Race Driver: Grid was the perfect racing game, and even now it’s still one of the best. It’s a game that toes the line between simulation and arcade perfectly. Both arcade and simulation racing fans love to play it.
Grid 2, however, was a different story. Grid 2 was essentially an arcade game with a great selection of cars. This didn’t go down too well with a lot of fans, and Codemasters felt the heat.
Net result? Grid Autosport was born. While Grid 2 caters to the arcade racing fans, Grid Autosport for Mac is for the simulation nuts. This is one demanding affair but put in the time and you’ll agree it deserves a spot among the top racing games on MacOS.
Enter Grid: Autosport
Grid Autosport is Codemaster’s effort to bring back the glory days of TOCA Race Driver. It leans toward simulation and is meant for those who enjoy the challenge of pushing a car to the limit while battling other drivers for the win. For a game with such exciting ideas, however, the campaign is quite dull. As an independent driver, you have to sign up for teams who offer you a drive in the various categories. That’s it. The lack of a strong campaign is disappointing as both Race Driver: Grid and Grid 2 had solid storylines.
The categories the game offers, however, are quite interesting. With Touring, Endurance, Open Wheel, Tuner, and Street disciplines on offer, there’s something for everyone. Each category has multiple championships and car tiers on offer. The first few seasons only let you drive the smaller and less powerful cars. But as you win races and championships, you unlock higher tiers with more powerful cars. Ravenwest is back from Race Driver: Grid, and the game is all the better for it. It’s fantastic to have a rival to race against.
Though the cars aren’t that exciting, the track list is quite impressive. Codemasters has raided its F1 games and now there are a lot more tracks, with the city streets from Grid 2 also making a return. The tracks are detailed and fun to race on. With 22 tracks, and more than 100 different permutations and combinations, Codemasters has done a good job here.
Another thing Codemasters is good at? Making realistic handling models. The cars handle just right and driving a powerful Aston Martin Zagato to the limit at night has never been so challenging and exciting. Every car feels unique and drifting is no longer the fastest way to get around a corner. As in real life, making the tiniest of mistakes is punishing. Missing your braking point by a few meters will result in you under-steering toward the gravel trap. The unforgiving nature of racing cars will force you to drive better and smarter. Spinning up your tires, or locking up in endurance races will cause your tires to degrade faster, and lose time toward the end of the race. Controlling your throttle and braking input is vital if you want to set a good qualifying lap time, or get a good flow in a drift battle.
Each race weekend has time for practice, which you can use for setting up your car. Then a qualifying session leads you on to the race. Interestingly, Codemasters didn’t include a penalty system for colliding into other players, but it does penalize players for crossing the white lines on the edge of track. While there is a logic to this system, the way the penalty is applied is extremely frustrating. In my opinion, Codemaster needs to fix this penalty system, because it nearly breaks the game.
Another strange omission from the gameplay is the lack of pitstops. I might sound like a broken record by now, but TOCA Race Driver 3 had an advanced pit stop system, and so do all the F1 games. As you play the game you’ll start to appreciate the advanced damage model, but eventually you will suffer a puncture, and then a blown tire. But you can’t go into the pits and fix it, so you’ll have to restart the game. For the Endurance discipline, the lack of pit stops is especially confusing.
The graphics are a definite step up from Grid 2. The strange colours and blur were replaced with sharper and clearer graphics. The day and night track times are also very well done. Sunset in Sepang, Malaysia is especially beautiful. The tracks, city streets, and environments are very well detailed too. One nice touch: you won’t see a lot of spectators during practice, but will then have packed grandstands on race day. Even if you do end up totaling your car, watching it explode is spectacular.
Codemasters has made a great shift to ensure that everything looks cohesive and clean. By switching to a neutral colour balance, and choosing not to add a tinge of specific colour to the video, the whole game feels fresh and neutral. The menu system is clean, civilised and minimal. The typography and music gives it a very sophisticated and upmarket feel. It goes very well with the general theme of the game.
Codemasters chose to drop the cockpit camera with Grid 2, and they were panned for that decision. Interestingly, they decided to include it here, except they didn’t really do it. There’s no other way of putting it: it’s a pathetic effort. The cockpit view is basically a cropped out view of the bonnet with a blurred out dashboard and steering wheel. Again, I have to bring back Race Driver: Grid, and draw references to the great job they did 7 years ago. If they knew they couldn’t do it, why pretend with such a poor effort? It’s shocking to see this from Codemasters, who generally have high production standards.
A lot of credit for the graphics should also go toward Feral Interactive. This is a definite step up from their previous ports. Grid 2 suffered from loading screen frame rate drops and a lot of mid-gameplay stutters. By contrast, Grid Autosport runs ever so smoothly. On the medium graphics setting, I achieved an average of 24 fps, and on ultra low, it was an average of 55 fps. I never experienced a single drop in frame rates or stutters of any kind. For those with a good setup, I’d highly recommend the 4k Textures DLC (free!) if you want to see a major improvement. Feral Interactive has done a fantastic job with this port, and let’s hope that they only get better!
Codemasters has finally unified its Racenet system, and now all its modern racing games are in one single system. This means that you can check all your multiplayer stats on one website, and build up your profile as you win online races and ace Racenet challenges. With Grid Autosport, you can now form your own racing club and measure up with rival clubs. The Racenet challenges also provide some good competition as you compare yourself with the racing world. As with Race Driver: Grid, you can now buy secondhand cars on the cheap to fill your online garage.
The multiplayer is the standard Codemasters Racenet systems with a major caveat of no cross-platform multiplayer. It’s all well polished, but the lack of cross-platform multiplayer means that the multiplayer rooms are usually empty.
As with any modern game, a lot more can be bought with DLC’s and Grid Autosport is no different. With many cars, and tracks available to buy, you can probably get a lot more gameplay if you buy into the DLC’s.