GRID Autosport: First Impressions

Last month, Codemasters talked about how they wanted to focus on “authentic racing games for the foreseeable future”. The first title to be released under this new philosophy is GRID Autosport, the next iteration in the popular racing series. I got the chance to take it for a spin, and see how Codemasters’ new vision translates into the series.

Autosport definitely does a great job at simulating a race weekend, with practice, qualifying, and races all recreated. You can tweak the setups to your liking, and the extent of your tweaking is determined by your team.

Handling is a major improvement over GRID 2, but there still is a sense of floatiness to the steering. There is a sense of disconnect from the road, but it is not as bad as, say, Shift 2 Unleashed. There is a clear difference between cars, where open wheel cars can be much more precise than tintops. Another note is that the game works best with 270 degrees of rotation, and there is no dynamic adjustment like in other titles.

AI is solid, but also very aggressive. I never have made it through a race without having the AI slam into me. However, you can have some very solid racing at times. I have had multiple races where the margin of victory was less than a tenth of a second (on very hard difficulty). Per the notes given to me by Codemasters, the AI is still work in progress. Here’s what they mentioned about it.

  • Team Mate AI not finalized – We are continuing to refine the behaviors of the AI team mate to balance the risk and reward of asking him to push and defend, as well as his basic abilities.
  • AI improvements and Optimizations. The AI in race will continue to be optimized until the game is complete.

Racing in the Endurance modes can provide for a different experience. The races are calculated by time instead of laps, and can range from 8 to 40 minutes. Tire wear is also simulated in endurance races, but no other game modes simulate it. Tire wear is scaled to race length as well (tires wear faster in an 8 minute race than a 40 minute one), but is also dynamic. The more aggressively you drive, the faster they will wear, and that can make all the difference. In my first endurance race, I drove like a maniac, and it bit me in the last turn of the race, costing me the win. This is another area that they are still working on per this note.

  • Endurance tyre wear rates – These are still being balanced and are not final

Tuner races have a good variety, ranging from drift events, to time trials. I found drifting to be quite fun, but takes some getting used to with the GRID handling model.  I bet with more time I can get the hang of it.

Damage has always been one of the strong points of GRID, and I’m happy to say that Codemasters has done a great job with damage in Autosport. My second endurance race served as a strong reminder that damage is an integral part of racing. I had to start in last place due to a qualifying incident with the AI re-entering the track. I was working my way through the field, but then I heard the unmistakable crunch of metal on metal. I then see my left door fall off, and my left-front suspension was destroyed. I worked at trying to keep the car on the track, but right turns were a nightmare, especially with the track being a clockwise circuit. Somehow I was able to limp the car to a fifth place finish, but it definitely took a lot of effort to keep the car out of the wall. It felt rewarding to just finish the race with a damaged car, to maintain a solid position in the championship.

Flashbacks have also made a return to Autosport, albeit with some changes. It is now similar to Forza’s rewind system, which I didn’t prefer as much as Grid/DIRT’s system. I sometimes enjoyed intentionally wrecking my car and then watching it in the replay before resuming the race, but now in Autosport, you can’t flashback if you total your car.

If you accept the fact that Autosport is not a pure simulation, but a Simcade title, then you can enjoy it. Codemasters has touted the title as more of a 60/40 focus on simulation, and I’d be inclined to agree with them. I’d say it does a great job capturing the experience of a race weekend, and the experience of actually racing.

You can look for GRID Autosport to release for the Xbox 360, Playstation 3, and PC on June 27th, 2014. For more information, you can check out GRID’s official website. You can also see more coverage from us HERE. Are you looking forward to the next chapter of the GRID series? Let us know in the comments.