It’s something the developers themselves have said inspired the game, so it’ll be no surprise to anyone when I say that GRIP reminds me of the old racer Rollcage. It’s something I played a hell of a lot of in my younger years (as I’m sure many others did too), with it offering something unconventional and different to every over racer that was available back then. That same sentiment stands today though, with GRIP itself sticking out as an exciting and chaotic experience amongst a crowd of life-like simulations and kart racers.
So GRIP doesn’t play like your conventional racing game, with it instead offering chaotic high-octane showdowns with foes that’ll see you driving across walls, flipping your car all over the place, jostling with opponents over tight bends, pulling off wild jumps, and speeding all over the place as you smash and crash your way to victory. It’s pretty exciting stuff, but it’s dangerous too with plenty of crashes and falls into endless pits as you try to find shortcuts to slip in front of your foes, whilst the use of weapons means you’ll never feel safe no matter how far ahead of the pack you might be. It’s thrilling stuff and it’ll really test your mettle on the race track, but thankfully it’s a whole lot of fun too.
The main single player career is pretty meaty, with multiple events on offer that span across different modes including standard races, elimination races, weapon battles, and even one mode that gives you a set amount of laps but challenges you to cause as much damage to other racers as possible in order to score points. It drip-feeds you each different game mode too, so you’ll continually find yourself doing something different as you progress through each event.
It ensures you won’t grow tired of playing GRIP fast, whilst the sheer amount of unlockables you earn as you play will keep you motivated too. Whilst you start off with a decent selection of cars to choose from you’ll eventually earn more, with each one not only offering different stats but also becoming more outlandish in their design too. Besides new vehicles, you can earn plenty of new parts and decals to customise your current garage, which not only allows you to add your own personal touch to your favourites but also makes them easier to drive.
Whilst GRIP has plenty of events to race through and content to unlock, I found the difficulty curve could be a little unforgiving. I got through early events with little fuss, with my opponents rarely causing me problems as I sped to victory after victory. It didn’t take long before they became more aggressive and kept up with me up front though – sure, it’s good to have rubber-banding in place to ensure races stay exciting and competitive, but when you constantly see the AI beat you to first place from seemingly nowhere it’s difficult not to feel a little hard done by. I mean it when I say it comes from nowhere too, with some events seeing me leading with ease all the way through and not making a mistake, only for one or two AI drivers to overtake me at the last opportunity. I know it could be blamed on my skills, sure, but this happened so often that it feels like an intentional (and bloody annoying) feature that’s been put into the game.
I had a lot of fun racing in the game though and (when you don’t feel robbed by the AI) you’re guaranteed plenty of thrills. It’s helped by the fact that the tracks you race across are so open with multiple routes too, though this could also be a problem – they were so big in size and full of different shortcuts that it was often difficult to tell if I was going the right way or even speeding ahead of my foes. I’m a sucker for following a racing line and seeing where opponents go to learn the best ways to approach a track in a racer, but in GRIP it’s so all over the place that you’ll never quite know where you’re going at times. Sure, it adds to the intrigue of the racing and it’s something you’ll learn in time, but the amount of times I crashed and got stuck into a wall or flew off the track into a hazard because the road wasn’t clear was a little frustrating. Of course, the more you play the more you’ll adjust to each course, but it did cause a few annoyances early on in the game.
Those who prefer battling over racing will be pleased to see there’s an ‘Arena’ mode dedicated to just that. I’ve always been a fan of vehicular combat games (I got hooked to Vigilante 8 and Twisted Metal in my youth) so this was a nice little feature to have, whilst the potential for online battles against friends certainly added to the game’s charm. It’d eliminate the pain of the rubber-banding AI for a bit too, which was a bit of a plus during the single player’s more frustrating moments.
However, my favourite mode to play around in was ‘Carkour’, where you take a vehicle and perform an assortment of stunts across a selection of zany tracks in order to unlock a gem. You’ll have to use every trick in the book to succeed, with each level not only carefully designed to demand precision from the player but also to feel very over the top in how it’s all delivered too. It’s just a heck of a lot of fun, and whilst it isn’t the most fleshed out mode of GRIP it’s definitely one that players simply won’t want to miss out on.
GRIP features both online and local multiplayer, so you can take part in the chaotic action with friends whether you’re all together on one couch or on the other side of the world. Now I’ve not had a chance to try out the online mode properly yet so I can’t say much about that, but the split-screen is actually a lot of fun. Admittedly, GRIP is the kind of game where it’s easier if you’ve got a full-screen to look at, but I certainly had fun taking part in hectic races and destructive battles with a few of my friends. Here’s hoping that the online multiplayer (which is due to support up to ten players) holds up just as well.
It’s hard not to be impressed by GRIP, with its hectic racing consistently proving to be exciting, chaotic, but most importantly a hell of a lot of fun throughout the entirety of its single player mode. There’s just so much to do too, with plenty of different cars to unlock, tracks to race across, and events to complete – then there’s the plethora of multiplayer modes to tackle too, which offer plenty of fun both locally and online. It really does tick a lot of boxes as far as arcade racing is concerned.
That being said, it does have a few issues with the unfair rubber-banding AI of your opponents and some obtuse track designs proving to be the main offenders. They’re not problematic enough to make GRIP a bad game, but they certainly caused more than a few frustrations during my time playing it.
Still, the good certainly outweighs the bad, and I can easily see myself coming back to GRIP’s fun and unique take on arcade racing for some time.
Developer: Caged Element
Publisher: Wired Productions
Platform(s): Xbox One (Reviewed), PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, PC