After months of rumors that Codemasters was hard at work on their next entry in the Grid franchise, it was hardly a shock when the developer unveiled Grid: Autosport at Bandai Namco’s Global Gamers Day. What was surprising, however, was that the game will be out on PS3 and Xbox 360 on June 24, 2014–just over two months from today and only a year after Grid 2’s release. This new chapter in the series puts a huge emphasis on getting back to Codemasters’ roots when it comes to racing games, and part of that process seems to have been an exercise in cutting the fat from previous titles. Unnecessary aspects of Grid 2 have been removed, including some event types, such as the point-to-point competitions, for the simple reason that you’d never see races like that in real life.
Along with these cuts, Career mode has been completely revamped. There are five distinct types of races that each have their own series to compete in. If you’d like you can finish them all one at a time, or bounce around as you see fit. Touring Car sees racers trading paint as they take off from packed grids when the green flag flies. Endurance is a true test of driving stamina; long races set in the evening are the name of the game here, but poorer visibility isn’t your only problem, since tire wear becomes a huge factor, and late-race blowouts could spell doom if you’re not careful. Open-Wheel Racing deals more with IndyCar/F1 style racing and a focus on precision driving; drafting opponents is also critical in getting an extra burst of speed for that late-race pass. Tuner Competition requires a lot more car upgrading and tinkering as you take on special challenges like time attacks and drifting contests. Finally, Street Racing has you try to handle tight 90-degree turns in iconic cities, including Washington D.C. and San Francisco.
The hope is that these five modes will offer a less linear career experience since you can move between them freely if you wish, or beat each section one at a time. When you start, you’ll choose a team and the discipline you wish to take on, and by doing better and better in each race, you’ll move to better teams that will help you handle the computer-controlled competition. After mastering all five styles of racing, you’ll take on a sixth, which features a hodgepodge of the five paths.
As with all Grid games, the iconic Flashback feature is still here (so you don’t have to restart an entire race thanks to one screwup), as well as a variety of options and assists that you can turn on and off as you please. Having fewer assists on means you can earn more experience and cash in each race to then upgrade your cars in your personal garage.
Speaking of your garage, a new feature being touted by Codemasters is that your personal cars have a lifetime odometer now. While it sounds interesting as a concept, I’m skeptical about how fun it may be. The fact that your favorite cars could start to fall apart on you and there’s little you can do about beyond spending more virtual cash and racing it less doesn’t really sound that appealing, even if it’s interesting to see that your favorite touring car has 89,000 miles on it.
One way you can earn extra money to keep those old cars in shape? Race online. Both single- and multiplayer results now add to your career cash totals, which can then be carried over to your garage. Custom cups and circuits, time trials with global leaderboards, and even just single 2-player local or up to 12-player online races all can help you maintain the car collection of your dreams. Doing well can also reward you with sponsors who’ll slap some stickers on your cars and help you earn extra cash that way.
The biggest online feature Grid: Autosport may include, though, is their new RaceNet Clubs. Utilizing their long-running RaceNet online community, Autosport will be the first game in the series that allows for clan-style competition. You can fully customize your club’s car style so every member is driving in the same colors, earn extra XP to advance the clan’s total ranking, and every club even gets their own webpage through RaceNet. The webpage might be the most intriguing aspect for potential clan leaders as that they can customize that, too, fill it with stats for members to see, and communicate more freely within the clan away from headsets and multiplayer lobbies.
Honestly, I wish I had more time during Global Gamers Day so that I could’ve gotten my hands on Grid: Autosport. If it plays as good as it looks and the new features live up to their billing, then Codemasters has another hit on their hands. At least with it’s surprisingly soon release date, I won’t have to wait that long to find out.