GRIP: Combat Racing Review

By Mike Sousa on November 26, 2018

Since the early days of videogames, racing sims have always been one of the most predominant and entertaining genres in gaming. However, the release of certain titles in the 90s, such as Wipeout and Mario Kart, took this genre to a whole new level of experience, one that with the exception of Mario Kart games, hasn’t been explored that often in recent years. Canadian developer Caged Element has been working hard over the last few years to bring us a racing experience just like those that revolutionized the genre in the 90s, and the result of this work is GRIP: Combat Racing. The game was inspired by Rollcage games of the late 90s, which are racing games that were praised back then by their unique physics engine, in which cars could drive on walls or ceilings.

Races in GRIP: Combat Racing take place at such a high speed that, just like I mentioned above, allow vehicles to stand on walls and ceilings without falling. You don’t even need to worry about turning the vehicle upside down should you fall, as all vehicles are vertically symmetrical, meaning you can continue speeding through the track if your car flips. In addition, you can pick up power-ups, such as projectiles and speed boosts, to give you the upper hand when used at the right time. At its best, the game offers a lot of adrenaline fueled moments with its high speed races. However, it’s also here where most of the game issues lie, something I will get into in a bit.

The game offers several game modes, including five different race variations, three types arena battle, and a carkour game mode. Starting with the race variations, there’s Classic Race, Ultimate Race, Elimination, Speed Demon and Time Trial. Classic Race and Speed Demon are the standard modes where you race to be 1st at the end, with the only difference between these two modes is that in Speed Demon there are no weapons and you can only pick up speed boosts, while in Classic Race everything is available to you. Time trial, as you probably are guessing, it’s all about getting the best lap time. In Elimination, the racer in the rear gets destroyed every 30 seconds, with the last racer standing being the winner. Finally, we have Ultimate Race, the game mode that is probably the most strategic one, which combines combat and speed. In this mode, you earn a certain amount of points based on your position at the end of each lap, however, this is not the only way to get points, as attacking your opponents will also net you points.

Unfortunately, it’s in race modes that most of the game’s issues really stand out. For starters, the level design leaves a lot to be desired. As a game that is all about speed, I found incredible frustrating when the game doesn’t give you any indication on where you’re supposed to be heading, which would often end with me crashing against a wall, especially in some of the game’s most complex tracks. Another big issue I had lies with how the anti-gravitational segments sometimes don’t work as intended. I often experienced situations where I jumped off a ramp into the ceiling or wall, but for some reason the vehicle would just fall, which would result in me wasting a few precious seconds, especially if there was no floor and I had to respawn. This isn’t helped by the game’s level design when it comes to obstructions either, as I sometimes crashed just because an obstacle was in my path the moment I landed after jumping from a ramp.

Another issue that made races incredibly frustrating was the AI rubber banding. If you have no idea what this is, it means that the AI opponents will slow down and “wait for you” if you get too far behind, but will always stay close to you if you are in the lead no matter how perfectly you are racing. I often experienced situations where I was in the lead during most of the race, only to lose in the last lap, not because I crashed or was racing terribly, but because the AI was always on my tail due to rubber banding. This is incredibly unfair and frustrating, which added to other issues I mentioned before, makes the races only enjoyable and fun if everything goes in your favor.

Going into the other game modes, there are three arena modes: Deathmatch, Steal the Stash and Timebomb. In Deathmatch the objective is to collect power-ups and use them to deal massive damage on your opponents. The chaotic nature of this game mode where everyone is shooting guns and projectiles at each other is what make this mode one of the entertaining that the game has to offer, and will definitely put your offensive and defensive skills to the test. Steal the Stash and Timebomb will be added soon to the game via free update (along with some new tracks), with Steal the Stash being a Capture the Flag-style game mode, while in Timebomb a player is selected to be the bomb and everyone else must try to evade the blast of the explosion when time runs out. All these modes I mentioned are all playable in solo, split-screen and online, which is always a nice bonus, and considering the rubber banding AI, it’s always more fun playing against other people than the AI.

Finally, there’s CarKour, which is a game mode that will put your precision driving skills to the test with challenging turns, loops, jumps and twists. As you complete races, arena battles and/or Carkour events, either solo or in online multiplayer, you earn XP, which in turn can be used to level up and unlock new vehicles and several cosmetic items. The game offers a decent variety and amount of cars, with each vehicle having its strengths and weaknesses, but overall, they are balanced out between each other.

Visually, GRIP: Combat Racing doesn't disappoint. The game offers a great variety of tracks, each with their own backgrounds that are always detailed and very colorful. Even during the chaotic moments with lots of explosions and warfare, the game ran smoothly with a steady framerate on a standard PS4.

Final Thoughts

GRIP: Combat Racing is a game that has all the elements and the right formula to succeed, but ultimately, it also has several issues that prevent it from being a masterpiece. While these high speed races with its unique mechanics provide moments filled with fun and adrenaline, issues like level design and cheap AI provide equal amounts of frustration. If you manage to overlook these flaws or just focus on the multiplayer component, GRIP: Combat Racing is still capable of offering an engaging experience.

GRIP: Combat Racing was reviewed using a PS4 Digital Copy provided by Wired Productions. You can find additional information about Gaming Union's ethics policy here.
Engaging gameplay that provides some engaging and fun moment.
Great variety of game modes.
Cool and detailed visuals.
Bad level design that is the source of many frustrations.
Rubber Banding AI.
Glitches in some “Anti-gravity” segments.
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