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GRIP: Combat Racing

GRIP is a futuristic combat racer inspired by the Rollcage games from 1999/2000. Combine furious speed with intense action to create memorable gaming moments you won't... read more

Grip Review (PS4)

Author: Nick Banks
11-Nov-2018

Category: Review

Grip is a beautifully modern realised arcade racer exploding forth from a bygone age. It’s a simple product that knows it need not tie itself up in complexity. It is what it is - and that is enough. That is - a no nonsense breakneck-speed combat racer. A delightfully satisfying genre that, after a decade and a half has slipped into obscurity. A genre that hits hard when done properly and in all fairness to developer, Caged Element, Grip has been done properly and then some.

Grip Review (PS4)

Intro

In an age of old school remasters, tickling our need for nostalgia, Grip stands to be cruelly overshadowed by today’s hubbub of Spyro and MediEvil. Both of which will undoubtedly be clean, functional titles oozing with production value. For Grip to possess these qualities, developed by a much smaller studio than Sony Interactive Entertainment, is quite a feat. It deserves a place next to these two titles as well as Grip is a PS1 remake too! Only it’s original form took the name of Rollcage and you know you’re getting the real deal when original developer Robert Baker is working on this. Frankly, if you enjoyed the WipeOut remaster two years ago, you owe it to yourself to pick up Grip.

Grip is available now on the PlayStation Store for half typical release price. It’s also available on Steam.

Gameplay

Grip offers several game modes including split screen co-op (like the game itself, a delightful feature that has washed away into the annals of gaming history), single player races, campaign and competitive online play. Most players will want to start out with campaign to get to… grips (had to be done) with Grip’s systems. This is no generic racer and while the intro tutorial may dupe you into thinking so, advanced tracks will demand savvy and tact from players. Working your way through the fine tuned difficulty arc that is Grip’s campaign is addictive for no reason other than an XP and unlock system.

Grip Review (PS4) - Beautiful race track

It may be a tried and tested formula for titles like this but, heck, if it aint broke don’t fix it. Race after race will award players with XP dependant on race performance. This will in turn unlock new vehicles, cosmetics and tires. Oddly, as I switched through my unlocks, they seemed to make very little (if any) chance to my vehicle’s statistics. Although this was a very minor dink as playing on would reveal some crazy interesting tracks. The thing about Grip is that… there is no up or down. With no top or bottom to your vehicle, racing along at 700MPH ensures you can drive along walls and ceilings and the race tracks are designed for this. Adding a little variation to the mix, handling is affected by which track you race. The dust bowls of Mars will feel very different to drive on than Grip’s winding cityscapes and icy tunnels with the total stopping power of pillars throughout adding to the thrill as you whizz past them successfully. Even more so if you’re in first place and the others are trying to take you down with rockets. 

Grip Review (PS4) - Rockets round every corner

Overtake other racers by boosting along the ceiling above them or take them down with a weapon pickup. Better still, use a weapon to target the environment, bringing it crashing down on the opposition as they eat your dust. Not only is this cocktail of arcade features so smoothly implemented and functional, but Grip offers a sense of speed not found since Burnout Paradise. All of the elements play together wonderfully which stands Grip in good stead when vying for your attention in the midst of the more well known releases of today. 

It serves as an added bonus then, that to compliment such functional mechanics, Grip is jam packed with content. Like I said, the campaign eases you into Grip, gradually unveiling new race tracks just when you thought you’d seen them all. Given the drive-on-the ceiling mechanics that Grip offers, this just means the learning process with mastering any one track is more complicated than your average racer and ultimately - more rewarding. 

Graphics and Sound

In this department, players will find no compromise. Grip is built with trusty ol’ Unreal Engine 4 and hammers the point home that this underappreciated genre can take advantage of a gap in the market with the power of a lick of new paint. There’s no real need for the arcade racing mechanics of the 90’s to ‘improve’ or switch anything up, so all that’s left is how the game looks, sounds and feels. Unreal Engine 4 plays a huge part in Grip’s overall high standard of presentation. With your load screen not really having to line that much up for you to enjoy, Grip runs like a dream. It’s menu screens are again, minimal, but sharp as a tack. This kind of sharp minimalism in Grip’s design allows for a game that never struggles or slows down and good lord can it look good at the same time.

Grip Review (PS4) - Catch some air

To truly appreciate Grip’s sound design, a decent pair of headphones is recommended. Half of Grip’s fizz can be found in those headphones. It was only when I put them on that I realised so many minor details. The number one goal in a racing game’s sound design is to get the sound of a roaring engine just right - it’s different stages of roar dependant on speed. Grip gets this right as the up and down nature of a vehicle’s engine roar is not only heard in the player’s vehicle but also in the opposition’s. If it’s a close race and an opponent is right on your tail, you may hear them using their boost to drive home their advantage, indicating that it’s time to do something dramatic to take home the win. Add all of this into different sounding surfaces, the delightfully cheesy drum ‘n bass soundtrack and the surround sound of weaponry echoing through the race track - and you’re about there. 

Conclusion

There really aren’t many holes to pick in Grip. What you see is what you get and that’s no nonsense, true-to-form 90’s arcade racing. The quality of Grip should be informing the rest of the industry just what an untapped part of the games market this genre really is. It’s frankly criminal that this genuine WipeOut contender is barely being talked about. If you miss the good ol’ days and arcade racing is your jam, don’t let Grip pass you by. You won’t regret it.

PROS
CONS
 + Super faithful to arcade racers of the 90's - The unlock system feels a little pointless
 + Tons of content
 + Wonderful handling



SCORE: 9/10

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