[Disclosure: This review based on a PlayStation 3 copy of the game provided by the publisher]
Grid Autosport is all about the racing. No longer relying on a barely there story to pull the player through the game or an “in your face” presentation to try and get the adrenaline pumping, Autosport lets the cars and the tracks do all of the heavy lifting, going out of its way to get the player into the driver’s seat quickly and, more importantly, show them a good time.
The best word I can use to describe Grid Autosport is “focused.” There’s no loud-as-hell music or hectic menus, just a clean, almost classy entry point to a wide world of racing goodness. After you’ve selected your starting options and allowed the game to learn your name (I still get a kick out of hearing a pit member or the menu voice over lady call me Ryan), you’re presented with a small selection of options to get you started. Basically, you can dive into career mode, online multiplayer or tackle the race you want in the vehicle of your choosing for quick and easy play without worrying about what position your team finished in.
The meat of your time, though, will likely be spent in the campaign mode, which gives the player five initial disciplines to pick from including Touring, Endurance, Open Wheel, Tuner and Street. Rather than have to tackle these careers in a specific order, Autosport lets you jump straight to the type of racing you enjoy and get straight into the action. You can keep playing that career, or you can branch off into others, earning additional experience along the way. It’s up to you how you want to build your Grid Autosport racing career but, for players willing to stretch their legs and take on a variety of challenges, you’ll be rewarded with more experience and even more cross-discipline races to push your skill set to the limit.
Each discipline has its own set of objectives and options, fine-tuning the experience to the type of career you’ll be digging into. In the Touring career, for instance, you’ll start off by picking a team to race for and then working with your partner in order to earn the best group finishes possible. You get additional details about the team and its racers, too, allowing you to pick the squad best suited to your strengths. The teams’ additional objectives are also different. Racing for one group might see you beginning a race looking to top one specific rival as an additional goal. Another team, though, may reward you with extra experience for finishing higher up in the pack.
As for the racing itself, Autosport does a fine job of riding the line between arcade and simulation. While the actual driving is more akin to what you might expect out of a straight-laced simulation racer, there are a large number of options that will allow the player to receive assistance in many different areas. From driving lines and cornering assist to determining whether or not your car’s damage is aesthetic or realistic, the player can create a driving experience that gives them as much help as they need, and can then be toggled off as their skills begin to grow. For those who want to lean heavier on the simulation side, you’ll be rewarded with experience bonuses for the lack of hand holding.
As for me, I tend to prefer arcade racers over simulation and experienced zero shame in letting the game’s assist options ease me along. Nothing kills a racing experience quicker than frustration and offering options that take various skill levels into account is always a welcome consideration. It makes the game far more accessible, and thus a good starting point for those who are ready to start stepping away from boosting and high-flying jumps to a more realistic take on the sport of driving.
Various other small touches also made Grid Autosport into the best the series has had to offer to date. I already mentioned how neat it is to have the game call me by name, and the ability to ask your pit crew for input at the press of a button on your D-pad is also a clever way to make the player feel more connected to the experience. That goes double for teammate input, which allows the player to give their partner a couple of basic commands concerning how they should behave. It’s also super gratifying to see an AI opponent make a huge mistake or blow a tire from time to time. The AI is pretty sharp most of the time, but having the occasional hiccup or unfortunate event pop up for your computer controlled opponents makes it feel less like you’re racing against robotic perfection.
If, however, you’re not in the mood to work on your long-running career, the online and single race options are ready to give you a quick racing fix with the few presses of a button. It’s an added bonus that Demolition Derby is available from the get-go this time around, and I still get a kick out of dipping into a round of Elimination from time to time. I’ve never been stellar at racing games and that particular mode is a hit because your goal is so simple: Just try and stay out of last place when the countdown clock hits zero.
In short, Grid Autosport has a lot to offer fans of multi-disciplined racing on the PlayStaiton 3, Xbox 360 and PC. It doesn’t take itself quite as seriously as other simulation racers (nor does it offer quite as much content), but neither does it feel like a boost and drift-heavy arcade romp. There are plenty of games in those other two categories, and Motorsport wisely straddles the middle, offering enough career content and car finagling to please the more serious gearheads while plugging in enough options and fun distractions to pique the interest of casuals.
Players: 1 - (online multiplayer)
Platforms: PS3 [Reviewed], Xbox 360, PC