I'm not a motorsports fan, but every few years I get a hankering for a good racing game--probably because I played so much F-Zero on the SNES as a kid.
There's a certain appeal to chasing after mathematical perfection while thumbing one's nose at the limits of space-time. In a pure race, you have only your wits--and, well, the mechanical works of art representing the pinnacle of human locomotion help too. (This is why Mario Kart, with its muddied waters, is just a "driving" game--not "Real Racing.") This is the thread that runs though my enjoyment of the handful of racing games I've played over the years:
- F-Zero (SNES)
- MotoGP 2 (Xbox)
- Rallisport Challenge (Xbox)
- F-Zero GX (Shamecube)
- Rallisport Challenge 2 (Xbox)
- Dirt 3 (PC)
Before playing GRID Autosport (GAS), rallying was my favorite real-world racing theme for a video game. I guess in some ways it still is; there's nothing quite like barreling through the wilderness, scraping by on barely-managed chaos. In a hillclimb event (known as "Trailblazer" in Dirt 3), a spoonful of dirt or snow can mean the difference between a record time and a wrecked car.
But as exciting as rallying can be, point-to-point racing can get pretty lonely. Dirt 3 included events like Rallycross to tide me over, but at some point I missed the nudging and dancing that goes on in a closed-circuit race. Enter GAS. Dividing its content into five different driving disciplines (Touring, Endurance, Open-Wheel, Tuner, and Street), it plays like a lovingly-crafted tribute to motorsports of all kinds--even ones I didn't know I could appreciate.
The Touring and Street events really hit the spot for bumper-to-bumper racing, but in order to unlock special GRID events, you need to reach a minimum level in every discipline. I've also dabbled in Online a bit; finding a race is difficult if you don't have a group of friends to race with, but the weekly Racenet Challenges can be played alone.
The game subtracts vehicle repair costs from your winnings, which encourages clean driving. When I first started out, I was sidling up against the AI drivers at every corner in attempts to wrestle away a position or two (pretty much how I've always played racing games aside from MotoGP 2)--it still happens, but now I'm more conscientiously braking to avoid collisions and earn places with grace rather than grit.
Codemasters' love for the chase really shines through in GAS; and if the other events can manage to get their hooks in me the way Touring and Street racing have, this may be the last racing game I play for a few years.