I love a good arcade racer, a game where you just strap yourself into a vehicle and put your foot down till the race is over. In my early gaming days, it was car combat that was the rage in Destruction Derby, Carmageddon and others all having players compete to do as much damage as they can. Arcade racing has refined over the years but the thrill of going fast and beating other players remained the focus and now we have the best of both in GRIP: Combat Racing, and the old school vibes along made me excited to play this.
Old school is certainly how it felt playing this which for me is a huge plus for the game as I lost 2 hours the first time I fired this up on my Xbox One. The ease of which GRIP is so pick up and play is why arcade racers can be so fun to play and GRIP has that right from the racing line. Set in the future here illegal street racing has now evolved into high impact combat racing, the game allows the player to pick a racing vehicle, choose some colours and boom you are in the action in a training race that really does all you need a tutorial to do as it introduces you to the racing style and the weapon power-ups you can utilities in a race.
Mode wise GRIP has a good selection from the single player campaign to online modes and co-op races. The Campaign will allow players to earn XP to level up which then unlocks new customisation options for your car from new paint patterns to wheels and rims. Sadly, this side is really underdeveloped and most of the cosmetics fail to feel like actual rewards at all, especially the tyre options as to be fair, you are moving so fast in a race you are never going to pause the game so you can appreciate how good the tyres look on the car. The racing tournaments in Campaign mode can differ in locations and AI difficulty with the first few tournaments offering no real challenge to players with AI that quite frankly never feels as though it can actually beat the player in a race let alone the very obvious rubber banding technique that keeps the Player and AI cars in a competitive reach even if you crash your car continuously off the track just to be teleported back and finding yourself catching up with opponents with annoying ease.
There is some strategy in how and when you use the weapon power-ups you collect in the race and you have two slots to fill with them, activated by using the controller’s bumper buttons. These power-ups can be either attack or defensive in nature such as the shield that can be activated to negate enemy attacks from behind to a quick speed boost to either close the distance or gain distance from the other cars in the race. A Gatling gun can be used to slow down cars in front of you at close range but the Scorpion tracking missile is my personal favourite as you time the firing once you have a lock on confirm on a car in front and watch it soar before making that final hit allowing you to take the lead with a satisfying “see you later sucker” moment as you blast past.
GRIP uses what it cheekily calls ‘Carkour’ in that for the race you can find yourself driving on the track and its walls and ceiling and at speed this can feel amazing. The tracks themselves are designed to allow this fluidly and will even incorporate the need to switch between them in a race with road blocks on corners to force you to take to the walls or jump ramps on the track that will flip the car onto the ceiling. I will say though at times this can feel a little disorientating when travelling at speed and it is very easy to lose sight of the other racers on the track with vehicles switching between them. Some of the tracks can be very hard to see in terms of where bends are coming up that require you to switch lane and well, to put it politely, many of the tracks themselves are rather boring to look at with no real effort put into their presentation to make them stand out or memorable.
There are visible attempts to not only showcase the inspiration taking from 90’s arcade racers such as Rollcage and even Wipeout as GRIP tries to compliment the racing with some musical tracks to pump the player up but this attempt only made me remember playing Wipeout, which is visually superior and excelled at having a kickass soundtrack to race to. GRIP only really serves to remind the player that this game did not have the same budget as the recent Wipeout Remastered collection and whilst what it does is ok, it certainly is nothing special. The limitations lead to the boring looking tracks and lacklustre soundtrack which fail to ignite the racing action for the player and the customisation options feel almost pointless to make your car standout in any ‘cool’ way.
GRIP: Combat Racing feels like a nostalgia game which has clearly taking inspiration from a love of the same game types from the 90s and it fails to be anything more than just that. Visually it looks bland and never manages to leap off the screen in a way more modern style combat racers such as Mario Kart for the Switch or Wipeout on the PS4 manage to do. The combat can be fun but it all feels far too basic to offer any real challenge and whilst the races can be fun to play, there is little there to grip the player to keep playing for very long, if you pardon the pun.
I appreciate what this game tries to accomplish and for a time, it did manage to remind me of those games I loved to play back on the original PlayStation but in 2018 it had to do more, offer more and be more than just a nod back to gaming era best left to nostalgia then the selling point of a modern-day racer. GRIP: Combat Racing is fun in split screen with friends and it really comes to life in the Deathmatch mode which with online play does extend the game beyond the dull campaign, but it fails to really do enough to make it a must have title and I can see this quickly becoming a freebie with either PS Plus or Games with Gold down the road.