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GRIP: Combat Racing Review


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On 11/16/2018 at 12:00 PM by Nick DiMola

I'm starting to learn that breakneck speeds just mean more devastating crashes.
RECOMMENDATION:

For fans of Rollcage and futuristic racers who are willing to overlook some of Grip's flaws.

There’s something imminently attractive about Grip. Between its sharp visuals, thumping soundtrack, and high speed intense racing, it’s easy to be drawn in, even from just viewing its trailer. When you do finally sit down to play it, the experience proves to be equal parts frustrating and fun. For every brilliant and unique aspect of Grip, there’s some negative measure to offset it.

I’ll admit, I have no experience with Rollcage, the series that sparked the creation of Grip, but doing some light investigation, makes it clear that this is a faithful modernization of that classic racer. The hook of the experience is that you move at such breakneck speeds, you can drive along walls and ceilings and if you hit a jump you can even, wait for it, grip to the ceiling on your ascent. And like Mario Kart, weapons and boost pickups are a part of the experience, inserting an extra layer of chaos to each race.

You can put your skills to the test in the campaign mode, which is segregated into tiers, each of which has a set of tournaments and events beneath them. There’s an absolutely gargantuan amount of content in Grip, which definitely helps justify its substantial price tag.

Each tournament typically puts you into three events, which take place across myriad tracks with goals and power-ups varying from event to event. One race might have the power-ups limited down to boosts only, while another might include all, but eliminate the last place racer at an interval.

One way or another, you’ll be facing off against a set of CPU racers that prove to be a formidable challenge even in the early tier races. The typical rubberbanding AI keeps them hot on your tail no matter how perfectly you zip around the track and a well-placed attack will force you to rush forward in an attempt to regain your spot at the front of the pack. You’ll build up a boost meter that’ll help you propel forward more quickly for a limited time, but perfect routing and navigation becomes as important as your boost to get you back into position.

But these breakneck speeds are what expose the cracks in Grip’s foundation. While it can feel absolutely fantastic to blast around the track at hundreds of miles per hour, it takes one poor turn, one miscalculated movement, one small bump from an opposing racer to send you careening out of control. Much less a full blown attack, which is sure to derail your progress.

Because Grip’s tracks are created to leverage the ability to drive upside down, there are times where you’ll sustain a hit that’ll “ungrip” you causing you to drop down to a much earlier point in the track, setting you far into last place and necessitating a restart if you desire top placement. I had other times where the out-of-bounds reset would work spottily. I’d be knocked off the track and despite having no capability to get back to the track proper, I wouldn’t be automatically reset back onto the track. Every second in that position is a second you need to make up, which is tough when everyone is always moving so fast.

In other instances, hitting a jump a little too well would send me to heights that I presume to be out-of-bounds despite not seeming it, prompting an instant reset even though I’d have landed perfectly on the track. Poor signposting in the broader trackers along with weird impediments that seem to come out of nowhere all kill the flow, which is really what makes Grip fun.

Every time forward motion and momentum is ceased, the fun ceases along with it. It’s far too often that something goes awry and I needed to restart the race, even in the earlier tiers, to nab that first place finish. 

But here’s the thing, there’s still such a strong pull to keep attacking the races. When Grip works, damn, does it work well. It can feel so great to rip down the track going fast as hell weaving in and out of opponents and clinching a clutch first place right at the finish line. I honestly feel like there’s a level of polish that just hasn’t been achieved that has resulted in most of my frustrations with the experience.

For instance, a huge day one patch fixed up all sorts of technical issues. I found yet another huge bug that is still yet to be addressed on consoles where you’ll lose the progress you’ve made in the first race of a tournament after finishing the second. Grip was an early access game on Steam and despite the slick presentation and robust offering, it feels like there’s more polish work to do before it’s “done.”

This also presents itself in the battle mode outside of the racing. It’s not bad, but the arenas are too big and dealing substantial damage to your enemies in the time frames allotted feels near impossible. The same goes for the parkour tracks. A neat idea for an addition, but it’s a little too tough out of the gate and takes a lot of trial and error before you really understand how to perfectly approach the challenge.

A once-over on everything in Grip really needs to be done. I love what the team at Caged Element has gone for, but in execution it brings a whole slew of frustrations. Hopefully patches will continue to roll out to address all of the shortcomings of Grip and players looking for the perfect modernization of Rollcage will have the game they’ve desired for so long.

Review Policy

In our reviews, we'll try not to bore you with minutiae of a game. Instead, we'll outline what makes the game good or bad, and focus on telling you whether or not it is worth your time as opposed to what button makes you jump.

We use a five-star rating system with intervals of .5. Below is an outline of what each score generally means:


All games that receive this score are standout games in their genre. All players should seek a way to play this game. While the score doesn't equate to perfection, it's the best any game could conceivably do.


These are above-average games that most players should consider purchasing. Nearly everyone will enjoy the game and given the proper audience, some may even love these games.


This is our middle-of-the-road ranking. Titles that receive three stars may not make a strong impression on the reviewer in either direction. These games may have some faults and some strong points but they average out to be a modest title that is at least worthy of rental for most.


Games that are awarded two stars are below average titles. Good ideas may be present, but execution is poor and many issues hinder the experience.


Though functional, a game that receives this score has major issues. There are little to no redeeming qualities and should be avoided by nearly all players.


A game that gets this score is fundamentally broken and should be avoided by everyone.


 

Comments

Matt Snee Staff Writer

11/18/2018 at 12:13 PM

There's a large gap between intention and execution in creating something if you're not careful. 

The Last Ninja

11/27/2018 at 09:58 AM

I've been very curious about this game. I love F-Zero and Shinen's Fast Racing RMX, so it's great to see another futuristic racing game. Might pick this up for Switch. 

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