Let’s face a sad truth. Nowadays there aren’t as many fun, over-the-top racers like there used to be. Back in the Nintendo 64/PlayStation era, you not only had your traditional racing games but also over-the-top games like Mario Kart 64 and Wipeout. Over the years there have been attempts at bringing this genre back, but sadly, none have worked. GRIP: Combat Racing bucks that trend. From the moment your first race starts in the game, you simply can’t put the game down. It brings you back to those great over-the-top games from the past and improves on them. GRIP: Combat Racing is simply terrific.
GRIP: Combat Racing is an over-the-top arcade racing game. What does that mean? It means it’s not your traditional car sim racing game. Over-the-top arcade racing games feature, well, over-the-top action, some version of power-ups for your vehicles and crazy, intense races. In GRIP, you find all these things with one noticeable crazy gameplay change: Races don’t just take place on the ground but on the ceilings and walls. Some may take one look at GRIP and think of the PS1 game Rollcage, which featured similar driving mechanics. The developers of GRIP aren’t insulted by that thought, it’s very obvious they were inspired from that game. In my opinion, that’s a great game to take inspiration from.
One of the first things that impresses me with GRIP: Combat Racing is its physics. In an arcade racing game where you can drive on all surfaces, nailing how the game responds and how vehicles feel is crucial. In GRIP, each vehicle feels and controls slightly differently. In a game where speed is almost everything and split second decisions can mean a win or loss, it’s great that the physics are so finely tuned. Thankfully, not every single track in the game is about tight, claustrophobic environments you have to traverse. A number of the tracks open up to much wider environments, and this can make for some hectic races. In the more claustrophobic tracks, it’s about finding that right gap or right window in time to smash your way past the other racers. In these more open environments, it’s about being smart about which path you take. Not every path is going to help you go faster.
Another impressive thing about GRIP is its game mode variety. Initially, I thought I was going in to play a standard racing game, mainly just a Grand Prix-like mode. However, GRIP is loaded with many more modes that kept me playing for many hours. There are Classic Races, Ultimate Races, Elimination, Speed Demon, Campaign, and Carkour. Ultimate Race is about getting the most points by damaging the other racers the most. Speed Demon mode consists of ultra high speed races with no power-ups. Carkour may be the strangest mode but probably the most addicting and fun mode as well. Carkour is a mix of the tricks and moves from the Tony Hawk Pro Skater games with arenas filled with obstacles. It’s hard to fully describe, but man, is it a fun mode. I thought I’d try it out for a few minutes but ended up taking 2 hours playing this one game mode alone. GRIP also has split-screen and online play, making it a game with much to see. Unfortunately, the online servers were not turned on when we were doing this review, so I wasn’t able to test it out.
I got the chance to play the Nintendo Switch version of GRIP: Combat Racing and came away quite impressed. The game looks and plays extremely well on Switch. When comparing it to the other console versions out there, yes, Switch doesn’t have quite the same graphical details as its PS4 and Xbox One versions. However, the game still looks really great whether you play on the TV or on the go. I think in handheld mode the game really shines, it’s quite impressive to the see the game on that screen. Otherwise, the Switch version has all the same content as any other version.
My only real complaint about GRIP is that the controls can be really unforgiving at times. The game is about speed, really high speeds. This makes for some really fun races, but mess up and things fall apart very quickly. It’s amazing how crashing off course can really throw you out of a race. I drove off a course once in 1st place, only to respawn and find myself in 5th for the rest of the race, no matter how well I raced to the finish. It would be nice if the game was a little more forgiving when something like that happens. To be fair, not every race is like that. There were a few races where I went off course and managed to recover my position in the game. However, in most races, the controls were not helping me. I had to be precise or else. This is not a game breaking issue though. Once you have the controls pretty mastered down, you could get through the races no problem. It’s just an annoying issue to deal with as you start racing in GRIP.
Developer: Caged Element
Publisher: Wired Productions
Platforms: Nintendo Switch, PS4, Xbox One, PC
Release Date: 2nd February 2016 (PC), 6th November 2018 (Nintendo Switch, PS4, Xbox One)