Also On: Xbox 360, PC
Developer: Codemasters Racing
Medium: Blu-ray Disc
GRID Autosport won’t go down as my favorite racing title by the talented devs at Codemasters Racing, and I doubt it’ll top most fans best of lists either. It’s not a particularly awful racer, or broken in any significant way, I just didn’t find myself having much fun while playing it. Most of my issues with GRID Autosport stem from the single-player portion of the game, in fact, I found multiplayer to be my preferred mode. I’m not sure what the thinking was in structuring the Career mode the way Codemasters has here, but it’s certainly not something I’d like to see return in future GRID installments.
Career mode is broken up into seasons. Each season you pick from one of five different car disciplines, which will dictate what types of cars you’ll drive, and what courses you’ll face. GRID Autosport isn’t lacking in variety, with over 20 tracks and around 100 course variations, plus plenty of well-known car manufacturers and models. But while titles like Forza and Gran Turismo seem to focus heavily on the actual cars and tracks featured, GRID doesn’t highlight these aspects much. Instead, it’s more about the type of racing you’ll engage in, which brings you to the five disciplines offered here.
GRID Autosport features Touring, Endurance, Open Wheel, Tuner and Street as its five primary disciplines. Each discipline has a series of events to compete in, as you race against A.I. controlled opponents, and a computer controlled teammate. Each discipline has its own experience bar to fill, so you’ll level up each discipline individually. Once you’ve hit landmarks of level 3, 6 and 9, you’ll unlock additional GRID Series events, which grant experience for all five disciplines.
Each season features a couple of sponsor choices to pick from, pulled from real-world brands like Intel and Oakley. The sponsor you choose will dictate who your A.I. teammate will be, and the optional goals available to complete for bonus experience. These goals typically involve beating a particular racer or team, traveling so many miles on a course, coming in 8th or better place, and so on. There are small objectives that’ll earn you only a couple hundred experience a piece, doled out for each race completed in a season. At the end of the season, you can also earn way more experience by completing the two team/sponsor objectives, providing a considerable boost of experience if completed.
None of this sounds particularly awful, until you realize that you’re locked into each discipline for every season of play. Granted, seasons are short, offering only a handful of races at most, but not being able to switch between disciplines on the fly seems like a needless nuisance. Also, you have to actively compete in every single discipline, not all of which are going to be appealing depending on your preferences. For instance, I absolutely loathed the Touring events, featuring 8 minute timers across tough track layouts with overly powerful vehicles. Even turning on all assists and dialing the difficulty back to Easy had little impact on my inability to navigate Touring events. You could certainly argue that with more practice I’d improve, but quite frankly I didn’t want to play these tracks or cars at all.
And in Career mode, you can’t actually choose your car, so I never had the opportunity to try my hand with a different vehicle in the Touring discipline, or any other discipline for that matter. You do have some tuning options, but no actual upgrades unless the vehicle being used for an event already has one installed. You have no real garage to maintain, and no progression curve outside of unlocking additional events. It’s a very different direction to take a single-player racing career, especially when compared to heavy-hitters in the genre. That lack of options or freedom really sucked the fun out of the game for me, despite featuring events and tracks that I did enjoy in disciplines outside of Touring.
It’s even more odd when compared to GRID Autosport’s multiplayer mode, which actually gives you all of those options and more. You’ll have a garage, a starter car, earn cash and experience for completing events, and can even purchase new or used vehicles. You can unlock upgrades based on experience levels, and can still fine tune the vehicle, or paint it to your liking. Basically everything that’s missing in the Career mode is tucked away into multiplayer, so why not have these options available in both modes? The only real issues here is that the community is already dwindling. Custom Cup mode in multiplayer is somewhat active, but this doesn’t grant you experience or cash for necessary unlocks and upgrades. The playlist mode that features the five disciplines does, but I could never find more than 4 or 5 people in matchmaking at any given moment.
And it’s a shame that the career mode is such a letdown here, because everything else about GRID Autosport feels fine. It’s still a series that attempts to straddle the line between sim and arcade racer, and does so better than most. There’s some real challenge to be had when you crank up the A.I. difficulty and turn off the assists. The track and course variety here is great, especially when compared to something like Forza 5. And while the hardware the game is running on might be aging, it’s a far cry from a bad looking game. I don’t necessarily think the teammate aspect of the career mode works, wherein you can dictate how aggressive or passive your teammate is on the road, but outside of that the mechanics of GRID Autosport are pretty great. Essentially the career mode is a real black-eye on an otherwise solid racing experience. Check it out for the multiplayer, but don’t be in a rush to pick this one up.