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GRID Autosport Hands-On Preview – Aggressive and Fearless

by on May 29, 2014
 

GRID Autosport is all about damage. Well, technically, GRID Autosport is a driving game about perfecting a handful of individual driving disciplines, and you can actually completely turn the damage off so that you can crash and bash with meaningless abandon. But from a recent hands on, GRID Autosport is really a game about damage.

Take the Tuner cars, for example. These monstrous, moving metal coffins are the first available style, and the races here are the pub brawls of the racing world. Rival cars are both bitter adversaries and acceptable corner aides. A good tactic in this style is to use other cars to maintain more speed as you take a corner, shoving them off in the process. The racing is so aggressive that I stole first place on a last corner by forcing the AI to overdo said corner, throwing them off the track while taking the turn myself.

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But it’s the damage that makes the style. I’d frequently find myself on the second lap of four with a damaged drive shaft due to my aggression, and thus forced to adapt to an inconvenient left bank for the remainder of the race. The AI is no slouch either. Even on Normal difficulty the SPU would actively deny my passes, and angrily shunt me from the side to try and sabotage upcoming corner attempts, or knock me off a straight.

The way the cars take a battering and force you to adapt to the changes gives GRID Autosport’s Touring mode’s individual races a real story, as the combatants take more and more knocks, shunts, crunches and finally limp over the line. Without damage, it would lose its narrative flow.

Then you swap to Open Wheel. This discipline is your formula motorsport style of car: low down, high grip. As the name suggests, and you can see from the vehicles, your wheels in these cars are exposed. Indeed, compared to the heavyset brawlers of the Tuning class, the Open Wheel is the comparative fencing class, all precision and minimal brash. Open Wheel would drink scotch.

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Damage in this style is fatal. Even the smallest knock can ruin your vehicle, and this is the mode wherein you’ll likely be relying on those now staple rewinds that games of this ilk empower you with. So your entire approach changes: where Touring was about using the bump and grind to barge your way to the top, Open Wheel is about playing carefully and looking for opportunities to thread yourself through the pack.

The change of cars does a lot to change the feel, of course, with the high traction of the Open Wheel giving it a unique flavour – although other games, such as Gran Turismo 6, offer this sort of diversity anyway. This is why GRID’s damage engine is paramount to making it feel unique: the unfolding tale told through changes in your car in Touring Mode, or the imminent danger of failure from a slight knock in Open Wheel, is what helps give GRID Autosport its teeth.

It’s not just those two, either. Endurance works on the best of both styles, featuring tougher cars as in Touring Mode, but with a focus on driving over time and keeping an eye on your tyres. Adapting to the long haul race means you can’t be so foolish, giving it a touch of the Open Wheel. Throw in some unique night driving conditions, and Endurance adds yet another twist to GRID Autosport’s core and, again, the way damage works against you creates a long-standing dialogue between your choices and the race at every turn. It’s exhilarating to secure an overtake, but to learn you’ll have to cope with a fault for the rest of the race is nerve wracking.

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Aside from the “Skills” category (which includes drift challenges and the like) there’s also Street Racing, which is much more like Touring. Only unlike Touring, there are walls rather than sand or grass, which gives these violent races a more claustrophobic feel. To continue to bang the drum, damage is what helps these races stand out against the Forza’s of the current gaming landscape, as adapting to your changing situation is what keeps the race interesting, and what keeps your decisions purposeful.

GRID Autosport might be going for a slightly broader title than usual, but it manages to find a compelling niche for each of its disciplines. It can also be tweaked for anyone, and damage can be removed if you so wish – but it shouldn’t, because having to drag a crippled car over the line as you fight to keep second place from finding your weak spot for a last-second overtake is a thrilling scene that only GRID Autosport’s damage model can provide. With the bruising on, GRID Auosport is shaping up to be an exquisite showcase for some of the most aggressive and fearless motorsport racing in gaming.

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