July 22, 2008.
by Rick Wallace

GRID Box art Just last year Codemasters brought us the graphical masterpiece DIRT. Once again, they have shown their graphical expertise in driving games and delivered GRID.  From the initial intro movie to the actual gameplay you?ll notice GRID?s superiority to all other driving games that have come before it.  You?ll come to love the stunning tracks and cityscapes to high impact accidents as you progress through the game.  GRID does it all and does it quite well.  You get quite a few games modes to hone your driving skills from the typical career mode to online multiplayer featuring up to 11 other cars racing side by side through narrow city streets and winding Cliffside roads.

As stated, graphically GRID stands out from all driving games prior to it. The precise detail and car modeling is absolutely outstanding. City recreations from around the world are realistically done with great detail. When racing down the streets of Washington DC you?ll come to notice great landmarks such as the Washington Monument in its full glory accenting the background. While you don?t really have time to take notice to all the detail put into the trackside activities, let me assure that there is an awful lot of detail in place. You?ll notice waving flags in the breeze, camera flashes from the stands, and even fans leaning over the barriers cheering you on. There are also plenty of fabulous lighting effects that need to be mentioned such as how the sunlight glistens through the foliage of trees and breaking the shadows apart. Without a doubt this game can boast beautiful graphics.
The replay function displays the graphical capabilities of this game at its best. The lighting effects stand out unbelievably and the realism of the game is displayed in the various camera angles making you feel like you are actually watching a real life race at times.

Sounds are always important in video games, and especially in driving games. You?ll be pleased to find out that GRID does not disappoint when it comes to the sound aspect either. Each car has its own distinct engine sounds which seem to fit the car perfectly. Nothing really generic from what I heard. Even more impressive is the distinct sounds changes of the engine and ambient sounds of the racetrack when switching between driving views. Another pretty neat little feature is the crowd?s reaction to your performance as you progress through races. Just stop and pull over once and listen to the booing that commences! If you are performing well in the race, then the crowd will be standing behind you through from start to finish.

The controls and driving aspects of the game offer up a solid mix of arcade and simulation gameplay. At times, you'll find yourself driving in and out of turns at high speeds and the next time you hit that turn you may get over confident and find yourself smashing into a barrier. You'll be happy to know that there are several driving cams for you to choose from which includes an impressive in car cam.

When it comes to variations is racing styles, GRID definitely delivers. You'll get 5 different race types, some of which have specific subdivisions of categories. Those variations are: GRID Racing, Drift, Touge, Endurance and Demolition Derby. All of which are playable race modes online as well. GRID Racing is your typical racing. You'll face up to 20 cars (offline) and the winner is the first car to cross the finish line. Drifting is pretty self explanatory, but there are a few different subcategories to give you lots of drifting fun. The Touge is head to head racing on a narrow Japanese mountain road. Of course endurance races are longer than usual races, of which includes a 24 hours of Lemans. And the final variation is Demolition Derby which again needs very little explanation.

As stated the game gives you various game modes to sink your teeth into. The first and primary game is known as Grid World in the main menu. This in essence is you career mode for single player. You?ll start out as a rookie that gets offered a job to start driving professionally for a small company. As you progress through your career you?ll unlock better cars and have the ability to purchase bigger and better cars as well. In career mode, you?ll earn points that unlock different tiers of racing which contain multiple events. There are drift events, standard racing events, and demolition derbies to compete in. You?ll have to race most of the events in each tier to be able to progress further into the career. As stated the more points you earn the more races you unlock. Points are awarded based on your performance of course.

You?ll progress through many seasons, gaining sponsors which earn you more money. You?ll also come to a point in time when you now become a racing team and have the opportunity to hire a new driver. This driver will help your team earn points and reputation, but at a cost, of course. The better skills the driver has, the less profit you will make as his contract will demand a higher percentage of your race winnings. So be sure to choose wisely when picking your team partner. Your ultimate goal is to be the top team on the circuit, and that may come at a price at some point. There are 3 regions in which you?ll compete across various cities located in those regions. You?ll race in the USA, Europe and Japan.

One of the pretty cool features in the career mode is the 24 hours if Lemans race. You?ll compete at the prestigious testing circuit ? Circuit de la Sarthe. The cars are divided into 4 classes and you?ll only be competing against the cars that are in the same class as yourself. So you do not have to be the first car to cross the finish line, only the first car in your class to cross the finish line. This race marks the end of each season.
Damage plays a factor in all of your races. You'll slowly produce wear and tear on your ties, engine, bodywork, etc. That wear and tear is represented by oicons that are diplayed on the screen. Crash to many times and you may be looking at a DNF. Ah, but there is a lifesaving tool that Codemaster's introduces into the racing world. If you happen to have a serious wreck, or the competition takes you out unfairly then you'll have an option to rewind the race a few moments and change the outcome. The number of flashbacks that you have is dependent upon your difficulty setting. You can also turn off the flashback feature to increase your winnings in career mode.

Single player is definitely a solid experience. There are many races to complete and several variations of racing styles to mix up the monotony. The AI can be overly aggressive at times dependent on your difficulty level and they will hold their lines despite you possibly being in their way. But as with most games in todays gaming world, online play is what most folks are concerned with. Well, you'll be happy to know that the multiplayer section of the game is just as impressive as the offline.

You'll compete head to head in rooms of up to 12 other drivers. You'll be able to participate in the typical ranked, player, and private matches. When you compete in public matches, you'll be subject to a voting session between races that allows the participants in the room to select the region and event for the next race. Players will first vote for the region they want to race in, and once the region is selected then the voting switches to the event. The online ranking system is based on the amount of racing you do, who you race against and who you beat. Overall the online package plays very well with very little, if any, lag at all.

I would have to say that GRID is probably one of the best racers to date on the Xbox 360 console. The innovative Flashback feature is a very cool addition that will make those frustrating moments in racing disappear. The graphics are top notch which isn't much of a surprise when it comes to Codemasters and driving games. Most of all the handling and controls of each and every car are a great mix of simulation and arcade. Both expert drivers and amateur drivers should fall in love with this title.

I think one of the main suggestions would to give an even larger selection of cars to drive. In todays driving games, it seems the more cars you have in your game inventory the better you are received.

Overall: 9.1 / 10
Gameplay: 9.3 / 10
Visuals: 9.0 / 10
Sound: 8.7 / 10


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