Race Driver: GRID Demo Impressions

Race Driver: GRID is the latest racing game from Codemasters, developers of the critically acclaimed Colin McRae and TOCA Touring Car series. GRID is, in fact, based on the TOCA games, so it’s easy to see the influence. Powered by Codemasters very own Ego engine, a modified version of the Neon engine behind Colin McRae: DIRT on the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 last year, it promises superb graphics and physics that could be a likely contender to have the best visuals for any racing game to date.

Recently, Codemasters released a demo for GRID onto Xbox Live Marketplace and I have had the pleasure of downloading it and taking it for a good hard test drive. I have to say this before I get into what the demo offers and how it plays and looks; this game rocks, and it rocks hard.

Before you even get into the start menu you are asked to create a profile. You are then taken to a screen and asked add your first name and surname and what country you are from. From here it goes to a new screen, where you have three tabs, male, female and nickname. The game recognized my name and automatically highlighted it in the list for male names. I selected my name and a sexy woman’s voice said “Hello James and welcome to the GRID demo.” Wow! This is just one of many stand out moments that GRID delivers.

Once at the main menu, I am greeted with three racing options, Grid World, Time Trail and Xbox Live. Grid World has three different races available for the demo. The first race is a Touring car race in which the car is a BMW 320SI driving around Jarama – Grand Prix Circuit, the last race is also a full blown race involving a Ford Mustang GT-R Concept racing around San Francisco – Grand Prix Circuit. The middle race involves drifting round Yokohama racking up points to secure first place.

The game is hard and unforgiving at times, amd one fatal mistake could cost you the race. However, what is great about the game is that it invites you to attempt that make or break moment that could either turn the race in your favor or completely ruin your chances, and that makes the title all the more intense. You’ll frequently find the second place driver breathing down your neck waiting for you to make that slight misjudgment on a corner so that he can swoop in and steal the victory. Moments like these are where you know that your driving skills really do matter. The AI is spot on, making it very hard for you to try and overtake them or get the inside line to whip it round those corners.

The game handles great, featuring a sense of arcade racing with a slight touch of simulation added to the mixture. The cars available in the demo all handle differently depending on what style of race they were in, thus forcing you to choose the best ride for any given track. The graphics are top notch, some of the best seen yet for a racer. The tracks look real and the cars look polished and sharp, that is in till you damage them. Damage the car too much and the car will become un-drivable just like in real life.

Another standout extra is GRID’s replay feature, which is truly original and likely be copied in the future. If you end up in one hell of a pile-up and completely write off your car, your team will give you three options. First, retire from the race, this won’t help your reputation and certainly won’t help your cash flow. Second, restart the race or third, and this is the interesting one, you can watch the replay of the crash and the events leading up to it. You may be thinking, “Ok but why would I want to watch a replay?” Well here’s the catch, by pressing the action button “X” in the events leading up to the smash you can rejoin the race knowing what you did before can now be rectified. Now knowing that you need to brake a bit more for that corner or how you can miss that big pile-up, you can carry on with the race as if it never happened and take that corner right or avoid that smash completely. It’s like having your very own time machine, with the ability to go back in time in the replay to avoid or take the corner correctly.

Race Driver: GRID is full of standout moments that will set this racing game apart from its competitors when released for Xbox 360, Playstation 3 and PC later this year. It’s a title that truly tests your driving skills and actually rewards you for pulling off some fantastic driving maneuvers. Be sure to check this one out.

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