Grip: Combat Racing from Caged Element is an arcade racer with the added element of combat. It has the DNA of many previous racing titles, most notably Rollcage from 1999. The designs of the cars are similar, and the vehicles can go upside down in the tracks because of the downforce generated at such speeds. Just like Star Wars Episode I: Racer, also released in 1999, the landscape can go by at tremendous speeds, and the tracks are located in different planets. You need the reflexes of a Jedi to stick to the track. The aesthetic of the tracks and pickups are similar to Space Haste 2 (2003), while the combat elements are similar to Re-Volt, another 1999 release. If you liked any of these titles, you are sure to enjoy Grip.
The setting is that Grip is a TV channel that covers underground races. The races take place in hacked together tracks in distant planets, to get away from the police forces that are trying to clamp down on the dangerous and illegal racing. This is the reason some of the tracks have turrets that indiscriminately fire at the vehicles.
The campaign mode is your entry point into the game. You have to work your way up several competitive tiers, through a series of tournaments, each of which contain between two to three races. This mode gradually introduces you to the various types of races, and the different power ups available. An arena race is like a destruction derby, and the only mode where you get health points. The more havoc you cause, the more points you get. One of the maps has ramps going off the ground, and if you take it to try and fly, what actually happens is that you keep going on a vast dome. You can fight on the underside of the dome, which is quite the rush. There are all kinds of convoluted tracks available that allow you to explore the capabilities of the vehicles, including tunnels, pipes, cliff faces, and ramps. In some portions of these tracks, you can jump from one surface to another.
The single player mode allows you to get right into the action, and is really fun. You can pick and choose which tracks you want to race on, the number of opponents, the availability of pickups, and the speeds of the engines. Once you have created a tournament, you can save it for later use. Creating custom tournaments really puts a lot of control over the game into your hands, which is a great thing. The only shortcoming is that you do not get to decide which particular pickups are available on a track.
There are a handful of vehicles available. The customisation options available is to change the colouring scheme, slap on decals and change the tires. All the customisations are purely cosmetic, and the base stats of the vehicle always remain the same. It does not work to always pick the fastest car though. For the Arena races for example, it is preferable to take along something with more strength. For other races that require precise maneuvering, it is better to go for a vehicle with more grip.
The “Carkour” mode is a series of stunt tracks that you have to beat with the best times possible. This is a bit like Trackmania, but only not as fun. The easier challenges are only good for getting XP to get at better vehicles, but really this is not a mode that we spent too much time in.
The multiplayer mode allows you to race and fight with other players around the world. The matchmaking can act up at times, but usually there are a few races available. The AI on the bot cars are so good, that there is not much of a difference between playing against the computer, and other players. There is an option for split screen local multiplayer as well, which can get confusing and hectic. It is an added bonus though, and it is nice to see a game releasing in 2018 coming out with this feature.
Do not rage quit this game though. Your campaign progress, as well as settings can be lost if you do not quit the game through the menu.
Now, Grip is not an easy game to play. Your entire run has to be perfect, and one wrong move can take you out of the race. Some types of races, such as duels, do not even allow you to restart. You just get a few pickups over the duration of a lap, so the combat is measured and strategic. You cannot just wildly fire away your weapons and keep boosting through the track and expect to win.
Sound and Graphics
At first glance, this might appear like a mobile title. This is because the default settings are on the lower side. Boost up the graphics to the max, and the game instantly looks much better. The vehicles do look gorgeous, and most of the highly detailed environments are going to go past you in a blur. The natural parts of the environments are richly detailed and finely textured. The rocks, the snow, and the vegetation all look good. However, the man made or constructed parts of the tracks are blocky – brutalist and functional. The turrets and machines are just cubes with pipes on them. The backgrounds are immersive though, and are sufficient to make you feel like you really are racing on distant exoplanets. There are moving elements on the tracks, so the developers have successfully managed to create the illusion of living worlds.
One of the best things about the game are the loading graphics. These are really well drawn pieces of art that hint at the background story and the people involved in the racing. The art shows the punk aesthetic, and the underground nature of the racing scene. The graphics also show the wide variety of tracks and the moves that the cars can make.
Platforms: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, Microsoft Windows
Developer: Caged Element
Publisher: Wired Productions
Most of the soundtrack can be described as a heady selection of melodic drum and bass songs. A ton of tracks are from a single label, Hospital Records, which is a UK based independent label specialising in DnB artists. There is also a little bit of grunge and alternative metal thrown in for good measure. The selection of songs is appropriate for the high octane carnage, and just right to get your adrenaline pumping.
Verdict – Grip: Combat Racing
There is not much to complain about here. The graphics could have been better, but that is really not necessary in a game like this. The art and the sound more than make up for it. The combat racing experience is fine tuned, and is a lot of fun once you get the hang of it. The high speeds, tricky tracks, and race ending weapons make for a potent combination. There is a bit of an element of luck involved, so a perfect run can be ruined if someone throws a missile at you just when you are at the finishing line, and you do not have any shields left. It is not a game breaking experience though. This is not a very deep game, but such a game does not deserve much depth anyway. If you like combat racing games, then Grip will satisfy most of your needs. For the price point, Grip is a steal.
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