GRIP – Xbox One Review
GRIP is a very fast paced racer that fills a nice gap in the market, a speedy game that doesn’t let up on pace from start to finish. There’s no real story in GRIP, but its not needed or really wanted, we just want to go fast! You drive futuristic looking cars that have big chunky wheels that are bigger than its body, the upshot of this is that you can flip the car and keep driving either way up, with no reduction in speed. Flip the car, land upside down and just keep going. This is vital to the gameplay, as you can drive up the nicely curved walls and defy gravity by speeding along the ceilings, maintaining a nice grip as long as you’re going fast enough. Its easy to forget which way up you are as you speed along walls and ceilings but you’re soon reminded when you’re catapulted back to the ground. All this means the pace rarely lets up, as you hit a ramp or obstacle, flip through the air, and as long as you can keep pointing in the right direction you land without losing momentum. It make for racing that takes concentration, quick reflexes and is ultimately a hell of a lot of fun. Add in the power-ups and weapons and you have excitement from start to finish as the lead is never easy to hold.
Every track has a decent scattering of of powerups and weapons to pick up, and you hold up to two at any time. There are speed boosts and shields that protect you from the array of weapons that are used to slow opponents down. These weapons range from machine gun bursts to homing missiles at the basic end, or the more fun ones like a burst of small rockets or the blue bomb, that when fired will only take out the race leader. The explosions are satisfying and disadvantage those hit just the right amount. Enough to slow you down so any cars just behind can pass, but not destructive enough to have you endure the frustration of being put completely out of contention. There are also regular little green lights on the track, drive over these and your car goes up a gear until it bumps into something, so you gradually ramp up the speed until you get to a blistering pace and the edges of the screen warp into a speed induced blur.
The tracks are nicely varied and look spectacular, with plenty of detail. The terrain could be a cityscape, frozen arctic environments, parched desert or anything in between, and all look great. The track isn’t straight forward either, with wide straights turning into narrow passages or tunnels, with plenty of offshoots that could be short cuts, or take you above the main track only to fling you spectacularly back into the main action when they abruptly end. Some turns might be gradual, kind and widely banked, others sharp and flat forcing to slow down or use the handbrake to put on a bit of a slide to get round safely. If the action wasn’t frenetic enough, there are ramps and obstacle stuck in your way to steer round or catch some air in spectacular fashion. You can race the same track a few times and always spot something new each time, and with the variety of scenarios it doesn’t get boring. The graphics also have subtle features that you might not notice at first glance due to the need to concentrate so hard on the racing, but little touches like the tire wear showing as the race progresses is pretty cool when you spot it.
The career mode is pretty extensive, with each tier split into 3 stages, and each stage has a series of races to get through. The difficulty ramps up nicely as you progress, meaning as you get better its just as competitive, always hard to win without leaving you in the dust. As you go up the tiers and level up, more cars and cosmetic items like rims, tires and decals are unlocked, tempting you into regular trips to the garage. There are plenty of different cars to chose from to suit your racing style. You might prefer a car with more grip, or sacrifice that in favour of more acceleration or a greater top speed. There are enough options to customise your car into something unique, which you can race around with until you level up far enough to unlock a better version.
While reviewing I had a lot of trouble connecting to online races, either getting booted out of a lobby or the race ending prematurely because the host lost connection, but when it did work, it was very entertaining. With a full compliment of 10 human racers, things can get pretty rough out on the track, with crashes and explosions galore, which could have you either cursing like a navvy or laughing like an evil maniac! What works better is the local multiplayer with split screen mode, giving you the chance to get some mates round and race each other in person.
Its probably more fun to drive against human racers, as the AI can be pretty frustrating at times. They can drive well enough, but tend to throw in some unpredictable moves that are completely out of place with trying to win the race. They seem to be rated to give an even split so that they finishing places are always spread out. This is because the AI is based on catch up, which is good in a sense that a bad crash wont put you out of the race, but on the other hand, you can have the perfect race but still not be able to leave some of the AI cars behind you. You can race well but still lose 2 places on the final bend, which is frustrating to say the least, and it certainly happens more than it should, as my succession of third place finished proved.
GRIP is a great speed racer with a big nod to favourites of years past, breathing new life into the genre, and its well worth adding it to your game collection. The gameplay never lets up in the speed and excitement stakes, and is very forgiving when you crash so you’re never left too far behind. In single player mode the tracks are varied enough to hold your interest over numerous sessions, but playing against other people is where GRIP really comes into its own, providing hours of adrenaline fuelled fun.
Developer: Caged Element / Warp Digital Entertainment
Publisher: Wired Productions
Price: £34.99 (also included in Game Pass)
Thanks to Wired Productions for the review copy.