Grid: Au­tosport

360, PC, PS3

EDGE - - GAMES - Pub­lisher/de­vel­oper Code­mas­ters For­mat 360, PC, PS3 Re­lease Out now

We’re in the mid­dle of the pack on the sec­ond lap of a tour­ing car race when some­thing other than our shunt-happy op­po­nents hits us: this feels like TOCA again. With its con­tin­ual rein­ven­tion of cher­ished se­ries, Code­mas­ters has been noth­ing if not brave, but the UK stu­dio has re­turned to its roots for Au­tosport, strip­ping away the glitzy dis­trac­tions of its re­cent re­leases in the process.

The pared-down de­sign starts with the front-end, which dis­penses with Code­mas­ters’ usual in­ter­face flair and sticks with sim­ple, clean (and fast-load­ing) menus set against a black back­ground. There’s no garage, no collection of cars to ac­crue (un­less you count the cus­tom set­ups you can de­fine for on­line rac­ing), and no nar­ra­tive – rather than fo­cus­ing on your own rac­ing team, you are sim­ply a driver choos­ing which team of­fer to ac­cept each sea­son.

It’s a shock of clar­ity that will prove as di­vi­sive as Grid 2’ s swerve into bom­bas­tic ar­cade ter­ri­tory, but any­one han­ker­ing for man­age­ment el­e­ments should feel ad­e­quately com­pen­sated once they get out on the track. Code­mas­ters has gone all out to ad­dress the crit­i­cisms lev­elled at Grid 2 by play­ers dis­ap­pointed with the game’s at­tempt at ap­peal­ing to a broader au­di­ence, and cre­ated some­thing rare: a rac­ing game in which you ac­tu­ally have to race.

Leave the dif­fi­culty on its de­fault Medium set­ting and you’ll find yourself up against un­com­monly chal­leng­ing op­po­nents. Reach­ing the front of the pack is a Her­culean ef­fort as cars shunt and weave, de­fend their line and con­stantly look for op­por­tu­ni­ties to pass you. It makes qual­i­fy­ing (on the events where it’s avail­able) a gen­uinely worth­while en­deav­our, and even once you do make it to first po­si­tion, the pres­sure never lets up. It’s telling that the low­est dif­fi­culty feels most like other racers, al­low­ing you to thread through 16 po­si­tions over the course of three laps with lit­tle re­sis­tance; switch things up to Very Hard, how­ever, and you can spend a whole race ex­chang­ing 13th and 14th po­si­tions with an­other car.

Cru­cially, Au­tosport’s ca­reer struc­ture and nu­anced ve­hi­cle han­dling com­bine to al­le­vi­ate any po­ten­tial frus­tra­tion for play­ers weaned on ef­fort­less vic­to­ries. The ca­reer is split into five dis­ci­plines: Tour­ing, En­durance, Open Wheel, Tuner and Street. Tak­ing part in an event will earn you XP in that par­tic­u­lar dis­ci­pline’s strand, and larger Grid tour­na­ments be­come avail­able once you’ve reached a cer­tain level in all five.

XP is earned in sev­eral ways: Team Tar­gets ask for a min­i­mum fin­ish­ing po­si­tion in the Team Cham­pi­onships (but you’ll only lose XP, not progress, if you miss this); Team Bonuses of­fer sec­ondary ob­jec­tives such as a fin­ish­ing po­si­tion in the Driv­ers’ Cham­pi­onship or fin­ish­ing ahead of a par­tic­u­lar driver; Spon­sor Ob­jec­tives of­fer smaller amounts of XP for,

Code­mas­ters has re­turned to its roots for Au­tosport, strip­ping away the glitzy dis­trac­tions of re­cent re­leases in the process

say, driv­ing above 120mph for three min­utes in to­tal or im­prov­ing on your pre­vi­ous lap time dur­ing a race; and fi­nally Dis­ci­pline Re­wards award you for your fin­ish­ing po­si­tion, beat­ing your ri­val, post­ing the fastest lap and any bonus earned from rac­ing with­out driv­ing aids or lim­it­ing yourself to an in-car view.

Yes, Grid 2’ s most con­tentious ab­sence, cock­pit cam, has been rec­ti­fied, and you can now choose be­tween dash and driver per­spec­tives. The dash­board it­self is made up of tex­tures seem­ingly ripped di­rectly from the PS1 era, but they’re dis­guised by a pro­nounced depthof-field ef­fect that blurs the in­te­rior and fo­cuses you on the road. It will look ugly to by­standers, but the ef­fect is pleas­ing if you’re in the driv­ing seat.

The same goes for your sense of con­nec­tion with the road. Au­tosport has been built from the wheels up, boast­ing a com­plex grip model that un­der­pins han­dling which, while still ap­proach­able, of­fers con­sid­er­able depth. Trac­tion is para­mount in Au­tosport, and know­ing when to break it and when to max­imise your power trans­fer is key to mov­ing your way up the grid. The weighty cars are prone to un­der­steer, but rather than in­sist­ing on a pow­er­slide to cor­rect, they re­al­is­ti­cally re­spond to your throt­tle and brak­ing in­puts, mak­ing ev­ery honed cor­ner­ing ma­noeu­vre feel bal­letic. You can still get side­ways, of course, but it’s rarely your fastest op­tion out­side of street races. To­gether with your op­po­nents’ AI, such lively feed­back makes for an in­tense, and sat­is­fy­ing, drive.

That bois­ter­ous AI does throw up some of its own prob­lems, how­ever. While op­po­nents are no­tice­ably less ag­gres­sive in open-wheeled races com­pared with tour­ing and street events, they don’t al­ways con­cede in the same way a hu­man driver might, stick­ing to their cho­sen route even though you le­git­i­mately out-braked them into a cor­ner. It’s less of a prob­lem once the pack has spread out a lit­tle, but in a game that asks so much of you it can be frus­trat­ing to have your skil­ful ma­noeu­vre met with ap­par­ent obliv­i­ous­ness – es­pe­cially when some Spon­sor Ob­jec­tives ask you to com­plete a race with no collisions. Ad­just for this, though, and the sense of speed and dan­ger more than makes up for the oc­ca­sional duff AI de­ci­sion.

Code­mas­ters has painstak­ingly tuned its flag­ship se­ries, re­duc­ing weight by strip­ping it of un­nec­es­sary luxuries, and cre­ated a leaner, race-fo­cused ma­chine. While it can’t com­pete with the fidelity or de­tail of Gran Turismo 5, Grid: Au­tosport in­stead uses broad strokes to cre­ate a vivid im­pres­sion of what it’s ac­tu­ally like to be bumper-to-bumper at 140mph as a hair­pin comes into view. It is ironic, then, that for all Code­mas­ters’ at­tempts to make the player feel like a race driver by build­ing up a fic­tion around them, it is Au­tosport’s bare­bones, ab­stract in­ter­pre­ta­tion of a driv­ing ca­reer that proves its most suc­cess­ful.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.