When it comes to racing games that encompass more than just getting from the starting point to the checkered flag, few serve as brilliant examples outside of the underappreciated ONRUSH. That said, GRIP manages to do enough differently to stand out; if indeed being held back by a range of technical issues and design blemishes. One thing that I’ll say straight off the bat, however, is that if GRIP gets anything right, it’s how well it relays white-knuckle, second-by-second speed. It’s just a shame that some glaring issues break the decent pace.
Booting up the game, you’re provided with a fair pool of options to jump on; campaign, single player, online, split-screen, garage, and the usual additions that enable you to make some changes to the game’s settings, and so forth. Now, let’s start with the chaff. The campaign is senseless, in a Quake III Arena sort of way. Yes, that’s a very odd comparison to make, but I’m talking strictly about the structure here. In GRIP’s campaign, you’re tasked with a wide series of random events to participate in, mostly a collection of the race types.
This alone isn’t really a bad thing, but needing to move through over ten tiers in order to beat the campaign, is a slog. In fact if anything, it only highlights that it’s just that, a drag. There’s next to no story for it to be truly considered a campaign, and instead has you simply taking on a collection of events per-tier, a few times over, before moving onto the next tier. I gave up a number of tiers in, with little to no incentive to return.
Instead, I took to the game’s single player aspects, which for the most part, is kind of the same as the campaign.
I don’t want to drag on the campaign too much, because it does do a good job at introducing a progressively steeper difficulty as new mechanics and parameters are introduced, but again, you just cant help but feel as though it’s stretched far beyond what it needed to be. Nevertheless, the concept is the same from the off. You’ll hit varying race types; be it traditional racing, combat racing, a mixture of both, or more, and earn EXP to go towards your overall rank – with the occasional rival thrown in for, well, the sake of it.
The single player mode is split into three categories; race, arena and carkour. Both the race and arena modes are mixes of the race types that you’ll witness in the campaign. The carkour mode, on the other hand, tasks you with overcoming a range of deviously tricky tracks. There’s certainly some skill needed to finish all of these off, especially throughout the latter stages of the mode. Here, you’ll need to perfectly jump over gaps, stay on increasingly thin tracks without falling off the edge, and other like-minded patience testers.
Still, when all is said and done, it’s a lot of fun and truly pushes you to the max. Both online and split screen are fairly self explanatory, with neither going above what you would expect to see from a game of this type. I can report that following launch of the game, the servers don’t seem too devoid of life. Sure, I had to wait several minutes for a lobby to fill after some failed attempts, but once there, everyone in the lobby typically stuck around for a decent length of time thereafter. I can also gladly report that online stability is top notch.
Once I was engaged in a race with real-world players, I didn’t witness a single issue throughout. I only hope that we see some cross-play functionality added in due course, if for anything to strengthen the online pool of players to keep a consistent head count in place. Over in the garage is where you’ll select your chosen vehicle, with many of them being gated behind a specific level rank, much like decals. That said, I quite enjoyed the variation that each vehicle offers. Many of the vehicles are better for specific events, making choice an importance.
I quite enjoyed rallying around in my Dreadnaught, a vehicle that excels at both strength and maximum speed. However, later in the game, I found that its lack of acceleration was hindering my performance quite a bit in races that required a lot of combat. Switching up to the Dominator alleviated this to some degree, thanks to its high acceleration, however, its weak strength made me a target for the most part. GRIP isn’t just about owning one vehicle and sticking with it, you’ll need to test out and bond with each and every vehicle to succeed.
Speaking of variety overall, I do have to commend GRIP for its content depth. Whilst the structure of the campaign leaves a lot to be desired, and indeed the online component could do with some fresh blood, there’s no denying the game of its value. The crux of play sees you being pit against some fairly competent AI as you make progress through the game’s sizable event list. There’s a short yet pretty intuitive tutorial to rely on once you first begin the game, teaching you the basics of play in a single and simple oval-track race.
Here, you’ll learn how racing functions within, as well as how to boost and how to use your pick-up weaponry. For a racer with as much depth as GRIP has, I was pleasantly surprised to see how accessible it is. The control inputs don’t require too much perseverance, leaving you free to get to the nitty gritty without much effort or strain. The kicker in GRIP is that your vehicle can ride on both its front and on its back, on top of being able to ride on walls and on upside-down surfaces, ultimately making for a fast-paced and action-packed affair.
Straight from the starting line you can feel the speed, going from zero to blistering quickness in the blink of an eye. You’ll race through and across a range of well designed and distinctly themed maps, many of which are multi-tiered and offer several pathways to the finishing line. One gripe that I have is that there are times in which your vehicle will hit an invisible barrier or become lodged in the environment, bringing the otherwise fast-pace to a complete halt. You can indeed respawn instantly at will, but it still hurts the experience.
Outside of that, it can oftentimes be tricky to swiftly move from surface to surface, which many of tracks promote infrequently. Several times did I try quickly moving from wall racing to on-track racing due to an obstacle of some sort, only to hit a barrier during transfer. I guess getting to know the tracks a lot better would remedy this issue, but for newcomers, it’s hard to gel with. There’s little else to groan at elsewhere. GRIP is a very accomplished and ambitious racer, a racer that knows exactly what sort of racer it wants to be, and succeeds.
Races that you’re subject to will vary. There’s traditional position races that sees you battling for first place. Races that have you doing the same but with weaponry thrown into the mix, (arena) races that see you wreaking havoc for the most points, and more. Most of the race types toy with the game’s core foundation; be it combat or pure racing, and it’s all done – despite its technical issues – remarkably well. It would have been nice to see some more weapon variation, or pick-up consistency, but that’s a very small complaint to make.
When all is said and done, GRIP achieves much of what it sets out to accomplish. It helps, of course, that the visual design is pretty solid. There’s a nice sharpness to the game’s vehicle models and tracks, all of which provide enough distinction to keep the game feeling fresh. I also have to commend the game’s soundtrack, which does well at injecting the game with all the more excitement and character. Safe to say that if you’re looking for a new combat racer and you’re tired of the karts, GRIP will serve you well and keep you going for hours.
GRIP isn’t a bad racer by any means, but it could have been a lot more than what it is had the developer spent more time refining track consistency. Furthermore, the campaign itself feels nonsensical by design, and there’s certainly some population needed for its online component. Nevertheless, and despite those faults, GRIP is one of the most fun, intense and unique combat racers in recent memory.
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox One. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version.