I was supposed to experience the most arcane form of motor-sport – drifting – at the Drift All-Stars event with Codemasters, but it didn’t pan out. However, I could drift away to our heart’s content in the forthcoming Grid Autosport, which may just end up being the best current-gen racing game ever.
The sun beats down on a car park temporarily transformed into a race-track at the impressive, but soulless, Olympic Park in Stratford, London and an array of specialist drift-cars – anonymous-looking Japanese machines with garish paint-jobs – rumble menacingly.
There is a sense of anticipation in the air: it’s the day before an event called Drift All-Stars, and I'm going to be taken around the track by professional drift-racers, to publicise Codemasters latest racing game Grid: Autosport
. And then... It’s all called off. The event organiser hasn’t paid sufficient tribute to the local council, so the computer says I can’t drift. Bah!
Never fear, though: there are no official martinets standing by to stop us playing Grid Autosport
itself, so I can at least experience the joy of drifting on PCs handily equipped with Xbox 360 controllers. And Grid Autosport’s
drifting turns out to be a joy, which is a revelation in itself, as I've never really enjoyed drifting in games before.
But this time around, the cars seem to exist merely to get sideways: turn in way before a corner, and immediately, you create clouds of virtual tyre-smoke; combine gentle throttle dabs with the odd application of opposite lock and you can serenely sweep sideways around a string of corners. Now I'm drifting.
Grid Autosport: more than drifting
There is, of course, an awful lot more than mere drifting to Grid Autosport
, the latest iteration of a racing-game dynasty that can be traced back to the revered Toca Race Driver
Producer Toby Evan-Jones was on hand to talk us through it. He explains that the game’s USP is that it contains five different, distinct types of racing: street racing, touring cars, open-wheel racing (familiar from Tocas
of yore), plus drifting and endurance-racing.
He says: “The appeal is very different in each discipline. In touring cars you’ve got packed grids and you’re trading paint; open wheel features precision racing with standard specs and slipstreaming; street racing has aspirational cars, tight circuits and aggressive racing; drifting is very unique; and endurance racing often takes place at night, involves longer races and you need to think about tyre-wear.
"You can choose your path and specialise in just one or two disciplines, if you want.”
Key features, tweaks and additions
Evan-Jones asserts that while Gr
id games have always been about striking a balance between arcade and sim styles, Grid Autosport
is more sim-like than its predecessor Grid 2
: “The handling has moved more towards the original Grid.” Which meshes with the Career mode, which casts you as a professional driver for hire.
Evan-Jones elaborates: “You’re racing for teams, so you get a number of contract offers each season, featuring different disciplines and team-mates; choose one, and you race for that team for a season. The team provides cars and sponsors, and you can issue commands to your team-mate, for example, asking him to hold the pack up if he’s ahead.”
As in Grid 2
, the single-player and online elements of the game are totally separate. Naturally, Racenet, Codemasters’ social media-influenced multiplayer system which generates events on the fly, features heavily in Grid Autosport’s
online side. Evan-Jones is keen to highlight a new addition to the multiplayer:
“The big new Racenet feature for us is Clubs: which allows people to create race-teams on Racenet and group people up, so you can seek out a race-team and join it, or create a race-team of your own. When you do that, you create a livery for your team.
"When you’re a member of a club, the game automatically downloads your Club’s livery in the background. So when you race online in your Club’s colours, your performance is constantly contributing to your Club’s performance. If you put your own livery on, you’re no longer contributing stats to your Club.”