GRIP: Combat Racing
Me: Time to sit down and write the review for GRIP: Combat Racing then, not really my type of game but –
Mystery Voice: HEY!! PIPE DOWN YOU!!
Me: ….what the heck? Who said that?
Mystery Voice: OH! DON’T REMEMBER ME, DO YOU!?
Me: …..em, you’re my conscience??
Mystery Voice: HA! YOU WISH! NO, IT’S ME! NINETIES GAMER YOU!!
Me: Why do you keep shouting?
Nineties Gamer Me: COS THAT’S WHAT WE DID IN THE NINETIES!! PLAYED ULTRA FAST, HIGH OCTANE GAMES, LISTENED TO BANGING CHOONS, AND SHOUTED!
Me: Jaysus yeah I suppose we did. Well, what are you doing here now?
Nineties Gamer Me: I CAME HERE FOR ONE REASON AND ONE REASON ONLY! TO PLAY SOME F***ING ROLLCAGE!!
Me: Eh… This is GRIP: Combat Racing
Nineties Gamer Me: WELL THAT’S F***ING CLOSE ENOUGH!!
Catching a GRIP
And thus I was taken on a trip down memory lane. Back to the age of Wipeout 2097, Rollcage, Destruction Derby, and even Super Mario Kart. Taken, to a version of myself, that memorised every track, that mastered every weapon, and was not satisfied with anything less than the complete, and utter, destruction, and/or humiliation of my foes/friends. In other words, to the best version of myself!
GRIP: Combat Racing is as high octane as its advertisements would suggest. Maybe even more so. It’s insanely fast. The vehicles don’t so much as steer, they twitch. The four oversize tires on each vehicle offer the opportunity for some spectacular/hilarious collisions. Added to that, the offensive and defensive pickups, and you’ve got a recipe for a pretty delicious Fun-cake.
It’s the modus operandi of modern racers to spoon feed the player. For the past couple of decades there’s been a litany of racing games in which we’re basically led through the first half of the game, with no real skill being demanded, or indeed, gained. Not so with GRIP: Combat Racing. The high speeds and ultra-sensitive controls demand your absolute attention. There’s no colourful racing line to follow here, and certainly no damn rewind button. The difficulty is best compared to Wipeout 2097. The final third of that game was nightmarish, with every contest necessitating perfection. Making your way through the campaign in GRIP: Combat Racing sees the same uphill climb.
Elation at progression can be equaled by exasperation in defeat. At times during my play-through, my car would clip a solid piece of scenery and stop dead. The abject horror of having to actually use the reverse button in a racing game cannot be overstated. There’s no enjoyment to be had, as you go from first to last, in an eye blink, because of one innocuous piece of scenery. A more destructible environment perhaps, whereby a collision would slow your car, or send it spinning into damnation, would seem more fitting. I also had some minor issues with the weapons systems. Unleashing a missile, when close to the side of a track, would often result in it exploding immediately after firing. The splash damage would, therefore, hit my car, not the opponent I had been targeting.
Developer Caged Element has not rested on their laurels adding depth to GRIP: Combat Racing. The single player campaign has 11 tiers of racing. With up to 3 tournaments in each tier, that’s a lot of racing. Added to the campaign, are the following single-player modes:
- Classic Race – Laps of a track featuring weapons
- Ultimate Race – Track based, build points by destroying competitors, or dominating the lead
- Elimination – Last car gets cut every 30 seconds
- Speed Demon – No weapons, be the fastest around the course
- Deathmatch – Arena based, blow everyone up
- Steal the Stash – Arena game, steal the other team’s stuff, drive it back to your base
- Time Bomb – One car is the bomb and must blow everyone else up, everyone else must run and/or hide
- Carkour – point to point solo run through a tricky obstacle course
There is also the online multiplayer, featuring both races, and arena games. Plus, and most impressively of all in this day and age, offline split-screen multiplayer!! Thank you Caged Element! Thank you a thousand times! Not enough developers these days care for the at-home split-screen modes of days gone by. A personal favourite of all these modes was the “Carkour”. Think, GRIP mixed with the “Trials” series. As devilishly tricky as you can imagine, the combination of speed and precision required throughout is immense.
Pistol GRIP Pump
The game is brightly presented, with a thumping soundtrack to keep your heart rate up when navigating menus. The UI is a bit clunky at times. The “A” and “Y” buttons on Xbox One are mapped to basically the same function. It also not easy to know which car in your garage you have selected at any one time. I found myself having to go to the garage and select my car before each race, to make sure I was in the right one. These, of course, are very minor issues, and won’t really detract from your overall experience with GRIP: Combat Racing.
The 9 weapon pickups all feel well balanced, and each can be a game changer when used at the right time. There are, at the moment, 15 cars to choose from. Though most are hidden behind a leveling system which you’ll go through as you play. The best cars, naturally, only being available when you reach higher levels, gained through XP. The 22 tracks are based across 4 planets, with none ever feeling repetitive, or boring. Everything whips by so fast anyway, that you hardly have time to get used to your surroundings.
All considered we have a pretty excellent high octane racer here. GRIP: Combat Racing lives up to the legacy of its forebears, without necessarily being their better. The wealth of options means you can keep coming back for something different, and the difficulty adds length onto the main campaign. Nothing ever feels impossible, however, which is a necessary balance. At just €29.99 on PC or €39.99 on PS4, Xbox One, and Switch, it seems a bargain. GRIP: Combat Racing is now available for pre-order, ahead of its official November 6th release. GamEir.