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Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Preview: GRID Autosport

Preview by Matt S.

Getting some hands on time with Codemasters' upcoming GRID Autosport was my first experience with the popular racing franchise. I came away from the experience very much impressed, but whether the game is going to pull me away from Gran Turismo 6 as my go-to for serious racing is very much still in question.

The most obvious thing out of the way first; I am very disappointed that the only advanced hardware this game is going to be available on is PC. On the consoles you're looking at a PS3 and Xbox 360 version, with no next-gen hardware support. Now this is a very good looking game on those consoles, but PS4 owners especially lack Forza and this was a perfect opportunity for a serious next-gen racer to occupy a temporary monopoly on the console.

That aside I had the chance to play with most of the different racing styles; the final game will have Touring Cars, Open-Wheel racing, Street races, Endurance racers and Tuner car races, and these races play out on 22 different tracks (with over 100 different ways to race on those tracks by breaking them down into small sections). I wasn't able to test out much of the career mode, but it seems nicely in depth. There is clearly a lot of content in GRID Autosport, and from the short time I had with it there were a few features that really stood out to me; one of the most significant is adaptive AI that adjusts the way it races to match the way you race.

So for instance I'm a pretty aggressive racer in racing games, and I'm not afraid of getting a couple of bumps and bruises if it means I get ahead. The AI quickly started to treat me quite aggressively as well. Meanwhile another racer that focuses on smooth racing lines will face a very different kind of AI. I've played some other games with adaptive AI before, and typically this doesn't turn out to be an especially complex feature with AI simply defaulting to one of a handful of behaviours based on the player's actions. From my time with the preview I wasn't able to test to see if GRID has a more complex approach, but fingers crossed that it does.

Multiplayer is where the real fun is in most racing games, and while multiplayer for serious racing sims will always be an acquired taste, GRID's works really, really well. It's got silly little features such as a reputation system that tells other players whether you're an aggressive player or a nice driver (I'm proud to say that in the process of around five racers I managed to take myself from "Green" - representing a good driver, to "Red" - representing a driver that crashes into other players a whole heap). The sheer range of cars and tracks on offer should also keep players coming back for more for some time to come. Codemasters has also integrated its racenet social network into the game, which I hear is a good feature for people that play plenty of Codemasters games.

As for the racing itself; the sensation of speed seems to be very good, and there is certainly a need to properly judge racing lines and decelleration in order to properly hit corners. Following the preview session I was still a little concerned that cars felt both light and soft on the road, but this could just be a hangover from my time with Gran Turismo, where cars felt quite solid. The crashes, which as you can tell from above I was a big fan of, had great impact, and the damage system to the car seems to be spectacular... even though I wasn't able to do enough damage that my car was retired.

All up, I'm looking forward to this game more now than I had been going into the preview session. I'm not such a committed fan to serious racing games that I need more than Gran Turismo 6 and the F1 games (I do love me some F1), but there is a genuine chance that GRID Autosport can replace GT6 as my game for when I'm in the mood to be serious.

- Matt S. 
Find me on Twitter: @digitallydownld
Preview: GRID Autosport
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