Recently driving simulators have turned a corner into a time of resurgence. With developers such as Criterion rebooting the Need for Speed franchise last year with “Need for Speed: Most Wanted”, we can see that racing games are becoming more dynamic and innovative. But where did all this come from? Where did this innovation start from? I would make the argument that it came from GRID, and it is with greeted with great excitement that it has made it’s way onto the Mac platform. Can this game from four years ago still stand today?
Unlike other platforms which have a plethora of driving titles to consider, the Mac is somewhat lacking in variety. However where it lacks in variety it makes up for in a few excellent driving games. DiRT 2 springs to mind as one of these, but where GRID differs is it’s extensive focus on the driving experience.
The first problem driving games usually have on the PC is the controls. The reason being that since you are dealing with a keyboard for actions that require precision, this can be problematic. To name one: when turning you only have the option of full lock or going straight. This results in crashes more often than not especially in high powered cars such as a tuned-up Mustang or super-cars like the Koenigsegg. But thankfully because of Feral’s integration with gamepads, I was able to plug in my Xbox wired controller with ease and have the control I desired. To anyone who ends up buying this, I would highly recommend you do this unless you’re a master with driving on a keyboard. It really is an acquired skill that doesn’t make much sense to me.
The driving experience when you have gone beyond the hardware set-up is quite phenomenal. Everything that I would expect in a real racing experience is right there in front of me. One of the most impressive features is the dialogue with the pit crew. In real-life racing there is a constant conversation going between the crew that aid the driver in how they drive a course. In most other games you are alone in your driving cocoon. But in GRID you really feel as though you’re part of a large team of engineers. While I would have liked to hear more voices than my team leader and the lady looking after the business, it is an admirable step towards something that resembles real racing.
Another great feature that GRID pioneered was the flashback feature. The situation is only revealed to the player when there is a crash that completely totals the vehicle. It is in this instance that you are given the option to go back and fix that mistake you made. This feature allows you players who aren’t as good at driving games to take bigger risks and go for those corners at a higher speed. But this doesn’t mean it detracts from the difficulty. In the options beforehand you can adjust how many flashbacks you are allowed to have in a game. The lower number of flashbacks you wager, the higher reward will be. This ability to fine tune this detail emphasizes the openness to players and how they can change the difficulty and reward that will most advantageous.
Through reading other commentary on this game there have been some complaints that the physics engine is not up to scratch as well as the damage realism. From when I played through the levels I did not seem to find and grounds for these claims. Perhaps this is because I am not as familiar to real physics of racing, but I believe the average racing fan would not find an issue with this. The realism I experienced in this game is second to none for what is available on the Mac.
Usually in games like these the cars that enthusiasts really want to drive are difficult to come by when you first load up the game. While this is partially true for when you start to play a bigger role in your own team in GRID, when you start the game you are immediately thrown into a race with a relatively powerful car. At the conclusion of this race, you are met with an option of three different races from three corners of the world. These three areas include Europe, America and Japan. Each of these areas focus on the style of car that the area is known for. So for example the Japanese have tuned drift machines, the Americans have muscle cars and the Europeans have exotic racers.
While the curation of cars does limit the perspective of the entire car market like some simulations, I felt as though the choices that were made by the developers were justified. Even though there is a lacking of SUV’s and hatchbacks the focus that goes into real racing cars makes up for this. With this lack of a burden to include every well known road car it free’s up room for cars that the casual enthusiast may not know about. For me this surprise came through the Formula 3 cars that you get to race. I mostly am used to playing these road production racers, perhaps a Zonda or a Ferrari Enzo would have been the most race-like experience I have had in the past. However in GRID the experience of driving a real race car rather than consumer mock-ups is quite thrilling. Especially (if you’re so daring) when you turn off some of the assists the racing experience is exciting to say the least.
From tracks all over the civilized racing world, the developers have chosen to go with a more limited list. While this was a little disappointing to see, I honestly did not realize this limit in race tracks until I looked at a list of them all.
I’m assuming the reason for this limited list was so that these tracks really stood out. And I can safely say that they did. In particular the Le Mans track was amazing to race on. As part of the career section of the game, it will require the player to attend a 24-Hour Le Mans race. The placement and class based race is very similar to the actual. There is also the added cycle of day and night which was interesting in itself. Flying up the straight at 190 miles an hour did have me on the edge of my seat. It almost makes it worth buying just for this experience.
As a casual watcher of these races, the only real difference I could see was that it didn’t actually last 24 hours. The detail seen with the tracks (like with the cars) was impeccable. This in combination with the cinematic quality that is seen throughout the game particularly make the experience on these track not comparable with what is currently available on the Mac. I was very impressed with this and the issue of quantity will only really come down to player preference.
One of the things that racer veterans will immediately notice is the sound. The clarity and wholeness of the sound from the cars to the crowd pull you into the moment like a racer should. There are a few hiccups with the connection between the players input and the actual sound of the engine, but overall this did not seem like an issue in the presence of such high quality overall sound.
Besides the quality, the cockpit communication (as mentioned previously) also helped create this audio experience unparalleled with anything available on the Mac.
Unfortunately in a world of Windows gamers, Xbox Live and (to some extent) the Playstation Network, attempting for the Mac to gain traction with a game that is on these platforms is very difficult. When I went to test out this aspect I ran into the problem many Mac Gamers do, trying to find players. While there are many in popular shooters, games such as this even after just a few weeks have no games available to drop in on. If you are able to meet up with some friends who also have copies of the game on their Mac you may be able to get a game running but besides that instance you most likely not find a game at all.
What it really does come down to is whether you like racing games. While the innovative features may tempt many people to think this is racer that they have been waiting for, the problems of racers to the average audience still remain. Tirelessly putting hours into unlocking the car you want, the tracks you want to race on and accessibility remain issues that will prevent most players from hopping in. However even though it discourages this new audience, the players that have loved racing ever since they can remember will thoroughly enjoy this title. Codemasters along with Feral Interactive have catered for Mac Racers in every way. The multiplayer may be disappointing but besides that there really is nothing to complain about this frankly excellent racing experience.
- Realistic Racing Experience
- Live Pit Audio Commentary
- 24 Hour Le Mans Race Experience
- Occasional Audio Hiccups
- Empty Multiplayer Lobbies