So it’s another racing game. How original. Another racing game from Codemasters. How original. Another racing game from Codemasters in the Race Driver series. HOW ORIGINAL.
Ah, but Race Driver: GRID is original. Sort of. A bit. Let’s put it like this: it’s original like Halo was original. That is to say, little tweaks to a very familiar game which make things manifestly better.
Like early on, when you can choose how you are referred to by the voiceover lady. ‘Jake’ was a choice, and for that Codemasters receive bonus points. Anyway, there are loads of them, so if you can’t find one you like, then you’re an idiot.
But what’s really good is flashback. Not the early-’90s French platformer, but a feature by which you can view an action replay at any point in the race, then continue racing from any point in that replay. Just crashed? Instant replay! Just spun out from the lead on the last lap? Instant replay! Just run over a puppy? Instant replay!
That might conjour up comparisons to Sands of Time, but there the feature was an integral part of the game. In GRID, it’s just a helpful tool that’s there if you want it. It’s no big deal.
I’d liken flashback to the recharging shield in Halo. There was no big song and dance about that, it was just there. And I desperately hope that flashback becomes as prevalent in racing games as the recharging shield has in FPSs.
Because although there’s still a healthy dose of restarting, it does make races far less annoying. I don’t think I realised how annoying they could be until some of that annoyance was removed. A good idea is one you didn’t know you needed.
It by no means removes all challenge though. You can only flashback so many times, and you still have to race well to do well in the first place. All flashback does is let you get away with the odd exceptional error.
Elsewhere, it’s a solid, quality racing game. There’s massive variety in events, from street racing to single seaters, touring cars to togue, muscle cars to drifting. Most importantly, Codemasters have once again got the balance between realism and difficulty bang on – though you can make life harder for yourself if you really want to. But I don’t. And that’s why I like GRID so very much.