RaceDriver GRID: The Review

by
Inf

GRID Box

UPDATE: A number of handling issues discussed in this article are solved by making sure the game is not lagging on your machine, and for me, by disabling that %&$# thing called Motion Blur! Oh the bliss! Now I know why GRID earned 80% or more! It’s TOTALLY worth it!

Upon recommendation from Abi, I purchased RaceDriver GRID on PC. The graphics in the previews and demos were simply superb as you will see in the coming pictures. Codemasters really went all-out to give us a great treat for the eyes. I’d go as far as saying that the graphics surpass even that of Need for Speed: Pro Street.

But, as you will also see in this review, GRID as I will call the game, as a number of quirks that bring down its value. By quirks, I do not mean bugs, but design flaws. Specially i handling. For now, a video for you to drool on!

Now let’s come to the actual elements that make up the game…First, the requirements, straight off Wikipedia:

Race Driver: GRID System Requirements

Minimum Specifications

  • Windows XP/Vista. (If running Windows Vista, SP1 is recommended)
  • DirectX 9.0c
  • Pentium 4 @ 3.0GHz or Athlon 64 3000+
  • 1GB RAM.
  • Graphics Card: GeForce 6800 / Radeon X1300 or above
  • DirectX Compatible Sound Card
  • Dual Layer Compatible DVD-ROM Drive
  • 12.5 GB Hard Drive Space

Recommended Specifications

  • Windows XP/Vista. (If running Windows Vista, SP1 is recommended)
  • DirectX 9.0c
  • Intel Core 2 Duo @ 2.66Ghz or Athlon X2 3800+
  • 2GB RAM.
  • Graphics Card: GeForce 8800 or Radeon HD 3800 series
  • Sound Card: Creative Sound Blaster X-Fi Sound Card.
  • Dual Layer Compatible DVD-ROM Drive
  • 12.5 GB Hard Drive Space

Supported Graphics Cards ATI Radeon X1300, X1600, X1800, X1900, X1950, HD2600, HD2900, HD3870, HD 4850, HD 4870 NVIDIA Geforce 6800, 7100, 7300, 7600, 7800, 7900, 7950, 8600, 8800, 9800, GTX 260, GTX 280 (Laptop versions of these cards may work but are not supported.[10])

Pros:

  • Great graphics
  • Innovative game modes (Touring Cars for eg.)
  • Innovative in-game features (loading-screen stats, audio names, …)
  • Great level of realism (specially crowd)
  • Impressive physics effects (environment and car crashes)

Cons:

  • Very bad car handling. I stress on that. It’s BAD! (Specially at first)
  • Loads of trial-and-error for first levels to be able to control car
  • Impressive number of restarts (if you don’t use Flashbacks)
  • Cars behave abnormally (do wild spins on grass and sand)
  • Scripted-like AI that plays just too well
  • AI make all modes look like Destruction Derby
  • Somewhat slow menus

Contents:

The Gameplay:

As a whole, GRID is quite innovative, and brings a number of new things that I have not seen in racing games for quite a while. GRID aims to combine the fun of Need for Speed, the realism of Gran Turismo and brings new game modes to the fun. You will not see the generic modes like “Sprint”, but instead modes like “Destruction Derby“, “Touring Cars” and others. The modes are really varied, and the cars are too. Be ready to race anything from Le Mans cars to heavily tuned Japanese cars and the roaring American Muscles, going through the fast F1 cars. Yep! It’s all in GRID. And for this, I give a thumbs up to Codemasters. It was cool to have all those new modes and can really have varied game experiences, instead of the repeating modes of say, Need for Speed Underground. Also, I liked the loading screens that give you game statistics, like how many wins you have or how many flashbacks you have. It can be good and bad. Good if you are a great GRID gamer, and bad if you want to hide how badly you often lose (200 flashbacks used)! 😛

The Graphics:

GRID In-Game1

AWESOME! That’s all there is to say. The level of realism in GRID is astounding! Everything looks so clean, so perfect that it’s sometimes scary. No, I don’t mean realism like in Gran Turismo. That’s a whole new level where rendered cars look like real cars. But GRID has nothing to be shy of. Its cars are superbly designed, and the level of detail in the levels is great. The particle effects, the wind, the motion blurs all add to the greatness of the graphics in GRID. And what’s even better? NO LAGS! I’ve been running that game on High graphics with 4xAA and I didn’t even see a fragment of a lag. That Ego engine of Codemasters really does its job well, no complaints here.

The crowd is good too. The people react to situations, and have unique behaviors. Come crashing in a barrier near a crowd and see them scamper. Watch the flashes follow you as you race by. All those small details can only increase the realism in GRID, and I appreciated that.

Another good feature is the damage model. The cars can be reduced to bits realistically. Hit against an opponent and watch your bumper leaving you, or your windshield cracking (the sound is heard too) if you switch to car-interior view. The driver does realistic actions too by the way. Hit against a wall, and watch everything fly apart, leaving your car as a piece of scrap metal. Good realistic crashes are in GRID, you can be sure.

The Quirks: Now the bad part. I see reviewers like PC Gamer and Gamespot giving GRID 80% overall, and I don’t know why. I’d give it around 7/10 or even 6/10 for its design flaws, namely when it comes to handling the vehicles and the AI. First, the handling of vehicles is shit (please excuse my language, but I find no better word than this). The vehicles behave really abnormally, almost jerky. It’s as if they can’t stay in a straight line. They seem to have a mind of their own, going where they want, and doing what they want. It’s either that, or the driver is high. (Hey! Are you high??)

GRID Car-Interior

Hell! At any wrong manoeuvre, you will see your car racing off track, spinning uncontrollably without any chance of recovery! Try driving on the grass for example. You will see your car doing mad spins. Try steering and it’s just worse! The car keeps doing 360 or 540 degree turns! It’s a godlike feat to be able to control your vehicle in these situations, unless you brake like mad to bring your car to a halt (and see all your opponents zipping by, laughing madly I’m sure!). The handling is THAT bad! Don’t even try to remove the driving assists, or your cars will really become uncontrollable, rendering the game almost unplayable!

Don’t the Codemasters developers know how cars behave in real-life? They don’t do huge spins when they drive over grass or sand! It’s as if the wheels totally lose friction! The curves are difficult to negociate without considerably decreasing your speed, else you will see yourself doing spins again. Never try to cut through a curve by driving on grass, else you will totally lose control of the vehicle. The Handbrake is almost unusable. And guess what? There is even a drift mode! How the hell am I supposed to control my haywire vehicle?? For the very 1st race where you get your license, I had to restart at least 10 times to actually finish the race in a good position! This restart thing happens with every race, up to a point where you get really frustrated! You just want the damn car to stick to the road, not to take you on some kind of rodeo!! After that you just restart the game, and then re-restart and up to the point where you just give up.

You want some proof? Switch to Inside Car view. Just go through a bend at high speed, then use the handbrake. Your car should start spinning. Release the directions, but keep the acceleration button pressed. You will see the driver returning the wheel to neutral position (i.e. wheels should point straight ahead of car). However, the car will keep on spinning in 360 degrees turns, instead of going straight ahead as a normal car would do. That’s physics-defying!

The Flashback feature is a life-saver here. It allows you to rewind the action a few seconds back and take control of your car again, and giving you a chance at avoiding a spin-off or a crash. It’s a good feature. The problem is that you need to actually view an instant replay to choose where you want to flashback to! Wouldn’t it have been easier to just flashback you 5-10 seconds earlier at the press of a button, without having to see the darned replay?

Next, the music. I don’t know if it’s a problem at my place, but there is NO in-race music! I just hear the sound of the engine on and on (and it’s annoying and headache-inducing) without ANY background music! This is both annoying and weird! Why? I believe it is because of the dude that keeps giving you information and advices during the game. Information like which of your opponents spun off the street, your current race position and everything. I can accept that dude telling me information (although it’s disgusting to hear him say the same things over and over, specially when you restart the race!). But I’d like some background music to help me relax! If they wanted to keep both the dude and the music, they could have faded out the music when the talking starts, and fade it back when it ends!

Sorry, but the problem of no in-race music was at my place. I managed to fix it, or should I say, it fixed itself. I dunno how, but the music stared playing. It’s a nice track (I heard only one till now) and it really adds some spice to the races. It’s a pumping, energetic music, and it really gets you in the mood for racing. Still, it’s not on all tracks that you get music. Nope, the handling is still bad for most cars. Except the Muscle cars. I love the handling on those!

Here, I think that either Codemasters were lazy, or that they didn’t have enough budget to do a track selection. I’ve got to set my own music to background-play when I game in GRID. Ughh! The menu music is good though. It’s a pity there is no in-race music, specially for a racing game where it’s specially important. Why? Play GRID and you will know how annoying just plain engine noises are for background music in-race, and specially when you see your car being possessed and doesn’t respond to you!

Now the AI. I HATE THE AI! These computer-controlled drivers make me really mad! They do everything soooo simply! They do all the corners almost perfectly, drive cars as if they are floating and the like! It’s as if they are not affected by the rules of the game! The AI plays as if by scripted actions, and it’s not too great to see them doing everything perfectly, while you spin in the sand, creating very nice particle effects.

The worst thing about them is that they make every mode of the game look like Destruction Derby! They keep slamming in your flanks, which results in your car flying off track, again on one of the mad spins. This happens at the smallest of pushes from them! They go crazy on you during curves to make you go off-road! When you try to slam them? They are almost not affected, but you are! And they brake like mad! Hit their rear, and off you go! That’s plain unfair! Example, I never saw Formula 1 cars slamming into each-other, but in GRID, it’s common! -1 for realism! (See what the AI does to your car!)

GRID Crash

Other quirks… And as always, expect the damned “catch-up” feature. If you are too far ahead, the rival cars defy all laws of gaming to come to your tail again! It’s plainly visible on the maps, when you see the rival dots almost teleporting to your tail! Also, the game is a bit slow in menu transitions. After a while, you’d really want the menus to load faster, instead of giving you cool transition effects.

Conclusion:

That would be it for my review of RaceDriver GRID. I liked the graphics. I liked the innovative gameplay. But I never hated cars like those in GRID. The cars do not behave as real cars at all! I never knew that driving on sand would send your car into spinning fits. The car-handling physics are just plain weird. You’ll probably be shouting and cursing while you drive in GRID: “No! Don’t go there!! NOOO!! BACK! BACCCK!!! AAAHHHH!!! &^%&$%!! GET BACK ON THE ROAD!” or possibly: “YOU &%$#&!!!! YOU SLAMMED ME! Wait! I’ll slam you!! WHY?! WHY AM I OFF-ROAD?!! AHHH!!”. Those frustration outbursts are common in GRID, beware!

GRID looks like an arcade game rather than a simulation, and I never really liked arcade-handling on PC. If you want some better gaming experience, you will require a gamepad, which is a must for GRID. I wouldn’t try playing on the keyboard if I were you! Next, adjust the “Advanced” properties in the Driving Controls in settings. Adjust the Steering Deadzone, Steering Saturation and Steering Linearity to make the steering more sensitive and increase better straight-line handling. The defaults didn’t suit me at all. Note: I’m still relatively new to GRID. If I see improvements as I game more, I’ll adjust the review accordingly. 🙂

It’s quite a good game, but there are better ones out there. However, if Codemasters manage to fix the handling issues and the wacky AI, GRID will totally own.

Edits / Additions:

I finally got the hang of that dreadful-looking handling of GRID, thanks to the wise words of Abi. Thanks mate!

Anyways, the biggest trick in GRID is using your brake like mad! I mean it, you really need to hammer that button a whole lot. But not during the bends! Do NOT try to drift around corners, unless you want to see beautiful rubber marks on the road, in circular shapes! What you do is hold in the brake just before a sharp bend (there is a red light flashing near the mini-map). Then do the bend smoothly, then as you are exiting, accelerate out.

Next, do NOT hit the AI cars. These are really vengeful, and at the next opportunity, they will hit you where it hurts the most! In the most vicious of bends, with loads of grass or sand. Then, just say bye-bye to your win!

Other Tips:

Here are some tips for you if you want to improve your GRID playing. Mind you, it’s just my personal tricks, and might not work for everyone:

  • Under Driving Options, adjust the Advanced properties to your liking, eg. more sensitive. This is quite important.
  • When the AI are negotiating bends, keep off them. They WILL ram you.
  • The AI is quite vengeful. Hit them and they hit you!
  • Never use the handbrake turns as emergency braking. You will spin.
  • Never go through bends at high speeds, which leads to:
  • The brake is the most important thing in GRID. ABUSE it!
  • When you have crashed or lost control, use your flashback if you are on Lap 2 or 3. Don’t restart.
  • Don’t retire from races. It affect your reputation. You can Quit to Garage and resume later.

You got some tricks? Share them with me! 😛

Finally, you might want to slightly tone down the sensitivity, and up the steering linearity by 1 point. It worked for me.

EDIT: I know I am kind of lame at discovering this so late but anyways, here goes. The game is much easier now (for me at least) since I disabled Motion Blur! The road is much clearer. Also, if your game is lagging, even slight lags, it’ll totally affect your gameplay! So beware of that. If needed, reduce the Graphics settings a bit. Like put 2x Anti-Aliasing if you are currently using 4x.

More to come as I find them.
Overall ratings:

Graphics: 9.5 / 10
Music: 6/10 (No in-race music at my place. Is it same for you?)
Handling: 2/10! Enjoyment: 5/10 (5 for graphics and gameplay, 0 for actual game enjoyment!)
AI: 8/10 (They play TOO well!)
Value: 6/10

Overall: 7/10

  • sleepoholic

    1st of all the graphics is too good….i dont think i’ll simply be able to play it….secoundly if u say the gaming is not very real then u r mistaken…its just too real!!!!!! if you played any nfs before nfs : pro street u’ll no wat i mean…i had about the same experience wiw pro street as u seem to have wiw GRID but i did some changes n adapted a bit…in nfs-ps u can disable certain features like ABS….( i disabled tracking smthing and electronic smthing :p)it really helps….driving becomes much more easier..also u can now cr8 blueprints 4 ur car and apply em, modify em, share em wiw friends….only con though is the LAN playing…before u could play nfs on a LAN easily but now u have to go online….wiw our 128/256k connection i dont think that is even possible….i’ll also add that gaming has become really expensive….time to get back to good ol’ boardgamesss!!! :p

  • InF

    It ran smoothly on my GeForce 8600 512MB card, and it might for some lower cards. See the minimum recommendations. You can also try lowering the graphics a bit.

    Regarding graphics, I got to agree that GRID is just perfect. But the handling really is bad, and I’ve been a long time race-game addict. I’ve done nearly all NFS series, Burnout, Gran Turismo and a lot of the big names. But GRID is really in a category apart.

    It’s really like an arcade games, like those you play at Kiddyland or something. It’s not really good. And the cars do behave abnormally. Come’on! Cars don’t do mad spins when driving on grass, nor do they do it on sand. They just go straight through. The handling is just weird. At least it was for me, and lots of other players who complained about the handling.

    If I had to compare, I’d say the handling is like rally games a bit, but still too difficult, specially when the AI is ramming your behind.

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