UPDATED: 5th Sept 14 Patch
There is much emotion within the community in this latest instalment to the GRID series. It's been promoted as the ‘community's game’ with many of the new additions/changes from GRID 2 being done based on our feedback. Many love it & many despise it, with myself falling in the middle as I feel both viewpoints when I play.
Although this may read as a negative (& long lol
) review, let me state straight off the bat that GRID Autosport (GAS) is a solid racing game, its fast, challenging & fun to drive with a good selection of tracks (some new, some old), a decent range of balanced cars & various modes to choose from. At the end of the day that is what a good racing game should deliver & is why I give it a 'Thumbs Up' overall. It is easy to sink a lot of hours into GAS. That being said, although I do think this is a decent improvement over GRID 2 (and more closely aligned to GRID 1), it is still most lacking from being the definitive PC racing experience for me, so let me explain in more detail.
One of the main disappointments for me was the Career mode. Actually, not really a Career it’s more an offline practice mode for your multiplayer career, as it primarily only a series of single events. Each series is a season (huh?), and you simply progress by completing each series in sequence for each racing discipline. Once you reach certain level, you unlock the GRID Tournament events which are larger playlist of all racing disciplines (with around 10 events). There are about 500 races in total which is approximately three times as many races as career in GRID 2, but this is basically it! It's boring!
You cannot run your own team as in GRID 1, as in GAS you are a driver for hire
, so no choice of car, livery or sponsors etc. Nothing to work towards collecting or unique events (like 24 Hours of Le Mans) to aim for, or other things you need to unlock... it’s just mindlessly follow the event list. Team co-op would have been nice to see in GAS, but obviously not setup with that in mind (focus clearly seems to be on Multiplayer, but more on that later). There is also no choice to specialise your career to say just Touring Cars or stick with one team, as you are forced to complete all disciplines & teams seem random based on the event.
AI is an improvement to a degree, with much tougher competition to contend with from GRID1-2, which is a huge plus to the experience. They still suffer from being overly aggressive, will not honour racing line and will often cause you to have multiple restarts after the notorious first corner. Still with the improved physics, handling & damage models in GAS, it makes it less hurtful than getting hit by AI in GRID2, let’s say, but it remains a source of frustration. In the end it forces you to race aggressively too, rather than racing a 'proper' race.
Likewise with the AI, it seems to have minimal randomness, from seemingly predictable lap times to the driving results. In offline 'ahem career'
mode, your racing team mate will almost always finish last making it unlikely, even when you win every race, that your team will win the event. I also noticed some strange behaviour when team mate is winning all through the race & you overtake, he almost immediately drops position after position every time! Also a little odd, the AI seem to race faster than qualifying laps. You could be 6-8 seconds ahead in qualify, yet struggle to keep up in the race or find on some tracks the AI are always super-fast & others they are always super-slow; they seem predefined and not adaptable to your experience.
AI get a boost at race start so you always play catch-up for the first few corners, which means you miss out on all the starting grid hustle or you start on pole and get taken out from behind! These sort of issues end up drawing your attention the more you play & end up breaking your immersion.
Moving on from Career & AI, the Multiplayer online component of GAS has got more positive feature changes. There is a much longer progression curve, where you also level up your purchased cars to provide more modification. You can join a club (or create your own) & compete against your friends & the world. Clubs seem to be underutilised (no event creation, no group racing, no club vs club, limited in-game info/management). There is an improved Global Challenges with tough times & decent rewards. Overall, I have found the online racing experience to be much better than in GRID 2. Damage is more severe (& costly) although this unfortunately doesn't prevent bad drivers taking you out first corner, or any corner for that matter (Kick from game is improved tho :)).
Matchmaking & finding games still needs much improvement. Online play is still region locked, which was a big issue in GRID 2 still not addressed for those outside of UK/US. It means for players like me in Australia, where online games are limited that I cannot race with others around the world without changing my Steam client region. This segments the community & is compounded by a lack of visibility of the games in progress to see what you might like to join. Matchmaking is good to have but not at the expense of manually finding games too; this is console-centric online play not PC in my view. You eventually give up trying to find a specific active game mode as it normally isn't populated with any active games anyways (& you don't know what is), so you just choose the Random playlist.
It would have been great to also be able to create your own customised playlists in advance & save them for selection later online. So you can prepare as a host & setup some unique configurations for others to race.
Most of these issues or limitations I have highlighted you can live with, although not as good as I expected, there is enough done decently to make it fun to race! Those that wanted the cockpit view however, may be disappointed as this is not much more than an in-car angle, blurry without a real cockpit functionality. Not an issue for me, but just to mention for others that might be an important factor.
Omitted from the original release version due to issues was Time Trial mode. This has returned in the July 14 patch (in limited form). You can only
choose the primary circuits (not the 100+ variations), no reverse tracks & selection is limited to the discipline. Still no friends times in career mode (ala GRID 2) nor any online times recorded. Great to have this feature finally to compete with your friends, but is lessened by limited implemenation.
There are other artificial limitions throughout GAS, such as limited garage slots, limited custom cup events to 5, limited number of laps, or the extra long multiplayer grind. Rather than fixing some of these, CM instead brings out a XP Booster & Garage Pack DLCs for us to buy! These are a joke & are simply a money grabbing endeavor providing a solution to a problem they created. Shameful!
Players from GRID 2 will also find a lot of reused components in GAS, such as cars/wheels/logos/livery patterns/tracks. This is not necessarily a bad thing to maximise the amount of content & customisation, but it does feel light on new content. I would have liked to see more of everything or at least some integrated modding support for community to create its own?
GAS is still a blast but it's far from a perfect game. I think CM can do better which is why I feel disappointment seeing some of the corners cut in GAS (pun intended .. time penalty enforced!
). The 4k UHD Texture pack brings GAS back up to code graphically, but still feels more like an expansion to GRID 2. Still suffering from many of the shortcomings of the previous titles, yet also making some incremental improvements along the way in the right direction. Enough together to still make the core gameplay fun, but can help but to feel its rushed & not well enough rounded (or refined) to be a real classic!