- Developer: Feral Interactive
- Publisher: Codemasters
- Release date: 19/9/2019
- Price: £29.99 / $34.99
- Review code provided by Codemasters
The Switch hasn’t been short of racing games, with the almighty Mario Kart topping the pile and a whole host of others available. What it has been sorely lacking, however, has been a decent realistic racer. Codemasters, ably assisted by Feral Interactive on porting duties, have stepped up to the plate with GRID Autosport to give us a brilliant racer that finally fills that gaping hole in the Switch’s library!
GRID Autosport is actually a port of the 2014 game released on the PS3 and Xbox 360. That said, it shouldn’t put you off as the game is absolutely brilliant. Those familiar with Codemasters’ racers over the last ten years or so will know that they have some serious pedigree, and this still holds true despite the age of the game. Some may be disappointed that this isn’t a port of the upcoming series entry, simply titled GRID, but Autosport easily holds its own on the track!
The game plays a bit differently from most other serious racers I have played in the past, as it is structured around a calendar of seasonal events that the player can opt into for various racing teams. Each season you are given the choice of two sponsors and given a list of objectives to achieve for them across each of the events in that season. Rather than buying cars and sticking with the ones you like, you are assigned a vehicle for the event by your sponsor. I didn’t like this idea at first, but as time went on I started to enjoy trying different makes and models from those I would normally be attracted to in games where it is possible to choose.
The game is split into five main disciplines, each with a very different feel. Touring, Endurance, Open Wheel, Tuner and Street are the main modes included. The game also includes the DLC from the original which included Drag Racing, Point to Point events and Demolition Derby. The DLC is a fun extra addition, but the real meat of the game is in the career mode and the various disciplines. Each of them manage to offer something different and uniquely enjoyable, but it’s also possible to stick with your favourite.
Pimp My Ride
All this content would be meaningless if the actual bones of the experience were lacking. The on track action is, thankfully, absolutely brilliant! The game offers a huge amount of customisation options that affect the way it handles. The usual options are there to turn on ABS, TCS and Stability Control but the game also includes a range of options to adjust the level of additional assistance it provides. The settings range from Arcade to Simulation Pro. Arcade offers some degree of steering and braking assistance whilst simulation pro offers full control over your car.
I found the range of options pretty overwhelming at first and struggled to find a setup that I initially liked. I started trying the more arcade like assists and utilised all the inbuilt options such as ABS and TCS. I found the game a little sluggish and found it was actually pretty difficult to win races. As time went on I dialled back the assistance and found that the game actually got easier! Eventually I got to the point I was running with Simulation assistance, Professional difficulty, manual transmission and only ABS on my cars. I was suddenly winning races and finding the handling an absolute joy in the process.
The auto braking and automatic gear shifts in the game have the effect of slowing you down on corners. The game often dropped a gear on the corners, meaning the cars shouldn’t have much torque and would trundle round corners like your old Granny with her shopping trolley. Once I dialled everything back I was able to scream round the courses with a much better level of control and in a manner much more befitting a game with Autosport in the name.
The vehicles in the game all handle uniquely and force you to drive very differently depending on their strengths and weaknesses. I found it difficult initially when driving a Camaro, as the ridiculous power sent me into a smoking spin on every corner, whilst the huge power to weight ratio and grip of the open wheel cars gave me a bit of a shock having never played a Formula One game.
The most impressive thing about the handling system for me was found in the Drift mode. The nuance offered by the handling model allows for a great deal of control in this mode and will no doubt allow players more talented than me to really shine in this discipline.
The Switch doesn’t offer analogue shoulder buttons, which initially presents a problem when playing a realistic racer. Some rummaging around the menus unveils a range of control options, including the option to use the right analogue to offer more nuanced control of the gas and brakes. Once I adjusted to this mode I truly fell in love with the handling model. This also offers a huge amount of control once you get the hang of the drift mode. Interestingly, the game offers Gamecube controller support and apparently supports the analogue triggers. I didn’t get the opportunity to try this, but it seems like a great idea for those who have the means.
GRID Autosport includes a huge range of tracks, mostly centred around real world racetracks and major cities from around the world in the Street events. Tracks include Brands Hatch, Spa-Francorchamps, Sepang and the Circuit of the Americas. Street locations include Washington DC, Paris, Barcelona and San Francisco. The real test for me with a realistic racer if whether it includes the Nurburgring. Sadly the famous ‘ring is missing and with it the opportunity to have a nuclear meltdown when you spin out ten minutes into a lap.
Feral have pulled an absolute blinder in getting the game to run nicely on the Switch. They have included a range of settings to allow you to customise the graphics and in turn, how the game runs. The default mode titled “Graphics” is stunning to look at and includes a nice range of filters and motion blur effects. This seems to stick round about the 30 FPS mark, but plays very nicely. Also included is a “Performance” mode, where some of the bells and whistles are dialled back, boosting the framerate to 60 FPS. This was the mode I ended up drawn to, as it felt like it offered a little bit more control with the smooth feedback afforded by 60 FPS gameplay. The game also includes an “Energy Saver” setting. This seems to dial back the frame rate in addition to some of the nicer graphical effects, which is maybe useful for those out and about without access to a charger.
The ability to customise the graphics is a nice touch. I found the sacrifices the game made to deliver a higher frame rate still looked lovely and I found the game really popped on the Switch’s screen. The game also includes the option of downloading and installing a HD texture pack for vehicles. The way Feral gives the player options over the amount of space the game uses and how energy intensive it runs is a real sign that they understand some of the limitations of the Switch and is massively appreciated.
The Devil’s in the Details
The game also sounds amazing, with the audio in some cases taking on a distorted effect to really emphasise the power of some of the vehicles. The game employs some nice filters when you are in a collision, similar to the artefacting you would see on an old digital camcorder. Collisions are meaty and have a visual affect on your vehicle, as well as affecting performance if you enable it. The level of detail in the game is impressive. The game includes hotkeys to communicate with your team during races. Driving through tunnels in the courses will cause the radio to crackle and communication to drop out briefly. These small details helps show the level of care that has gone into the game!
The game includes a huge amount of single player content, but doesn’t include any kind of multiplayer functionality so far. Feral have apparently promised that online play will be added at a later date, my only concern is whether players will have moved on by the time this is added. The saving grace here may be the fact this is the only serious racing game available on Switch at the moment!
Overall GRID Autosport offers the complete package. The career mode has enough content to keep players busy for hundreds of hours. The handling is sublime, as is expected from a game developed by Codemasters, and the level of customisation the game allows is impressive.
The range of control options and different levels of assistance should allow anyone to pick up and play, but anyone serious about winning should look at the simulation level assistance. The handling model makes for a hugely rewarding game and there is ultimately the option to fall back on a flashback, as was available in earlier games in the series and the Dirt series. These flashbacks allow the player to rewind for a few seconds and can be limited to prevent overuse. They act as a tool to allow you to refine your approach and encourage experimentation with the higher difficulty settings and more hands-off levels of assistance.
GRID Autosport fills a huge hole in the Switch library, but seems a little conspicuous launching mere weeks before the latest entry in the series comes out on the big boy consoles. It seems a likely bet that we won’t see a port of that on Switch, but for now Autosport offers a brilliant racing package for Nintendo fans!
- Codemasters’ handling model is perfect
- A huge amount of content
- Deep options to customise gameplay and performance
- No online play at launch
- Roster of vehicles is dated
- No Nurburgring!
GRID Autosport races onto the Switch and offers a racing package which is bulging with content and handles like a dream. Racing fans will not be disappointed and more casual players have a range of options to help them get into the game. The range of disciplines ensures every player will find something they are interested in!