Grip: Combat Racing
Before you read
I am pretty familiar with racing games in general, though the only inspiration for this game I’ve played is WipEout. Therefore this review won’t really be judged based on other games and instead completely stand-alone, though I might bring up some slight comparisons. Before this review was made, I’ve beaten the campaign and did some single-player races as well as a bit of online to mess around with the settings for races. This game was played on Steam, but is available on all modern-day consoles (Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4). There won’t be any music this review as I’m pretty sure they’re copyrighted tracks, and I dislike them to begin with. Fortunately Grip does allow you to import your own music, which I did almost instantly.
Recently in my Discord I have started a Game Club, something people can take part in to enjoy a friendly competition to beat as many games as you can in a month. The genres for this month included racing, which brought me to Grip: Combat Racing. I’m always a fan of non-conventional racing games, and Grip seemed right up my alley. I believe I got this game from a Humble Bundle before and it did immediately catch my interest; I was just busy with other games at the time. But now that I have an excuse, it’s finally time to dive into Grip: Combat Racing!
When you start the game, you’ll immediately notice that there is a good amount of modes for the user to select. I will come back to the campaign later–oh you can bet I will–, but the single- and multiplayer modes are pretty customisable in general. It’s nothing too different from other racing games, but I like that you’re able to select the difficulty, amount of laps and enemies and much more. You can even put them in a tournament to create your own custom event, be it against bots or online! There are even some easter eggs to activate for more chaotic fun. The tournaments don’t have to necessarily be one kind of event either. There’s a good variety to choose from like races where your only focus is speed, but also races where you get points for destroying the environment or enemies that get combined with your final placement. I enjoy that last one the most simply because it gives the weapons more of a reason to be there other than just hindering opponents for that first placement. If you want to go all-out with weapons though, the arena is something for you. You’ve been put in a big–sometimes too big–arena and your only objective is to kill. Finally there’s ”Carkour”, which is pretty much what happens when you put a car in a platformer. Or Trackmania, that’s a fair comparison. It’s not a mode for me so I can’t really say a lot about it but hey, there’s a good amount so you can entertain yourself in case it interests you. The variety and customisability also extends to the cars, of which there are many and you can design them with whatever colours you want. The only problem is that there are way too many cars available with the same stats, and browsing through them is a chore as there isn’t a simple catalogue or something. Instead, you go through them one by one. I can give them credit for not locking the best cars behind a progression system, but they might as well have just given us a few cars with a ton of customization options–Or at the very least, categorize them better.
Balance? Can you eat that?
Ha, you thought this review was going to be positive after that intro right? Bzzt, wrong! Time to completely tear this game apart~. While the customization and variety in modes are good overall, for me personally everything else falls apart and I mainly have the campaign to thank for it. This is easily one of, if not the worst campaigns I have ever played in a racing game. It starts with putting you on the lowest difficulty- and speed by default and ends with the highest, which in itself takes the power away from the player but I’ll take that with a grain of salt. What is unacceptable however, is that the entire first half of the campaign is fine with you placing lower than fifth out of a total of ten racers and still allowing you to win. It’s split up into multiple tiers and you’re forced to do the lowest tier before you can move on to the next ones. This means that the first hours of the campaign, I literally did not have to try and still win. But alright, it does eventually get better than that right? Haha no. While yes, the difficulty does indeed decrease and you need to actually get a placement like a normal game would require you to, my other problem comes into play here: the weapons. They are way too overpowered and do not simply stun you when hit by them; they make your car spin completely out of control. What’s worse, almost all of them are lock-on and with the AI being on the hardest difficulty… yeah, I think you can do the math. Oh by the way, this game also has everyone’s favourite Blue Shell item. I thought we all agreed that this was a bad idea, who came up with this?? And also by the way, there is a shield item but it doesn’t help 9 out of 10 times. I have no idea why they just made this a small circle behind your vehicle and not a surrounding orbital field or anything. If you make the weapons overpowered, you might as well make the shield overpowered too. This campaign bored the hell out of me during the first half, and during the second half it managed to make me aggressive again. I’ve had an absolute aggravating time playing this campaign, and it killed my excitement for the entire game. Even though I won’t have to deal with bullpoop A.I. during online races, that doesn’t make the weapons any less forgiving.
But what about the controls oh Neppy-senpai?
”Eh it controls alright I suppose” is what I say with a grumpy voice, still pissed at the last segment. I’m also mixed on this as yes, the vehicles you’re controlling do drive pretty well. You can easily adjust your speed to drift or have more control over when you’re in the air, and driving on walls and ceilings is pretty much seamless. There are a few occasions when the ceiling is too close to the floor however, and the game does not know if it wants to pull an anti-gravity trick or hold you down. But on the other hand, you have to keep your speed up to be able to drive on ceilings. Guess who got a rocket to fire? Not me, but the A.I. sure does. They’ll ruin your entire day as you fall off the ceiling and respawn quite a while back. Might as well give up at that point to be honest. The maps are for the most part pretty good, but some do have moments that make the bad parts of this game shine even brighter. Even the smallest of rocks can spin you out of control like the weapons are able to because the cars have absolutely no weight to them, and you also have to be lucky after a jump that you were facing forward and depending on what jump it is, not with too much speed because otherwise chances are big that you’ll end next to the track. Now in the game’s defence, there is an easy respawn button and a boost that builds up over time- or when driving over green dash pads on the floor so you can sort of make up for lost time. Just make sure not to do it again because it will cost you greatly and the AI loves to rubberband. But yeah the maps are overall pretty alright and I especially like the environments so my issues with the game there are mostly nihil. Now if only the weapons weren’t so overpowered, I might have actually enjoyed this game a whole more.
There’s a reason my review chart now includes a “fun meter”, because I don’t think Grip: Combat Racing is a bad game at its core. If you play this game online for example, you won’t have the issues I described. The same goes for the single-player mode as you can customize the various events to your liking. But someone like me plays a game for the main campaign, and this is where Grip fails very hard. The first half of the campaign forces you on the lowest difficulties and allow you to place close to last to proceed, and the second half shows some aggravating problems with the game. A.I. love to rubberband, and weapons are too overpowered to actually be considered fun as they don’t just stun you; they completely make you go off-course and in worst case bump you off the map, and there’s very little you can do to prevent it. This is also due to the cars having almost no weight and despite there being so many, none make you have more weight and the differences are minimal aside from cosmetics. The racing itself is for the most part fine though, and therefore my recommendation is to carefully consider it with my critiques in mind.
I was not a fan of this game, at all. I’ve even been considering giving this game a negative review as a result which I sort of did, but there are good things to this game regardless. If only the campaign wasn’t so bad, my recommendation would certainly have gone up a bit. But unfortunately, we can’t always have nice things so there’s not much to recommend here. I will stress though: if you’re here for online play, this might be a good consideration when it’s on sale. I cannot 100% guarantee that online is still heavily played though, so do also keep that in mind.
Games like Grip: Combat Racing:
Rollcage – I did mention that I have not played this game yet despite being the main inspiration for this game. Buuuut I did look at gameplay so that automatically means I’m an expert now. Don’t question it. But since Grip is considered to be a spiritual successor, this is definitely a must play if you enjoyed this one. Apparently it’s better too.
Wipeout – Wipeout was pretty much considered the rival of Rollcage, but Wipeout swept the floor with them. It’s a very successful high-speed combat racing franchise on the PlayStation, and one of my personal favourites too.
Redout – A game that also takes inspiration from both Rollcage and Wipeout, Redout is praised by many fans for its high-speed combat racing as well.
Question of the Review: What do you prefer in a racing game: More simulation-like races without weapons, or more arcade-styled races with weapons? Let me know down below or reply to me on Twitter and/or Discord!