To say that Race Driver: GRID is similar to Colin McRae: DiRT is a bit of an understatement. And we're not just talking about the stylish use of capital letters in its NAME. The interface, the handling and the wildly varied car choice are all seemingly taken straight from DiRT, which it has to be said, is no bad thing.
You compete, as ever these days, for "Rep" - reputation points from wins. These points add up to unlock higher licences in each of the game's three regions - Europe, Japan and the USA - with high point tallies unlocking tougher groups of races. And it's hard enough to begin with, as even the first tier of events at Rookie level on Basic difficulty had us cursing at the screen.
That said, you are given the choice of exactly how hardcore you want each race to be. Stick it on Basic and your Rep reward is lowered. Switch on driving aids - auto gears, traction and stability control, braking assist - you get fewer points still. Plus, if you deactivate Pro mode for a Rep bonus, you're denied access to GRID's 'flashback' system, making it even tougher.
Flashback is a rewind feature like the one in good old Xbox 360 launch game Full Auto. Kiss a corner barrier at top whack and it's possible to rewind time and give the turn another go. It's cheating, scores you less points and encourages reckless driving, but it's definitely handy if you're a beginner getting over-friendly with the walls.
When you do hit barriers, you notice it. The tracks are surrounded by different textures of wall. Your standard metal and brickwork walls can be bounced off and slid along with little penalty, but there is a third option - the tyre wall. Hit one of these and you stick to it or occasionally get stuck on top of the thing, making you that little bit more careful when you know there's a tyre surround on a particular bend. Shockingly, you have to actually pay attention.
There's a lot more in the way of trackside action too. Fans wave, barriers fly and deform, bits of bumper lie beside the track and broken cars sit there, upside down, through entire races.
The GRID world is busy and looks fantastic. In-car dashboard models are awesome if you're a cockpit-lover and the effects are superb - you will quite often fill up your entire screen with smoke as you spin out and light up the tyres. And there's no glitching or slowdown when this happens, either. The AI cars keep themselves busy too, regularly crashing, ramming each other and disintegrating.
As for the handling, it's pretty much identical to that of Colin McRae: DiRT. The cars don't react in an ultra-realistic fashion - there's a certain predictability to their control.
Each car seems to come with a predetermined spinning-out point, so it's a case of just learning how far you can push each motor before it rotates away from your grip. It's a feel unlike that of any other race game, but it works perfectly well.
GRID's look is unique too - excessive motion blur turns the pretty scenery to mush should you turn too fast, but it's otherwise solid and very smooth.
As in DiRT, it's the sheer variety of cars and race types that makes GRID a winner. Whether you want to smash a welded-together lump of boat-like American steel around a demolition derby course, drift Nissans for points, or just tippy-toe a tuned Japanese supercar around mountain lanes in a head-to-head challenge, there's something in here for everyone.
While GRID's a nice game, it's ultimately a new selection of cars and tracks for Colin McRae DiRT. You might want to bear that in mind when it comes to buying it...
Very similar to DiRT, but still a great racer
- Packed with trackside effects
- Varied race events and cars
- It's hard. Even for racing pros
- Great presentation and design
- Not much innovation from DiRT