Article first published as Playstation 3 Review: 'Grid: Autosport’ on Blogcritics.
Though Codemasters has a long racing-game pedigree, in 2008, their multi-platform "Race Driver: Grid" took many Playstation 3 and Xbox 360 gamers by surprise. Both Microsoft and Sony have invested heavily in the racing genre, but particularly with Sony, it’s a long time between iterations and until "Forza’s" "Horizon" series, both titles lean toward the simulation side of racing. It was "Grid’s" accessibility without being a total arcade racer like the "Need For Speed" series that made it popular. The follow-up, "Grid 2" failed to capture that same magic, and forced Codemasters retool. The newly released "Grid: Autosport" attempts to remedy its predecessor’s ills.
Like the previous "Grid" games, "Grid: Autosport" puts players into the role of a professional racer, but unlike "Grid 2," there is no tacked-on narrative. Almost everything about your career is explained in the menus. What all of that means in the game, is that your reputation determines your team offers, which in-turn controls what car you get to drive and what, if any adjustments you can make to that vehicle. This also sets you up with teammates, rivals and sponsor requirements to fulfil within your races. The less demanding the requirements, the less experience points you will net. This formula applies to each of the five racing disciplines.
"Grid: Autosport" offers a career mode, custom championship, online play and split-screen multiplayer. The career mode lets you run through a season in either touring, endurance, open-wheel, tuning, and street racing. Each category features is dedicated to different car classes, including touring Cars, hyper cars, endurance GT cars, prototypes, single-seaters, super modified vehicles, Drift cars and more. It is worth noting that these disciplines are all self-contained. This means that even if you’ve become a champion in touring, once you switch over to open-wheel, or other types, you need to start at the beginning.
Making a return to the "Grid" series in "Grid: Autosport" is the cockpit view, however many will be underwhelmed. In a cost saving move, Codemasters has blurred out and shaded the instrument panels to allow them to reuse the textures. It’s not a huge deal, considering most will just be happy that the option exists, but it does speak to the overall presentation level of the game. "Autosport," certainly isn’t terrible, it just isn’t going to be used as a tech demo. Of course, because "Grid: Autosport" is only available on the now last-gen systems, no one should expect breathtaking visuals. This somewhat Spartan approach, applies to the audio also.
I’m not personally a fan of music in racing games. As a kid, I developed an appreciation for cars and the race track, so "Grid: Autosport’s" lack of a soundtrack is fine with me. Of course, not everyone else is going to agree. What bothers me a bit more with the audio, is the lack of authenticity in some of the engine and tire sounds. Another aspect that is a bit jarring, is that while there is a significant difference in the handling of the various classes of cars, there isn’t enough difference in the way these cars actually work. The open-wheel cars are the most obvious example, because the game will actually let you nearly destroy one of these precision balanced machines and still drive as if nothing is wrong at all.
"Grid: Autosport" is a competent racing title with no serious omissions. The hundred or so tracks are cut out of 22 different locations. While the career mode forces you to focus on a particular discipline, the RaceNet powered multiplayer allows much more freedom in race customization. Weekly challenges, party modes and a demolition derby round out the title further. Truthfully, "Grid: Autosport" has something for most racing fans, and the various assists make sure even a novice racer can compete. It’s just the little stuff that keeps it from reaching the level of the first party offerings of the console makers.