grip: combat racing
Futuristic racer serves up fugly but fun metallic mayhem
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.
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.