GRID Autosport Preview: Codemasters’ ‘kind of but not really’ driving simulator franchise is back in a big way

Out of nowhere, Codemasters and Bandai revealed a new title in the GRID franchise that's releasing in only two months. GRID Autosport aims to be the culmination of everything Codemasters has learned from making various racing games over the years, and will be one of the most fully featured racers in their lineup.

We were able to sit down with Executive Producer Clive Moody, and get some insight into what the team hopes to achieve with GRID Autosport. Touching on the last two games Codemasters has released, GRID 2 and DIRT Showdown, Moody stated "Both of those games, great though they were, they weren't games aimed at our traditional core audience, the ones who live and breathe motorsports. We wanted to make a game that recaptured that." However, many who played the GRID games before will know that the series was never really touted as a simulator, and Autosport will continue this tradition.

"[We are] making a game that feels, and is based in an authentic world of motorports" said Moody "but, and this is important, never losing sight of the fact, it is a game, we are aiming to entertain. So what we're not, is a clinical driving simulator, and what we're not, is an arcade racer. We kind of straddle that fine line to get that right, that blend we try to achieve."

But not having the authenticity of a driving simulator is a small price to pay considering the massive amount of content. There will be five main car classes or disciplines, with each one having its own set of challenges and races. It will be up to the player to decide whether to focus on a single discipline or hop around, but each one will have tens of hours of gameplay included. 

Each discipline has its own set of cars, set of rules, and handling, giving very unique experiences from one another. The first discipline is Touring Cars, which is close pack racing, wrestling for positions, and trading paint. The next is Endurance Races. This takes place only at night, has much longer races, and will task players with dealing with tire wear. Then there are the Tuner Competitions, which feature cars tuned and highly modified for very specific races, which can include drifting, time attack and standard races.

Grid Autosport

Street Racing shifts races to iconic cities like Washington D.C. and San Francisco. The tracks are much more narrow and danger can lurk behind every tight corner. Like with Touring Cars, the AI will be very aggressive and try to make your life as difficult as possible. Lastly is the Open Wheel Competition, which includes races like F1. These races will focus on clean lines, and collisions are very bad here. The AI is still quite aggressive but in a different manner. Focusing on drafting and overtaking at the last moment will be the key to success.

Careers will focus on giving players as much freedom as possible. In previous GRID games, the progression was mostly linear. Here, players will have full control over what team they race for, what competitions to take part in, and choosing disciplines. The racing team you choose will provide you with cars, and of course their livery, and will continually task you with various objectives that must be completed before a season ends to keep them happy and invested.

You'll also have a teammate in races that will either be more aggressive or defensive based on what you order them to do. For example, if you tell them to be more defensive, they'll block cars from trying to overtake them, whereas if you tell them to be aggressive, they'll start to push other cars out of the way and won't be afraid to cause some damage.

The multiplayer is a quite different experience from the single player Career, and focuses more on building a personal relationship with your car. Here players will have 99 levels to gain for each discipline, each level unlocking various upgrades for your cars. However, unlike the Career, players will have to buy their own cars instead of unlocking them.

Each car has its own specific XP that can be gained by just racing with the car, and new levels will unlock new tuning options, upgrades, liveries and performance boosts. Vehicle wear and tear will also have to be factored into online gameplay. Cars will have to be constantly maintained and repaired until it becomes a question of "Does it make sense to repair this car or just buy a new one?"

Grid Autosport

The now standard Codemasters staple, the Flashback, is also present here, allowing players to rewind a few seconds before a major mistake or accident. Of course, those who want to keep their racing experience as pure as possible can opt to turn this feature off completely.

The game will also feature interior cockpit views for all cars, which were surprisingly absent in GRID 2. I would assume that this decision was made after players modded GRID 2 to offer a low-res cockpit view.

The last big feature that Moody wanted to touch on is the service called RaceNet, which was launched in 2012. This online hub with over a million users allows players to check out stats, participate in leaderboards and challenge friends. RaceNet will be adding a new feature specifically designed for GRID Autosports called RaceNet Clubs. This new feature was shaped by the community and will allow players to form racing clans, which can hold up to a 100 players. Being in a Club comes with certain advantages, like custom liveries and challenges that earn XP towards ranking up the Club.

It is coming out to current gen systems only. Moody explained that there were a few factors for this. First and foremost, Codemasters already excelled at developing for current gen systems, and given their expertise, they wanted to make Autosport as efficiently as they could. Secondly, and this was probably their biggest reasoning, is that the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 are established consoles in millions of households.

GRID Autosport is going back to Codemasters' roots, stripping out the unnecessary and keeping players on the racetrack as much as possible. But most importantly, this game is for GRID fans. Codemasters took a lot of time getting to know their community and building a game that fans would want to play, and Autosport is the culmination of this. The game is scheduled to come out the last week of July for Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC.