The GRID series has an interesting history. The inaugural title, Race Driver: GRID, was a cracking debut that served as a sort of successor to the TOCA franchise. It laid down some incredibly solid groundwork that sequels didn't quite build upon properly. Codemasters has seen fit to revisit the series with the appropriately named GRID, but can it finally live up to that original vision?
Let's start at the top level. Like its predecessors, this is a multi-discipline racing game that straddles the line between arcade and simulation handling. A breezy opener establishes this by having you partake in three differing events in quick succession before you get into the game proper. The Career mode is your main destination, and consists of six different branches of motorsport. From stock cars to GT races, it provides you with a decent variety of events.
The good news is that you can approach the Career more or less how you want. If, for example, there are one or two disciplines you don't care for, you can largely ignore them and just get on with what you enjoy. Each branch of the Career culminates in a final Showdown event, and you only need four of the six in order to compete in the GRID World Series -- the main throwdown.
This accessible approach permeates the rest of the game, too. From the start, Free Play is unlocked, allowing you to set up custom events with any car class. If you don't own a car in a given class, you can loan one. Multiplayer is similarly easy to get into. Again, you can create custom races for you and your buddies, or select Quick Match to be put into matchmaking. Unfortunately, there are no local multiplayer options, but online at least seems very robust in our experience.
As you might expect, the handling model feels great. Where many of Codemasters' other racers are leaning into simulation, GRID is refreshingly forgiving on the default settings. Though the number of cars is somewhat slim compared to other titles, the various categories are at least pretty different when you get behind the wheel. Having said that, you can throw more or less any vehicle around quite happily here. Overall, the handling is responsive, but cars feel suitably weighty at the same time.
As mentioned, player options are key, and you can of course increase the challenge in a number of ways. A handful of driving assists and other aids can be toggled on and off, allowing players to adjust the racing experience to their tastes. For the record, playing with all assists disabled did make a bit of a difference, but those looking for a sim might be disappointed.
The AI has some interesting tricks up its sleeve. Other drivers all have their own unique quirks, meaning each one behaves slightly differently. They'll even mess up from time to time, adding some drama to races as unpredictable opponents may spin out or smash into a tyre wall. In addition to this is a nemesis system. If you anger an AI driver enough, they'll start gunning for you, and will aim to beat you with heightened aggression. All this can add up to some entertaining races where the action may not necessarily come from the player.
Teammates make a return from previous entries, allowing you to recruit a partner. As with the other AI, each one has unique traits; some may listen to you more on the track, while others may be less loyal but better drivers. It's a fine enough system, but its implementation does feel a little distant. You're picking a teammate, but even if you use the basic commands mid-race, it doesn't really feel like you're part of a duo.
In fact, a lot of GRID rings slightly hollow. While the content is there and the racing itself is great fun, it can all feel a bit barebones. The usual flair is missing from the game's presentation -- it's all a bit lacklustre. Some aspects are too simplified -- your team name seems to have no use in the game whatsoever, the Garage doesn't feature an option to see only the cars you've purchased, while tuning is tucked away in an option some might miss. Between this and 30 frames per second performance on a standard PS4, it doesn't quite have that premium feel you'd expect from Codies.
Tracks are a mix of real and fictional circuits, each with various different routes. Some locations will be familiar if you've played a GRID game before, such as road courses like San Francisco or Barcelona, but there are a few new tracks in the mix. They do start to feel a little familiar once you're a decent way into the Career, but we expect post-launch content will seek to remedy that somewhat.
GRID is a very solid racing game that harkens back to the 2008 original in some important ways. The action-packed racing itself is great and often unpredictable, and the handling strikes that balance between arcade and sim wonderfully. However, presentation isn't really up to scratch, and it leaves the game feeling a little cheap. We can't shake the feeling that the pursuit of that GRID personality has only led to a game that's, perhaps ironically, struggling for an identity. When all is said and done, though, there's still plenty to enjoy here, and it's certainly one of PS4's better casual racing games where it counts.