It's positioned as an authentic racing game. In all parts of the game the players should feel like a racing driver. Nevertheless, it should not be a simulation, but neither should it be a pure arcade racer. "The community came up with the word Simcade", chief game designer James Nicholls from developer Codemasters said, somewhat embarrassed. Although that sounds slightly awkward, it still meets the idea pretty accurately.
Grid: Autosport will be released in Europe on June 27. Not a lot of time to warm up to the idea. Development time since the last title (Grid 2) has been limited, seeing as that game raced onto store shelves on May 31 of last year. At the time, in our review, we wrote that Codemasters delivered a fitting way to say goodbye to the current console generation. Well, it looks like we spoke too soon, because Grid: Autosport appears on PC, PS3 and Xbox 360, and not Xbox One and PS4. A racing game for the new-gen consoles is in the works, James Nicholls confirmed. They're currently customising the Ego engine to run nicely on both Sony and Microsoft's new platforms.
It's not like Grid: Autosport would have to feel ashamed from a visual perspective. We played the PC version and it shines once again with a clean look. Lovely dust is kicked up and the smoke of spinning tires is amazing. They have incorporated subtle heat effects with the stationary cars at the start; you can see the heat shimmer above the F1 racer. Six different perspectives are available, and the cockpit interior view is especially compelling. It looks good, even if the award for the very best visual fidelity now goes to Forza Motorsport 5. The Ego engine has been pushed to the limit, resulting in textures being of somewhat lower quality in some areas, but the overall result is convincing. Not the least because of the great audio that delivers the impact of the aggressive racers around us.
The starting and central feature will once again be the career mode. It's divided into five major areas: touring car racing, endurance racing, open-wheel racing, street racing and tuner racing. From a straight simulation race over to arcade fun and into drift sessions and more. Here you can immediately feel where this Simcade idea is coming from. There has been a lot of feedback that has made its way into the final game. Also, motorsport journalists and racers have added their two cents. There has been much collaboration (and that's also why everything has been assembled so quickly, Nicholls underlines). You also get a party mode and split-screen multiplayer.
In the career mode are five flashbacks per race, that allow you to rewind a few seconds to undo your mistakes. With 16 cars on the track that's sometimes a very useful thing, especially since the artificial intelligence acts much more intelligently, but as aggressively as usual. Each of the five events is designed differently. You have to learn the subtleties of each and adjust to it. In the touring car races you will be immediately punished when cutting corners, even if they represent the few chances you have to overtake your competitors. When street-racing in San Francisco or Washington, however, you can cut corners as and how you wish, which makes for a completely different experience. Blatant rollovers are possible anywhere. I have seen a F1 racer sailing through the air in front of me, rolling at least five times around its transverse axis. Fierce stuff.
You can begin the career in all five areas and play it as you like. Career will be huge, Nicholls promises. You race for different teams that offer you a contract, and you can do so for a season or longer. There is always a teammate you can order about the track with short commands, things like protecting your own ideal line from behind or aggressively putting the leading pack under pressure. The damage model (if it is enabled), has an impact on all external and adjustable areas of the car. Brakes, gears, circuits, dampers, everything that can be adjusted can fail. That includes the engine, if the impact is too violent. That said, you can also fully focus on arcade, the game allows the racer to tailor the experience in all respects.
Online Grid: Autosport is now fully hooked up to Codemasters Racenet. One million potential challengers now await you, and above all hover the new clubs. This looks like a great thing because there is a thrilling progression system that is coupled to individual cars. One should develop a relationship with the car over time (its mileage is recored offline and online and has an impact on performance). If the damage model is fully activated, you have to invest some of the hard-earned in-game-dollar on repairs after each race in the workshop. The older a car is, the higher the cost can be. It makes you count in your head when a car in San Francisco bumps down onto the asphalt again and again after being lifted up and down hills. There's experience points with every car, which allows you to squeeze every last drop of performance if you keep your racer. Still: "It could actually someday be too expensive to keep the car," says a grinning Nicholls.
On paper Grid: Autosport sounds like a "best of", bringing to bear all that Codemasters has learned about racing games this generation. They have listened to their community and their fans, and in a short time they have built the racing game that they wanted to. This is the generous way of reading the story, as it could also be interpreted as an attempt to cash-in one more time, using the available assets before a Grid for the new generation hits shelves in 2015 or 2016. Both cases are legitimate enough, and after having played it, it is certainly true that we're going to get a good racing game at end of June, regardless of the reason.