GRID – NDS – Review

Handheld racers are a different breed. It was a
decade before Ridge Racer – an arcade and console hit – could be properly
made into a portable game. That development came courtesy of Sony’s PSP,
whose stellar processor allowed for a much deeper gameplay experience than
the good old Game Boy.

But while PSone and PS2-caliber games can now
be designed for handheld machines, we are far from the day when PS3 or Xbox
360-caliber games can be enjoyed anywhere. Such is the case with GRID for
Nintendo DS. Don’t get me wrong — this is a good game. But it’s not really
GRID. The controls are different, the mechanics are more forgiving, and you
can’t rewind time after a botched move. Though you may have anticipated that
some omissions had to be made (the DS couldn’t possibly have enough ram or
processing power to rewind time), if you loved the console version, you’re
bound to be a bit disappointed.

Alright, you’re disappointed.
(Tears, anger, broken windows.) Now that you’re over it, let’s discuss why
the DS version is a solid racer in its own right.

Arcade Simulation

GRID offers 11 different race types, most of
which will be familiar to anyone that’s played the other versions: Single
Race, Championship, Time Trial, Speed Test, Acceleration and Braking Test,
Steering Test, Chase, Survival, Drift Battle, Touge, and Blueprint. There is
also a practice circuit that lets you cruise without rules or a time limit.

Most race types are fun, but there are a few
that stumble in various places. We’ll start with those that succeed. The
majority are won with the same skills: by being the fastest racer on the
track. You’ll have to know the course layout and get comfortable with the
D-pad steering – which is nowhere near as finely tuned or as sensitive as
the analog steering found on every platform except the DS – or find yourself
slamming into wall after wall. This is not easy to accomplish. Luckily, GRID
is good at pushing players through the initial rough spots. It’s not a
particularly fast racing game, at least not in terms of the sensation or
presentation, so you won’t be engaged by that. But the course layout is a
nice (albeit scaled down) re-creation of the console versions. While some
locales are new or maybe just different, there are plenty of areas that
stand out for being a part of the world you’ve raced before.


GRID lets you edit tracks both
for the fun of it and to complete specific Blueprint events.

The Chase and Survival events will take
players back to the early days of Need for Speed, back when “Hot Pursuit”
was just the latest concept in changing up EA’s leading franchise. In Chase,
you are in hot pursuit of the opponent. Catch him and you win. Do so within
the first time bracket – say, 90 seconds – and you’ll be awarded the maximum
number of medals (three). Rather than the standard gold, silver and bronze
lineup, GRID uses numbers – one, two or three medals – to signify the top
three players.

Survival’s goal is the opposite. During this
event you’ll be chased by an AI opponent who seems to be faster and know the
course better than you. If he gets within a few feet of your vehicle, it’s
race over. Thus, you’re constantly, frantically driving to get as far away
from him as possible. The longer you last, the more medals you’ll earn.

Touge, like the Single Race, Championship and
Time Trial events, is an event of speed. But without any opponents and a
time limit employed, it is essentially another kind of time trial. Race
through to the mountain road, turn around at the checkpoint, and speed back
down to the area where you first began. Though this could have been a
nightmare on the DS where there’s no thumbstick and the screens are very
small, Touge races were a lot easier to win in this version than they were
on PS3 and Xbox 360.


Before moving onto the events that didn’t
work out so well, it’s important to note that GRID includes the same course
creation feature that was developed for Race Driver: Create & Race. This is
an excellent feature that, when used solely for the joy of creating and
sharing your own tracks, is very rewarding.

But when included as a specific event, it
isn’t nearly as fun. The game throws out a bunch of requirements, more or
less forcing the player to build something specific. That wouldn’t be so bad
if the requirements were clear. But you’ll have to tinker with the track and
place and remove (and replace) pieces until the checkpoint screen shows it’s
complete. Now suppose you want to take a break from track editing. What
happens if all the pieces are in place and every request has been met except
one? You’re screwed. You can’t save the track and exit because it’s not
really a part of the track editor, but merely an event based on the track
editor’s mechanics. The game won’t save during events, only after they have
been completed.

GRID also has trouble in the area of
drifting, as the semi-stiff D-pad controls do not allow for the precise
steering that’s needed to drift. As a result, drifting is clunky and
disconnected. You don’t slide into the drift; you skid into it and try to
hold it long enough to score more than two or three hundred points at a time
(possible but not common). Remember the cool combo system of the console
versions, where you could link multiple drifts for multiplied point totals?
That’s gone too.

GRID for Nintendo DS isn’t the show-stopping
racer it was on Xbox 360 and PS3, nor is it as cool as Race Driver: Create &
Race was last year. But if you don’t have Race Driver and just want a decent
racing game for your DS, GRID is a good time.

Review Scoring Details for GRID

Gameplay: 7.8
Solid racing entertainment. GRID’s smooth controls, fair objective variety
and interesting track designs are just what a racing game needs.

Graphics: 7.5
Nothing standout. GRID’s visuals are acceptable, but the car models are not
the system’s best, and the bland backdrops hinder the game’s sensation of speed.

Sound: 4
The repetitive techno beats and weak engine sounds are expected but no less

Difficulty: Easy/Medium
Most events have a balanced difficulty, but don’t be surprised if you find
yourself shouting at the screen during the Chase, Survival or Blueprint events.

Concept: 6.9
GRID is more of a Race Driver:
Create & Race
offshoot than a totally new racing experience. However,
you will recognize a handful of track patterns that were present in the console
versions, which is very cool.

Multiplayer: 7
Single or multi-card races for up to four, just like Race Driver. However,
with a weaker sense of speed, GRID is not as compelling.

Overall: 7.8
This Nintendo DS version isn’t anywhere near the quality (or originality) of
the console versions, but if you can accept it as a good racing game and not
another version of GRID, you’ll enjoy it very much.