Developer: Caged Element
Publisher: Wired Productions
Genre: Combat Racing, Racing, Flying, Shooter
Platform: Xbox One
Release Date: Available now (also on Game Pass)
Price: £34.99 – Rapid Reviews UK was very kindly provided with a review copy for this game.
What the developers say
GRIP: Combat Racing is a high octane, hardcore combat racer, packing ferocious speed and armed to the teeth with heavy weapons.
Evolved from the age of street racing, the world of GRIP is brutal and cut-throat to the core. To win the race is never enough, greatness comes from the journey and the trail of merciless destruction you unleash upon your rivals along the way.
Scale walls, ceilings and anything else you can get your tyres on to… as you master tantalising tracks, tricks and perform mind-blowing stunts to race your way across the cosmos. Customise your vehicle, utilise devastating weapons and exploit a destructible environment to ensure not only victory, but the complete annihilation of your opponents.
Harnessing gravity defying physics alongside a bristling arsenal of outlandish weapons, GRIP delivers the fastest, most competitive racing experience ever. Featuring a killer soundtrack, furious speeds and intense action, GRIP is guaranteed to generate unforgettable gaming moments – online or offline – with nail-biting split screen racing and tournaments.
GRIP is being touted as a sort of spiritual successor to Rollcage, an old PS1 game that some of you may remember. This high speed, futuristic conbat racer was heavily influenced by the likes of WipEout but didn’t ever see the sort of success that franchise did. Having been in early access for some time, GRIP finally sees a full release on PC, Xbox One, PS4 and Switch but was it worth the wait? We’ve already had a review of the Switch version but now it’s time to see what I thought of the Xbox release.
Looks and Sounds
I always try to be fair and take into account that games don’t have the same massive budgets as those developed by AAA teams. However, I was pretty underwhelmed by GRIP. Track visuals were lacking in detail with a selection of dust bowls, snowy dust bowls and the occasional brown “city”. Some tracks push the boat out but the texture work was poor across-the-board. If this is what the future is going to look like, count me out. They’ve also added a grainy effect to the visuals which adds a lot of unwanted noise to the final image. Texture pop in was also rife even on my One X.
The selection of vehicles resemble the APC from Aliens. Big chunky wheeled monstrosities that bounce and roll around. They do not look like machines built for high speed. They do have a bit of grace but I’ll talk about that later.
There are some nice graphical flourishes here though. Heat haze distorts the fiery exhausts, boosts see little thrusters spark into life and there’s a decent amount of detail in the bodywork of each vehicle. Sparks fly as machine guns fire and explosions rock the screen. Other little details like the on board computer running diagnostics before each race and the HUD going haywire when you get hit are nice touches.
It’s a shame the same love wasn’t lavished upon the tracks themselves to be honest. With you going so quickly I think we’re expected to be laser focussed on the action so the background is there because it needs one.
The music is sort of future drum and bass type stuff. They apoear to be licenced tracks but as I’m not a fan, they didn’t really resonate with me. They fit the theme so others may get enjoyment out of the soundtrack. As for the rest of the effects it’s all grunting engines, whirring turbos, loud explosions and griding metalwork. They all have a decent amount of punch and do add to the action.
Gameplay and Replayability
It’s fast, really fast, so it’s a bonus that the tracks are so wide. You’ll compete across a variety of race types from straight up multi-lap races, to others that allow you to make use of the weaponry. There’s even battle arenas and some carkour tracks to test your tricking abilities.
The standard racing is a little bit WipEout and a little bit Mario Kart. For being so large, the vehicles are quite nimble and you can flip them and roll them about with abandon. If you end up on your roof, no worries, you can still keep hurtling forwards. Actually, getting round each of the 22 tracks is pretty easy but throw missiles, rockets and a host of other weaponry onto the mix and it leads to chaos.
However, there are lots of times when it gets frustrating such as when driving on a surface other than the floor or the ceiling. The camera often creates all sorts of issues and it’s even more pronounced if you end up facing backwards. It never bothered me when I hit obstacles but swooping through a tunnel, rolling up the sides to collect a weapon or boost and seeing the physics system throw you into the nearest wall on exit because you’re no longer in contact with the floor is a pain. Another couple of frustrations were the car catch up system and the one that really grinds my gears, the heavy emphasis on luck.
Everyone knows the AI cheats in Mario Kart. Everyone knows that to keep things exciting it needs to throw a spanner in the works but with MK I always felt that if you knew the tracks well enough, only a blue shell could end your day. Even then, you could still run away with it with the requisite skill. In GRIP, this all goes out the window. It’s not fun to be trouncing the AI only to find a couple of randoms seemingly catch up out of nowhere and beat you by a few seconds.
Weapon and damage based races make it even worse. I lost count of the number of times where I failed to collect more than a handful of projectiles to build my score or defensive equipment when I was out in front to protect myself. Mario Kart is liberal with coins and banana skins but GRIP is frugal when it comes to giving the person in first any sort of chance. Only scored a few hundred points, never mind, here’s another boost. Go see who you can kill with that…
The battle arenas are fine but boil down to little more than driving in a big circle and hoping the weapon lock decides to work. There are two other variants – Steal the Stash and Time Bomb but in there modes the AI was too stupid to be helpful and I couldn’t find any online games to try it properly.
Carkour wants to be Trials but isn’t. The tracks are dull and the cars aren’t really designed for all those flips, rolls and jumps.
The best feature of all though is the 4 player split screen. The frame rates hold up, everything’s a bit more competitive but the same issues still rear their head.
It was disappointing to walk away from GRIP feeling like it was a missed opportunity. The basics are there but bland visuals, races feeling like they were determined solely by luck and the uninspired track design left me feeling cold.
I always try to give a little leeway when reviewing Indie projects as I’m aware their budget just isn’t there. But in this case, the price of entry is quite high when there are other games out there like Redout, Trails, hell even Razed is a good shout if you want high-speed shenanigans. Futuristic combat racers are few and far between, and this maybe shows why we haven’t seen many other than WipEout. It’s a tough genre to get right, but it also seems like a genre that belongs back in the 90s.
Rapid Reviews UK Rating
You can purchase GRIP: Combat Racing on the Microsoft Store on the following link, https://www.microsoft.com/en-gb/p/grip/bsp8h31krm93?activetab=pivot:overviewtab. This game is also currently available for free, for Games Pass subscribers.