GRID Autosport comes just over a year after the release of what was a disappointing GRID 2 and is a very impressive effort from the Codemasters team to get the game out the door in around 10 months or so.
It was clear to Codemasters that they had gone the wrong direction with GRID 2, and whilst it was a fun game, it wasn't what the GRID series was about. Codemasters promised to rectify problems with GRID Autosport by listening to the community and it looks like they have done.
You're a driver for hire in GRID Autosport, making your way up through the ranks in five separate disciplines such as Touring Cars, Open Wheel, Endurance, Sport and Tuner. You are offered drives at the start of each season by various different teams, with varying degrees of objectives and XP rewards.
The touring cars feature cars that we typically see in the BTCC such as the Ford and Honda and you will remember a few returning from the original GRID such as the BMW. The racing in this category is very close and there is a lot of door-to-door banging expected to happen.
The open wheel class is pretty self explanatory and includes a mock up of the Indy car and some Formula B/C cars - although I found the Formula B car really weird to drive.
The endurance class features generally GT1/2/3 cars that you see in things such as Blancpain Endurance, Spa 24hrs or the Blancpain Sprint Cup. There are also some "prototype" cars but from what I've seen only the one.
The street and tuner classes are just your every day road cars ranging from little Golfs to big hyper cars such as the Veyron and Pagani Huarya.
All of the classes also have optional extra modes such as minis, pickup trucks, kit cars and more if you want a break from the regular action.
It is your goal to reach the GRID Legends series where you will be racing against some of the best racers from around the world on some of the best tracks from around the world.
The tracks in GRID Autosport really shouldn't be this wide.
As soon as you step into the actual racing in GRID Autosport you will notice a massive difference from the handling of GRID 2, and it is a massive step in the right direction. The cars feel more real now, the assists are back from GRID and you can't just drift around the corners anymore.
They have put a lot of detail into making sure that the cars handle in a more authentic way, even more authentic than what they did in the original GRID and it gives the game a very nice feel. If you turn off the assists you can have a good race, if you keep some of the assists on you can have a good race.
There is a lot more to take into consideration now as well, drifting around the corner will make you lose all your momentum and if you're in an "endurance" race it will shred your tires up as well, slowing you down.
You need to make sure that you're slowing down a decent amount before the corner instead of lightly tapping the brake and getting through, otherwise you're going to go flying off into the grass and very sticky gravel, which could do with being less sticky. You will have a guaranteed roll if you end up in the gravel sideways because of it.
Other than that I am enjoying the handling model, especially when I turn off the ABS, TC and Stability control - it is good fun and only helps to improve the game, you also get a nice XP boost for it as well.
The difficulty of the game has increased ten-fold as well, in GRID 2 you could easily out-drive the competition on the harder difficulty settings but now you struggle to make your way up through the field. The only problem is I'm not sure if this is due to the AI aggressiveness or what because they seem to be totally blind when it comes to figuring out where you are on track - they just barge into the back, front, side or whatever, whenever they want to do so in a corner.
Those of you that were missing the cockpit views in GRID 2 will find that they make a welcome return this time around, yes, they, as there are two cockpit views now. One is mounted behind the steering wheel and one is mounted in front of it, kind of placed on top of the dashboard. The one thing that is off putting though is that because this is on the PC and last-gen consoles the cockpits are very low res and just blurred out - mainly because the PS3/Xbox 360 can't handle the improved graphics as well as high-res cockpit textures.
The PC does get textures that support up to 4K gaming but why this didn't include some fancy cockpit textures as well is beyond me, it would've been a nice thing to have. At least Codemasters are taking a step in the right direction with the whole "just because console can't do it, we shouldn't stop the PCs from doing it."
The other thing I am not too happy about is the lack of mirrors and virtual mirrors once again - you get an indicator at the bottom of the screen as to where the closest car is but when you're driving around in the cockpit view you need the mirrors to properly tell where your opponent is and where they might end up by the time you arrive at the corner.
The multiplayer is where I am finding a lot of fun, racing against friends using the new club system in any event that you want from single player as well as a few party modes such as the much requested demolition derby mode from the previous two games.
The new club system allows you to create a club and let your friends, or anyone, join it, and move up through the ranks of overall clubs - you can even create a club livery for people to apply to any cars that they own.
That moves me nicely on to the multiplayer garage system. You now have all cars unlocked from the start in multiplayer but they cost an absolute fortune. You can buy them brand new, or used, providing you have the garage space.
Over time your cars will take mechanical damage which is why you need to make sure that you look after them in the race otherwise you will be down on power, struggle to handle the car or have issues with the gearbox.
You get chance before each race to check over the condition of the car and fix it up if you own the car, as well as check standings, tune your vehicle or change a few things in the options - the length of this is determined by the lobby host but the race will automatically start if everyone is ready.
All the race events in multiplayer are also available but if you don't own a car in the class/category you will just be given a "loan vehicle" which will cost you in damage expenses at the end of each race so make sure you finish high up if you cause some serious damage, otherwise you're going to start losing money. The condition of these vehicles won't be 100 either so you are better off buying a vehicle.
Finally the XP system in the game works a bit different this time around as well. You have separate XP levels for each of the disciplines as well as an XP level for the car that you're driving. The discipline XP amount unlocks new championships and better team offers where as the car XP will unlock upgrades to the car or tuning tweaks.
The presentation of the game is fantastic once again as you come to expect from Codemasters in this day and age, and it considering I'm running on a back up graphics card in the form of a Radeon HD 4850, I can still pull 45fps average on the high setting. That isn't running on DX11 unfortunately though.
The new addition of a second screen to show the race standings, map and what is happening on the main screen is also a very nifty feature and can become useful in the races to see where your team mates and rivals are in the event.
The sounds... well, sound... good to me, no complaints there other than a weird static-type noise every so often for an unknown reason.
The biggest gripe about the entire game though is the tracks, a lot of them aren't all that accurate with hills being flattened out, the track width being 50% wider than it should be and a lot of the tracks have been copy and pasted from F1/GRID 2 without much thought. The Austrian track doesn't even have the new grandstands so hopefully that it isn't just copy and pasted into F1 2014 later this year.
The second screen, seen here in the bottom left, is a nice feature for the PC users
Overall, GRID Autosport is a welcome return to what the GRID franchise should be, there a few off putting things, mainly how bad the AI is, but other than this, this is what GRID 2 should have been, and Codemasters have mostly redeemed themselves.