I have to admit that I was a little up-in-the-air on GRID when I first started playing it. I had been reading previews and earlier reviews of the game and they were raving about it and giving it nines out of tens. I have been playing Burnout Paradise ever since it was released and my 4-year old son and I have loved the open environment and hardly any load screens that it provides. Burnout Paradise is also more forgiving on how you take a turn and what happens to your car if you rub the wall or other competitors. GRID is definitely not Burnout Paradise and the game leans a lot more towards Gran Turismo 5 Prologue and Forza Motorsport 2 than it does the arcade racer that is Burnout Paradise. But, that doesn’t mean GRID is a total driving simulation game, since it is more forgiving than some of the other racing games on the market and it has a little bit of an arcade feel to it. Maybe it would be best to describe GRID as being more similar to the Need for Speed series. Any way you describe it you will find it in good company with some of the most popular racing games on the market and it holds its own very well.
As I was saying above, I wasn’t as impressed when I first started playing GRID as I wanted to be, but I think this feeling stemmed from me playing a lot of Burnout Paradise lately and the game starting you off with a rear-wheel drive 1970 Ford Mustang that was kind of hard to control through some of the narrow city streets you race on in some of the events. The car felt floaty to me and I was having a hard time negotiating the turns and keeping it going straight. You do get to drive some other exotic cars early in the game with better handling, but they seemed to be going so fast I still was having a hard keeping them on the road. Maybe part of the problem is that I suck and the other is because I have been playing Burnout Paradise so much, that I have kind of forgotten about using the brakes and taking perfect lines around corners in a racing game. GRID will definitely put you through your paces on how to take the corners properly with the right amount of braking and acceleration at the correct time.
Once I got back into driving similar to how you drive in Forza Motorsport, Gran Turismo, and other driving simulation games then I started doing better in the races and GRID became very competitive and addicting. The races became mad dashes to the finish with crashes, spin outs, places swapping back and forth, and more. The computer controlled cars are aggressive and really try to win and don’t just follow a set path around the track. They will also spin out if they take a turn too fast or crash into each other if they try to go three wide in a turn that can only fit two cars. This really adds to the games atmosphere and it was really cool being behind and coming around a corner to see the first place guy spun out as you blow by them for the win.
All of this racing excitement takes place on multiple tracks with multiple paths that are located all around the world. You get to race in famous races like the 24 Hours of Le Mans and on famous tracks, but you also get some custom made tracks just for the game that have you heading through New York City, San Francisco, and Detroit, with multiple path options for different race configurations. You will also have to compete in drift races in Japan and the U.S. and Touge events that have you racing down narrow Japanese mountain passes. The tracks, the cars, and the spectators watching the race all look amazing and really suck you into the action. The detail on the cars easily matches or exceeds any other racing game on Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3 available today and the environments look just as good. The crowds that come to watch the races are also detailed and fully 3D animated. The whole environment feels alive and the different camera effects and smoke from the tires look great.
On top of all the environmental and car details you also get to enjoy the cars in their mangled states, since all the cars have real-time damage models that are very well done and allow the bumpers and doors to fall off, front-ends to crush, doors to fly open and shut, and pieces to be left on the track as you continue on in pursuit of first place. You also may see your car flipping down the track in a spectacular crash if you hit the wall just right. By the way, this is all in real-time and what is even better is you can watch the whole race and all the destruction in a very elaborate replay mode that even includes fast forward and reverse. Please note, that you must have a hard drive installed in your Xbox 360 to be able to view the replays.
Speaking of replays, GRID also gives you the ability to rewind the race up to 5 times per race if you crash or spin out. This feature allows you to try that turn you took too hot or that pass on five cars you attempted to do on that hairpin turn again. This is a cool feature that I used a lot throughout my GRID racing career. In GRID you no longer have to start the race all over if you wreck on the last lap of the race. You can just rewind and try it again from right before you crashed. This rewind option is automatically offered to you if you total your car, but you can also use it if you spin out if you initiate it by hitting pause as soon as you spin out or wreck without totaling your car. I wish they would offer the option if you spun out also, but they probably think you want to get the car back on the track and continue on instead of rewinding. I found that if I spun out that by the time I got the car turned around and going again I was usually in last place. So, I got in the habit of hitting the pause button as soon as I spun and didn’t wait until after trying to get back under control. You only get to rewind about five seconds, so if you wait too long to hit pause and rewind then you will end up rewinding where you are already in the spin which doesn’t help. This mid-race rewind is a cool feature that I would like to see other racing games implement if possible.
GRID’s music and sound effects are also up to speed with the other parts of the game. None of the music is licensed as far as I know, but it is still decent and entertaining when it plays. Most of the music has a techno, instrumental or rock style to it and I enjoyed it when it played. Music does not play throughout the races, so you will mainly hear just the engine noise, tires, and metal crunching. Some of the tracks have music that starts to play at the end of the race to pump up your adrenaline and get you even more nervous while trying not to mess up and hold the lead. The sound effects of the cars engines and wheels tearing up the road were as expected and the crunching metal and screeching tires put you right in the action. Hearing people come up behind you or a wreck happening right as you go by in surround sound was really cool too.
The car lineup in GRID is nowhere near as large as Gran Turismo and other games and you don’t get any options to tune the cars or add different rims, spoilers, etc. to them. The most customization you get is the ability to choose from different paint schemes and graphics on the cars. You also get to choose your primary, secondary, and accent colors for your cars that you own that are part of your race team. Choosing where you would like the sponsor stickers located on your ride is the only other car customization feature available. Car customization is really not a big part of GRID, but I didn’t miss it, since I was too busy trying to get to the next race to unlock more tracks and cars instead of worrying about which rims, tires or shocks I wanted to install on my ride.
I would like to touch real quick on the sponsor stickers again. These stickers are how you earn money to buy cars in GRID and as you play through the game you will get more and more sponsors to choose. You also get to hire a teammate and he also has these sponsors backing him. The sponsors then pay the both of you for things such as finishing within the top 5 or finishing the race with no damage or just finishing the race in general. This sponsorship and teammate idea is also pretty cool, but I do have to admit that I got sick of my American teammate telling me “Dude, I am right behind you” or “Dude, I am in first place.”
It is funny that when I first started playing GRID I was wondering what all the hype was about and I thought the game looked good but was very hard to control and frustrating, but as I continued to play I realized that I was wrong. GRID is probably one of the best racing games on the market and I easily put it up there with Burnout Paradise, Ridge Racer 6 or 7, Project Gotham Racing 3 or 4 and other next generation racing games. If you are a racing game fan then you owe it to yourself to try GRID and make sure to give yourself a little bit of time to get use to the game. I think you will really like it. Lastly, if you want to start your race team out with a few more cars then just the 1970 Ford Mustang then I suggest heading over to GameFAQs.com and the GRID website to unlock some hidden cars available in the game.
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