Release Date: 6th November
Size: 3GB (1846.54MB on Switch)
Genre: Combat Racing
Developed by Caged Element
Published by Wired Productions Ltd
Reviewed on PS4 and Nintendo Switch; Also available on Xbox One and PC.
What started as underground illegal street racing became a highly popular, but still illegal, televised motorsport. The private tv station known as GRIP brought the event to more eyes than ever before and with that popularity came investment. As money became more involved so too did the greed of the competitors. The winnings were split between only the drivers that finished each race and it became apparent to everyone that if you wanted more of the spoils, you need fewer people to cross that line. So the sport evolved from a race between vehicles built purely for speed to a battle between the heavily armored and armed.
How to describe GRIP’s gameplay to someone who has never played Rollcage?… it’s like Wipeout meets F-Zero meets Spiderman.
The ability to drive along walls and ceilings in a Caged Elements futuristic racer, gives the player a unique sense of freedom whilst zipping round the track. There are so many paths to take (accidentally or on purpose) that you can become quite discombobulated, not realizing you’ve been driving upside-down until the skyline comes back in to view. However when a driving game lets you drive as fast as this (well over 600kph), going up the walls just makes logical sense. Luckily the vehicles handle well enough for you to still feel in control for the majority of the time. Being able to thread your vehicle through tight spaces at ludicrous speeds is imperative in GRIP and the steering doesn’t let you down. You can become comfortable enough with the controls to know that when you do crash straight into a wall, it was your fault not the game being unresponsive. The weapon system also feels easy to use and familiar, making those warp speed attacking decisions simply to implement. You get two weapon slots, each slot is activated by either the left or right bumper, meaning you can hold back on using that homing missile until you’ve picked up a speed boost to flee the scene afterward or reserve your rear shields until after you’ve machined gunned your way into the lead.
The GRIP’s wall-clinging abilities have allowed the game’s designers to flex their creativity when it comes to course design, with some making the race feel more like a vertigo-inducing rollercoaster ride, adding elements of fun that you can’t find in other racers. Fun is the main word I’d use when talking about GRIP because even when you’re falling behind, the controls are responsive and the rubberbanding forgiving enough to give you hope that you can still get the win.
There is a whole host of modes to play with if you’re on your lonesome, broken down into 4 brackets;
Firstly there’s Race.
Classic– this is exactly what you’d expect. Use driving skills and weaponry pickups to pull ahead of the competition. First to cross the finish line wins
Ultimate– Aggression is the name of the game here. It’s all about earning points before the race is over. Sure you get a lot of points for finishing first but you also get a load of points for blasting every other car off the road. It most definitely does not always pay to be in front.
Elimination– Standard racing scenario with one hefty twist, every 30 seconds whoever is at the back of the pack gets taken out. Use whatever means necessary to make sure it’s not you.
Time Trial– It’s the perfect place to practice each track. Just you and the road, this will become invaluable when you reaching the higher Tier tracks in the campaign mode.
Speed Demon– If “Ultimate” is all about aggression then this mode is all about skill. In this race there are no weapons, every power-up is a speed boost. So it’s all about how fast you can go and how well you steer. Good luck.
Next up we have Arena.
Deathmatch– This is your no-fuss battle mode. Collect the power-ups and blow the hell out of anything moving until the time runs out. You get points for each successful hit but if you want to get those high scores to make sure you finish them off.
Steal the Stash– An automotive take on capture the flag. You go nick the enemy’s loot then speed boost your way home before the time runs out or you get taken out by the opposition.
Time Bomb– A player is fitted with a bomb then proceed to chase down their opponents before the time runs out. When it goes off any cars caught it the blast are tagged with their own bomb. The last car to survive wins.
Then there’s Carkour (who doesn’t love a good pun?)
What we are presented with here is 19 short tracks and the aim is to reach the end of each in the quickest time possible. The problem here is that each track is more of a physics puzzle than a raceway. With tubes, loops, jumps, narrow paths, slopes, bottomless chasms, these can be as much a test for your brain as they are for your driving skills.
Finally, we have the single player Campaign. This is a tiered system of events made up of a selection of the aforementioned modes. You perform well enough in each event, the next Tier unlocks. You take part in more increasingly difficult trials until the next Tier unlocks and the cycle continues until you have conquered everything the game can throw at you and be fair, if you have managed to come first on the harder designed tracks while driving at the “Wild” vehicle speed setting, your deserve all the praise in the world.
Outside of the racing, there’s also the Garage. This is where you can mess around with the vehicles and parts that you have unlocked through the Campaign mode. While the cars have varying stats (speed, strength, acceleration etc) all the customizations are just decorative. There are several add-ons to unlock like Tires, rims, and decals but while it’s not as deep as in some other racers (yes we see you Forza) there’s enough there to make your ride your own.
As expected with a combat racer, Grip really comes into its own with its multiplayer. You get the same collection of tracks to mess around with in any of the Race or Arena modes though but now it’s against your mates. I would like to send a huge thanks to the folks at Caged Element for including 4 player split screen in GRIP. Having 4 mates hanging out in the living room, playing at the same time is a joy that seems to be missed from everything but sports titles nowadays so its great to see it available here. There is, of course, the ability to play the game modes online too but for me, that doesn’t compete with the fun of same room of couch competitive gameplay.
Against your friends, everything just gets that little bit more intense. Your racing lines more erratic, your missile locks more satisfying and your victories taste a whole lot sweeter when you can smugly look around the room and your defeated foes. Sharing in the lunacy that this game can bring is a sheer joy that harkens back to my youthful nights playing Goldeneye and Mario Kart 64. Everyone laughing as your cocky mate goes from 1st to last due to a sequence of weapon attacks is a sensation I wish you could bottle.
GRAPHICS AND SOUND
The art style on display here is a wonderful fusion of 90’s retro and current gen glory. From the chunky vehicle designs through the overly colorful lighting effects emitting from each of the weapons to the menu screens, there is a very PSOne vibe throughout GRIP’s presentation but in the best way possible. It has the charm of nostalgia while having the speed and performance only possible on today’s console behemoths. The tracks are beautifully rendered and distinct, with wastelands, mountains, techno highways, lava pools, and snow-covered valleys. They’ve fully embraced the games unique driving abilities too, creating roads that spiral up to the sky, insane banked turns and narrow tunnels that will have your head turn so fast you could throw up at any moment. It’s a bit of a shame really as though each is brilliantly imagined and nicely detailed, some even feature destructible elements, you’re going by it all so fast you could blink and miss all their hard work. Unless you make a conscious effort to look around you will generally just be staring at your armor-plated speed machine and the 6 feet of road scrolling in front of it such is the concentration required to navigate a vehicle at this speed. The only times when that’s not the case is during loading screens with is fine by me as they themselves are eye-catching works of art too.
The sound has a similar “new yet familiar” vibe. The drum and bass music calls back to the Wipeout and Rollcage games of old with a soundtrack that wouldn’t sound out of place during the late 90s club scene. The techno sound effects fit perfectly with the visuals and create a wonderful synergy that only enhances the gameplays’ velocity. Hearing your engine roar as you break the sound barrier while the edges of the screen glow red with flame as you hit 700kph is an exhilarating experience. For me, the best way to describe the presentation of GRIP is that it’s how you remember older games being through rose-tinted glasses, but actualized.
You may think after reading this that the game offers nothing new, it’s just recycling what was done back in the day and in a way that’s true. However, to penalize the game for it is to do it a disservice. It’s supposed to feel like the Rollcage sequel we never got and that’s great because in the current gen world of racers that is totally unique. Just as Rollcage was a distinctive experience back in the 90’s now GRIP offers that high speed “which way is up?” gameplay to today’s generation, only now the technology has moved on so it’s even more intense. It’s faster, crazier but runs so much smoother. There’s lots of content here too, with plenty of tracks and game modes all available in single and multiplayer.
The game is just straight fun. Are some of the later tracks really hard? Oh lord yes. Does the game go so fast at some points that you clench your controller so tight that your knuckles go white? Yes indeed. Is it highly frustrating when you hit a ramp too fast and at the wrong angle and see your victory disappear in an instant? You betcha. But you persevere because the game is just so enjoyable to play so give it a try. I’d recommend it on the back of the multiplayer alone.
Extra VERDICT (Switch Version)
Just a few separate words on the Switch version as it’s basically the same. While the content is all present and correct, it’s the performance that suffers a bit on Switch. The smooth 60fps has been noticeably scaled back to a still enjoyable 30fps, the textures and lighting aren’t as nice and the resolution isn’t as sharp but, most importantly, the gameplay is still solid. I have been enjoying the game undocked while commuting and it’s a fantastic way to pass the time (Carkour, in particular, seems purpose-built for play while traveling). Plus there’s the added bonus of being able to pop the Switch up on my desk and play some split screen multiplayer at the office.
The only real negative I have found here is that two players on the Switch’s little screen did make navigating the tracks a bit harder. It almost feels like more sign posts need to be added when playing in this mode. With so much going on at such a pace, it’s not hard to get confused and find yourself going off-piste more than once.
Other than that there’s not much to separate them. You’re getting the same great game either way so the choice between them is what matters more to you, visuals and performance enhancements or convenience and flexibility. Whichever you pick, you’re gonna have fun.
- Couch Competitive Multiplayer
- Its just so fast
- Massages my 90's nostalgia
- The hard tracks are really bloody hard
- Being hit with the assassin missile (a blue shell in all but name)
- Discovering your friend has motion sickness