For every racing sim that demands a steering wheel and pedal set-up in order to be competitive, and offers the potential to spend hours fine-tuning virtual spring rates, there needs to be a plug-in-and-play alternative for those who just want some quick fun. Enter the Codemasters GRID franchise.
The GRID series has been around for a while now, although the newest installment, released last week, brings something new to the table. It’s not just about the cars and the tracks – although there’s still a long list of both, including a few pleasant surprises. (Hello, DPi!). It also attempts to bring a human element into the game by incorporating more than 400 distinct AI personalities across rival drivers and potential teammates. Want to run a Penske-style team where your teammate will race you hard and give you no quarter? You can? Prefer the Schumacher-era Ferrari style with a compliant teammate who will roll over as soon as they see you in their mirrors? That’s fine, too.
This also carries into the on-track battles, where a little too much roughing-up can eventually prompt an AI competitor to start a rivalry with you. In RACER’s limited experience with the game this seems to translate mostly into them apparently being willing to kill themselves to put you into the wall rather than leave a car’s width when you’re fighting them for seventh, but it’s a cool idea.
Set-up options will seem limited to anyone with a background in more serious racing sims – five options for adjustment, each on a sliding scale with five settings – but they’re adequate for a casual player. And the impact of changes can be dramatic, to the point that in one case, RACER gained six seconds per lap with one click on the anti-roll bar.
There’s a bit of unnecessary window dressing here and there, such as the completely inane race engineer, who does nothing other than state the obvious. (“Last lap, so… hold onto the lead”). And a couple of the street circuits are a bit same-y, which feels like an opportunity missed when one of the locations is San Francisco. Why not incorporate some of the famous hills rather than designing a generic layout around the Embarcadero, which is one of the only flat pieces of ground in the entire city?
But these are minor quibble with an otherwise fun and well-executed addition to Codemasters’ racing collection, which also includes the F1 games and Dirt franchises. And with 104 career events across 12 locations, there’s plenty to keep a virtual racer busy.