grip: com­bat rac­ing

Fu­tur­is­tic racer serves up fugly but fun metal­lic may­hem

XBox: The Official Magazine - - START - Dave Meik­le­ham

Grav­ity is such a pain. Sure, the physics force may have made that New­ton chap fa­mous, but in day-to-day life it of­ten sucks. Push­ing a pram up­hill. Drop­ping an ex­pen­sive vase. For­get­ting to stick your hand­brake on, then slowly ca­reen­ing into the car be­hind you on a gen­tle in­cline. Screw you, grav­ity. Thank­fully, the G word is not some­thing you have to worry about in this ex­treme sci-fi racer.

GRIP is cer­tainly an apt name. The fu­tur­is­tic speed bug­gies on dis­play are as happy rac­ing on ceil­ings and curv­ing walls as they are mer­rily bundling over flat ter­rain. With each racer seem­ingly stuck to ev­ery sur­face by some sort of space glue, Caged El­e­ment throws twist­ing, ver­ti­cally stacked cour­ses in your di­rec­tion at ev­ery turn. Whether pulling off loop-the-loops above the seedy streets of Or­bital Prime’s Dis­trict 404, or caus­ing mini sand­storms with your mon­ster truck-style wheels on the ag­gres­sive desert slopes of Jah­tra, grav­ity is a dirty word in GRIP’s uni­verse.

Wreck­ing crew

Flip­ping the fin­ger at tra­di­tional physics isn’t this speed­ster’s only trick: vi­o­lent power-ups also play their part in races. In fact, en­tire modes are ded­i­cated to blast­ing the bumpers off other racers, both on­line and off. Wreck your foes’ rides in crunch­ing arena death­matches with pierc­ing Painkiller rock­ets. Shunt them silly with the Ram­raider power-up. Use the Dis­rup­tor to slow time for ev­ery other ve­hi­cle but yours, then ex­ploit that rup­ture in the space-time con­tin­uum to leave ’em for dead. With so many po-faced racers on the mar­ket, it’s re­fresh­ing to see a game em­brace the chaotic car­nage of the orig­i­nal Xbox’s cult hit Flatout.

It’s just a shame GRIP’s struc­ture is far more con­ven­tional than its wicked on-course ac­tion. While the cam­paign is gen­er­ously stuffed – it’s com­posed of 11 in­creas­ingly dif­fi­cult tiers – pro­gres­sion is rote, with no cutscenes or other fan­fare to book­mark your progress or cel­e­brate your speed of sound achieve­ments. Yes, the amount of con­tent is ad­mirable, we just wish it had been put to­gether with a lit­tle more flair.

Though blitz­ing through tiers can feel a touch grindy, at least GRIP has a healthy se­lec­tion of modes. Stan­dard con­tests are given added flavour in the likes of Ul­ti­mate Race, where your over­all speed and at­tacks on ri­vals re­ward you with points no mat­ter where you are on the grid. Com­bat-free Speed De­mon events are re­fresh­ingly pure by con­trast, where hit­ting ev­ery glow­ing green boost pad be­comes crit­i­cal. Elim­i­na­tion and a light­ning-fast take on a bomb mode round off GRIP’s gen­er­ous suite of con­trast­ing con­tests.

Weirdly, Caged El­e­ment’s racer even has a lit­tle Mir­ror’s Edge revving away un­der its banged up bon­net. The game’s cutely named Cark­our mode con­sists of al­most 20 dev­il­ishly con­structed ob­sta­cle cour­ses; the kind of sin­is­terly snaking tracks Sid

“The han­dling and im­pact of weapons is weirdly weight­less”

from Toy Story might make if you gave the evil tyke his own twisted Scalex­tric kit. Is it a cool idea? Ab­so­lutely. Does

GRIP’s twist on foot­less free-run­ning ac­tu­ally work in prac­tice? Not en­tirely. A for­ever jit­tery cam­era con­stantly dis­ori­en­tates ev­ery time you try to jump off a ramp onto an­other, even steeper sur­face. If you’re go­ing to stick with Cark­our, best have a sick bag ly­ing next to your Xbox One.

Reg­u­lar cour­ses aren’t an un­qual­i­fied suc­cess story ei­ther. GRIP’s ba­sic, blocky art style re­flects the game’s semi-bud­get price-point, but there’s lit­tle artistry in its generic sci-fi cities and samey deserts. At times, it’s hard to be­lieve this en­er­getic racer is run­ning on the same con­sole as Forza

Hori­zon 4. Yet while it’s cer­tainly no looker, at least GRIP’s en­vi­ron­ments are pleas­ingly in­ter­ac­tive. Stone col­umns and pil­lars can be tar­geted with a well-placed rocket launcher, and the re­sult­ing blast (with proper tim­ing) can send a heap of rocks crash­ing down on an op­po­nent. Pull off such a piece of course-cor­rupt­ing trick­ery, and the smashed-up re­sults are se­ri­ously sat­is­fy­ing.

Han­dle with care

Sadly, the gen­eral han­dling of these cus­tomis­able road­sters – you can tweak them with dif­fer­ent liv­er­ies, paint jobs, and wheel types – is less grat­i­fy­ing. For a game that in­volves blow­ing fu­tur­is­tic cars to bits, the over­all han­dling and im­pact of weapons is weirdly weight­less. There’s a gen­eral float­i­ness to pro­ceed­ings, and de­stroy­ing ri­vals with rock­ets or mines never feels quite as punchy as you’d like. Un­re­fined cor­ner­ing also jars at first, though this isn’t much of an is­sue once you mas­ter the hand­brake turn.

There’s no deny­ing GRIP is a slightly un­even pack­age. At its best, its glee­ful brand of crunch­ing chaos and car­nage can be thrilling, yet in its duller mo­ments, that flatly con­structed cam­paign can re­ally wear you down. This is an old-school throw­back to a sim­pler time of crum­pled metal and apolo­getic ve­hic­u­lar smack­downs. If you’ve been find­ing Forza en­tirely too po­lite, this hel­ter-skel­ter hell­raiser could be right up your stu­pen­dously speedy street.

Left Keep­ing a clean rac­ing line while try­ing to blast your foes can be chal­leng­ing.Far Left Even the ‘eas­i­est’ Cark­our cour­ses are pu­n­ish­ing. Get ready for all the trial-and-er­ror.

right Ex­plod­ing ri­vals is fun and im­mensely sat­is­fy­ing.

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