Until now, GRIP: Combat Racing has only been available on Steam since its initial 2016 release. Developed by Caged Element and published by Wired Productions, GRIP finally makes the jump to consoles in a futuristic combat racer inspired by the Rollcage games. GRIP: Combat Racing is all about furious speeds and intense action.
Racing across wastelands or in a giant half-pipe twisting track, players move at breakneck speeds while driving a double-sided car that keeps going even when flipped. The car will flip, the camera will flip, your head may even attempt to flip attempting to follow the super fast action of GRIP. Players will even be able to drive up walls and on ceilings in the cylindrical courses, but be wary of flying off the track. It may take a little while for players to get the rhythm of gameplay down, and will likely be flung off the track often at first to only be rebooted back in the race, albeit a bit behind.
The tracks themselves are tricky when going at eye blurring speeds, and the unexpected turns into ramps can result in sending a player sailing forward. There are also some obstacles that will actually flip players and land them on the upside down portions of the track causing a bit of misdirection. Players should also keep their eyes peeled for the green booster spots on the tracks that send cars into an ever more mind bending warp speed. Getting brake timing down is a must, or numerous crashes will be recorded. There are also weapons and shields to for players to utilize during races. Rockets and machine guns come pretty early, but seem a bit difficult to aim. Up to two weapons or boosters can be held at a time, and all of these seems to be available pretty frequently. Most of the early competition in the campaign mode is pretty easy, so it isn’t uncommon to see racers that often early on if you hit your boosts. Besides a campaign mode players can partake in single player races, online modes, and there’s even a split screen mode for local players.
The upgrade system is pretty simple and players will earn points as they go up in rank, making new items available for use. This includes tires, paint, rims, and decals. All of this is color customizable as well as the placement of decals to get your ride to look however you see fit. There are also a quite a few really cool looking vehicles to choose from with their own specs which include acceleration, max speed, grip, brakes, and strength. All decisions should be decided carefully once players get a feel for the game and they start throwing in more racers to bang around with. The tracks don’t really seem that claustrophobic in the sense of being crowded, as they are fairly open, but the extra racers do give it a sense of confinement. GRIP does a really good job of keeping it interesting with multiple tracks to master as well.
The visuals in GRIP are actually pretty good. The cars are alright in their own way, the tracks and scenery are a bit better and pretty enjoyable too look at when you can see them. The game does slow down at times when you take flight from a ramp or when you are flipping from one surface to the next. All of this transitions beautifully without any hiccups and keeps players going full blast through the race. The handling of the cars takes a little while to get used to, but this is not your normal racing game either. The controls are pretty tight and only slight joystick movements are required to steer. The hardest part of driving in GRIP: Combat Racing is training yourself to not over correct and stay in the draft behind other cars if and when possible. The AI cars aren’t that terribly difficult to out maneuver, but practice will be needed before stepping up to race in the online world where the difficulty level skyrockets against players who know the game from its initial PC launch. The EDM sountrack of GRIP does a great job of keeping up adrenaline levels and matching the gameplay. The roaring sounds of the engines and squealing tires were more of the focus in my experience and should keep players on the edge of their seat with hearts thumping.
Overall, GRIP: Combat Racing is a solid game with hopefully more to come. More cars and different weapons would be a nice addition down the road through content updates or DLC. And of course, players will always be clamoring for more intense tracks. The addictive and flashy gameplay makes it hard to sit down for just one or two races. Besides the obvious need for multiplayer, adding split-screen was a brilliant decision. What GRIP did most importantly was create a fresh combat racing experience. I honestly wasn’t expecting much going in, but it delivered in all it’s heart pounding, head spinning, controlled chaos, and is definitely worth checking out.
GRIP: Combat Racing launches November 6th for Playstation 4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch. This review is based on an Xbox One copy provided the publisher. Preorders are available here.