by Jason Parker (Ragachak)
Combat Racers have been in short supply as of late, but they were very popular in the arcades of the 90s and 2000s. They’re fun, high-octane action with crazy weapons, and wild tracks, but seem to have faded from the console scene. That’s where GRIP: Combat Racing comes into play. It’s got everything a fan of kart-racing wants, but with a fun twist: You aren’t bound to the flat race track, and instead can drive up on walls, against rocks, any surface. If your kart can get onto it, it can feasibly drive on it, and go at incredible speeds. One thing I was a little worried, after watching videos of GRIP, was if it would make me nauseous playing it. You do a lot of twisting, turning, swirling and jumping. Fortunately, it did not, and the driving felt very satisfying. There is no real story to GRIP – you race, build a reputation, unlock new cars, race new tracks, and destroy friends and foes alike on this high-speed battlefield.
GRIP comes with a great deal of variety in terms of game modes that aren’t tied to the campaign. It also offers split-screen mode for in-house action, which I highly approve of. It’s nice to know that in-house versus racing is not dead. Ultimately, GRIP is a combination of kart-racing and parkour, which they quaintly call “carkour”. The first option is your Campaign. In it, you’re working to be the best racer of all, which is a good enough reason as any to fire chainguns at people in a post-apocalyptic setting. Each tournament in the campaign is organized into tiers, and each tier has several races in it. You will see a name for the race, type of race, difficulty, how many racers will be on it, and what pickups/items are available on it. The tournament will also tell you how many times you need to finish to continue forward. This is nice, because I’m not the best racer, and simply “finishing” is enough in many cases. Completing the races, doing well and doing it fast gives exp, and fills up the bar at the bottom of your screen.
These races are incredibly fun to do the first few times you do them, but it can get a little tiresome after awhile. If you select “New Campaign” though, it will start you over at Tier 1 again. It won’t remove the EXP you gained from them or your setup for your vehicles, but you will start at the easiest races again. This feels like a standard arcade mode where you pick a vehicle, customize it, and tackle the races. Then you have the single-player options. These will also be available for online modes, which makes sense. These races are divided into three sections: Race, Arena, and Carkour. Races are your standard race tracks with some fun choices to keep them fresh. Arenas are Kart-Battling matches, and Carkour has the player driving, jumping, twisting and turning along a track where the goal is to collect the collectibles as fast as you can. Carkour are the only matches that won’t be playable online, as these are single-player challenges. So below is a brief description of the races.
- Classic Race: Standard Race – weapons, a track, the winner is whoever gets to the finish line first.
- Ultimate Race: This is still a race, but the winner is really whoever has the most points at the end. This means you need to grab weapon pickups and obliterate the other racers.
- Elimination Race: Every 30 seconds, whoever is in last place “disappears”.
- Speed Demon: The only pickup is Firestorm. Race fast, race hard, get to the end first.
- Deathmatch: Winner takes all, grab every weapon pickup you can and shoot and fire until you’re the last man standing.
- Steal the Stash: Basically, Capture the Flag. Drive to your opponent’s turf, get their loot and get back alive.
- Time Bomb: One player will have a massive, powerful bomb. Cars caught in the blast become mini-explosives. Last non-bomber wins.
I explained this one before, but I had some pretty serious issues with Carkour. In Carkour, you pick a track and a car, and you race across gaps, ravines, do tricky jumps and collect the items as fast as possible. Simply getting past the second jump, even on easy was incredibly difficult for the first couple of cars. This is not a mode I enjoyed personally. It felt awkward, forced, and clumsy. Carkour tried too hard to do something flashy with this fun engine. I would have liked to see Carkour in an abandoned, broken down city instead of this weird, awkward race track with tons of bottomless pits.
You also play those modes online and offline, and each one has their pros and cons. Ultimately, every single one of those match-types is fun. Each car you acquire has its own strengths, weaknesses, and uses. These races are also incredibly fast-paced, with lots of maps where you roll up onto the walls and ceilings of parts of them. GRIP does not reveal a map when racing, only a line that shows who is closer to the end. This is one of the features I’m less happy about, but I at least understand it. These are pretty open-ended race tracks for the most part, with lots of loops and pipes to swirl around in. It would be difficult to capture exactly where the track begins and ends. If the touch-pad didn’t reset your car, it could be used to briefly show a 3D representation of a track perhaps, but that’s not how it works.
You really need that car reset button too. Most of these tracks combine vast open spaces with a few tunneled off areas to spin around in. This creates a distinct lack of direction, and many of my races I have lost because I wasn’t really sure where to go, or a block pops up virtually out of nowhere. This will take you from 400 mph to 0 in no time flat, and while it makes sense, I wish there were more clear indicators of where you’re going and what you’re doing. You do a lot of flipping and flying through the air, but due to the shape of these cars, you can still drive while upside down. They remind me of the RC cars from when I was a kid, and it’s very satisfying to drive all of them. As you level up you unlock more of them, with wildly varying stats. It’s also important to note you can press the right stick to view behind you, which is good.
You need to know when you’ll need to use pickup weapons. From single-fire missiles, Gatling guns, multi-fire rockets, you’ve got a few really fun options. The downside to these, they feel kind of boring after a few races. As you level up, you’ll unlock cars, new paints for them, and new sets of tires. If these tires change how you handle, it’s not shown in the stats for cars, so it’s my determination that they are cosmetic only. You can change the color of these cars too, and add decals, but that’s the end of customization. Despite that, the designs of the cars is incredible, and they do make it very easy to roll your car along ceilings and walls. There are a lot of situations where I’d drive onto a ceiling, lose control and go spiraling to the ground, or off the track, and have my car reset. This is also a result of driving 300+ miles per hour and being on a ceiling. I will say the controls are incredibly tight and responsive, but the faster you go, the harder it can be to drift around a corner.
GRIP GRIP Revolution: Good (3.5/5)
GRIP is fun in doses; it’s high-speed racing, the tracks are for the most part fun, the action is non-stop, and the arena combat is very rewarding. The gameplay is incredibly smooth, and the racing feels so satisfying. It reminds me a lot of the combat racers from the arcades of my youth, which also makes me feel like it needs to be played in doses. I do wish there were more customization options and more car options, but the ones that are here are excellent and fun to play. There is not a lot going on to draw people back for more other than multiplayer. I do think this style of multiplayer racing with weapons is fun. Even if you can’t find a match online, the four-player split-screen will take us back to the good ol’ days of Mario Kart 64. Learning the tracks, learning what you can get away with on them is enjoyable, but the fun of exploration wanes. I do appreciate a racing game that takes skill and practice to be good at, and this definitely fits the bill.
When you hit the accelerator item, you really feel like you’re hauling ass, and it’s a solid successor to Rollcage, a game from 99/2000. I’m glad that the camera stays behind your car, even when it’s flipping and turning, but while it can be disorienting, it helps you stay on course. GRIP is fun, it’s satisfying, but I feel like it needs a little something more to keep people playing. More unlocks, perhaps, or more tracks. But there are definitely lots of modes, and other than Carkour, all of them felt fun against the PC. I’m sure it will be just as satisfying against other players. In doses of a couple of hours, GRIP is wild, exciting fun. More than that, it might start to feel repetitive. In that, it’s a great weekend party game, and we need more party/action racers. GRIP definitely fits that bill.
Note: A game key was provided for this review.