Whoever came up with the idea to combine adrenaline-fueled combat with racing was simultaneously a genius and a madman (or woman). Managing these two things in one game has long been a staple of classic competitive racing, but GRIP: Combat Racing is here with it’s own spin...literally.
One of the selling points are cars that can flip and roll without slowing down. If you land upside down or drive up onto the ceiling of a tunnel, you’re good to go. With gorgeous graphics built on Unreal Engine 4 and a slew of weapons to use, does GRIP finish first? Let’s find out.
The Construction is Solid, But How Does it Ride?
Combat racing games have to nail a few things if they want to succeed. It all starts with a great selection of tracks. From there, we need vehicle customization and options. And, of course, weapons to use on our opponents.
Now, one major staple of classic combat racers was split screen multiplayer. GRIP wisely includes this, along with the standard online offerings. At first glance, everything is here, but we need to dive beneath the surface to see if GRIP truly is the whole package.
The single player offerings are quite good, with a meaty campaign that tasks you with winning various tournaments. While there’s plenty to see and do here, the progression system is a little too slow.
Without any story, characters, or strong personality to keep you motivated, things start to feel a little stale. The new tracks certainly help, with some standout environments that mix science fiction, post apocalyptic, and wholly alien elements, but the overall progression takes too long.
Since customizations are purely cosmetic in nature, the only way to improve your stats is to use different cars, and it can take some time to unlock new options. The same goes with weapons and defensive pickups. These are handed out as you progress through the campaign, but again, it’s too slow to progress.
In a very crowded market, games need to focus on providing satisfying results in both short bursts and marathon sessions. GRIP doesn’t really have that balance. On a different console, like the Switch, this may not matter as much, but when you’re dedicating your entire living room to a game, it needs to deliver.
Progression aside, when you are given the full scope of cars and pickups, GRIP has a respectable lineup of options. There’s a good balance between offensive and defense pickups. You have your standard boost and shields, along with a gatling gun and missiles. Others target specific enemies for a strategic boost.
Overall, they will all feel pretty familiar to those who have been around the genre, but they work well here. An option to charge one pickup by sacrificing another (once you’ve unlocked the ability) also adds to the strategy.
The actual driving feels good in GRIP, even with the standard car. When I first realized I could drive up the side of a wall or on the roof of a tunnel, it was a rush. Even flipping through the air, only to land on your head and continue on like nothing happened, never gets old.
There are plenty of moments in the open tracks, however, where you’ll gamble on what looks like a viable path, only to hit a wall or land on your side. It’s not perfect, but it makes for some very exciting races, especially in local multiplayer.
My only real desire from GRIP was more content and faster unlocks. Since launch, the team has been extremely responsive with updates, going so far as to provide a roadmap of planned content updates. A major one is scheduled in January of 2019 that seeks to solve a lot of issues and set the stage for new content later in the year.
For this reason, I would easily recommend GRIP to racing fans. If you only own a PS4 and your missing something that scratches that itch for a game whose name rhymes with Mario Kart, GRIP is the older and edgier cousin who will offer a similar gameplay experience with friends in split-screen.
Sharp and Sleek Presentation
GRIP leverages the Unreal 4 Engine for some astounding graphics and frame rate on PS4 Pro. The game looks sharp and runs completely smooth. While the tracks certainly have some unique elements, I would have liked to see more visual creativity in the track designs.
Many of them boil down to basic elements, boosts, and ramps. Other games in this genre have added unique elements like dynamic tracks that change or alter themselves. Something like this would have helped GRIP stand out more from the pack.
As it stands, GRIP does what it set out to do quite well. The game feels good, look great, and it’s fun to play. While it could do more to keep the player engaged, there’s not much more I would ask from a competitive combat racing experience.
Final Score: 8.5/10
A copy of GRIP: Combat Racing was provided to PS4 Experts for review purposes
Article by - Bradley Ramsey
Insert date - 1/8/19