GRID Autosport being on my backlog is fairly surprising as I usually have a racing game on the go to play as a bit of a mindless break from the issue of the day. It isn’t one of the most surprising omissions however.
Three years later I have gotten to it as I try to get through my personal stupidly long backlog (of mostly Steam sales). Was it worth the wait, or has it just left me wanting to play the new Forza and Gran Turismo?
Game: GRID Autosport
Platforms: X360 (played), PS3, PC
Release Date: June 2014
A Different Direction
GRID Autosport was a step in a different direction for Codemasters compared to Grid 2 just the year beforehand. Rather than the focus on street tracks, GRID Autosport introduced multiple real life race tracks as well as a career mode that revolved around different styles of motorsports.
The career mode was split into five different categories which were Touring Cars, Endurance, Open Wheel, Tuner and Street. Touring Cars used beefy saloon cars like in British Touring Car Championship and V8 Supercars in Australia, and like the real life counterparts often had you racing in more than one race per event. Endurance had you driving for a longer specified period of time, usually 8-12 minutes at default. Open Wheel had fast-paced action like Formula 1 and IndyCar, while the Tuner category has you drifting and competing for the quickest lap. finally Street was more like what we were used to in GRID 2, with an array of different cars racing on the streets of different cities around the world.
At the time when I bought the game on PC (earlier this year I got the game cheap on the Xbox 360 where I played it), the idea of racing in different categories of motorsports at your own pace was enticing. You had more freedom while it also felt like Codemasters were catering more to an audience interested in actual motorsports like myself. Playing through it now it still felt similar, although some categories like Tuner didn’t sit well with me and didn’t seem to fit well with the overall focus of the game. Maybe at the time I would have gone on to think the same about Street, although since its release Formula E has become a popular open wheel championship that (mostly, I’m looking at you Mexico City ePrix) that takes place on street circuits in the middle of big cities like Berlin, Paris and soon New York.
The idea could have been fleshed out more. It didn’t feel like there were much differences and much choice within the specific categories, yes at the beginning of the Open Wheel championships you were driving slower vehicles and finished off in an IndyCar, but it wasn’t obvious enough through the championships that you were taking place in. You had championships like Garmin International GP League, Pirtek International GP Championship, Sparco GP Championship, Autosport World GP League. Very generic names with a sponsor, with categories like Formula C/B/A and separate cup events shown as a passing detail at the bottom of the larger championship header. I get that they would be restricted slightly to usable cars in some categories, but even just splitting some into different continents would have made a difference.
You could say that I’m nitpicking and that many fans wouldn’t care as much and you are probably right. However in a game that has a career where you can make your way up the motorsports ladder in different categories, making that progression more obvious I think would’ve been more beneficial overall in that area of the game.
I enjoyed my time overall with the game, although that isn’t too difficult with this style of racing game, there are issues that I had with the game. The team-mates for instance is one of these issues. They’re shit.
In most events in the game, except for the special cup events and drifting tournaments, you have a team-mate that can also accrue points in both the drivers’ and teams’ championship. You can tell them how to perform throughout the race using the dpad, with defend and attack the two opposite ends of the spectrum. The issue was that they usually never seemed to make a difference. The other car seemed to do as well on balanced as they did when attacking, while I found that when defending they would just drop down the grid faster than Grand Theft Auto V’s rating on Steam. The only team your team-mate seemed to do really well is in time attacks, after starting the race in second (sometimes) and when playing through a championship again with the Ravenwest team.
In a similar complaint, the AI seemed to have some troubles – or they were just a little bit shit in their own way. On the easier difficulties at the very least (which I played on to have a more relaxing time) the AI seemed to stay close to you and then fall back at certain parts of the track, which I would expect more on more challenging settings. Their cars, whether an open wheel IndyCar or a Bugatti Veyron, were as strong as a rock when making contact with them. It would spin me out with no troubles but they would be able to carry on as if nothing ever happened. The same team(s) were always at the top of the standings along with certain drivers, it would’ve been great to see separate teams and drivers for each category with the odd Sebastien Loeb-like character noticeable in different series.
Moving onto the tracks, as I mentioned earlier more real life circuits were added and there were a better mix than the previous GRID game – however certain tracks felt like they were barely used while others didn’t feel as realistic as they could’ve been. With the first point I felt like I came across a new track for the first time in the final championship of a category and that certain ones were used on many more occasions. For the second point certain tracks felt slightly weird or not as fleshed out compared to the real versions or even what you can find in the Forza franchise, although the technology used to create the tracks may have differed between developers. For instance, Mount Panorama Circuit (Bathurst) felt sparse in terms of trees, which I know is a daft complaint to make and one that could be partly to do with the Xbox 360 constraints but it came to mind often. The San Francisco street track had you feeling like you were in a rally car rather than something more normal.
Overall I had a good time with GRID Autosport, but certain small issues kept me from completely enjoying the experience like I would with a Forza game. The premise was great but as a motorsport fan I feel like more could’ve been done to make each championship and each category more interesting in the long run. I would’ve been better off playing this on the PC without the constraints of an older console, so I’ll never know whether some of the issues both mentioned and discarded were down to platform choice.
You could argue that if Codemasters were to make this game or another in the franchise it would be much better. Dirt Rally has been touted as a great realistic rally experience, while from the sound of reviewers and fans the recently released Dirt 4 is more fleshed out and plays well. Maybe I’m just hopeful.