STAFF REVIEW of GRIP (Xbox One)


Saturday, December 8, 2018.
by Royce Dean

GRIP Box art I’m just about the worst person that you could take with you to the carnival. I’ll gladly come along to chow down on tasty “Beaver Tails” (“Elephant Ears” for you american readers in the audience... I don’t actually eat beaver tails. I’m not a monster). I may even throw a ring or two at some bottles to win, or more likely not win, a poorly made plushie that's destined to fall apart at the moment it leaves the hands of the vendor. What I won't do are the rides... you know, the whole reason you go to the carnival. It remains unclear what events leading up to the version of Royce you have today caused initial aversion to them. Truthfully, as long back as I can remember, I’ve had difficulty managing heights. I get anxiety when I go too fast and aren't in control. And you know, gosh darn it, I just don’t get to keep those beaver tails when I get flipped upside-down. You could say that I have the perfect blend of defects that make carnival rides an absolute nightmare. I’m still hoping for the patch that fixes all of those bugs, but in the meantime... You know what I can do? Bumper Cars. Lock up your kids because there's a lone adult afraid of the Ferris Wheel coming to wreck your sons s*** and potentially earn himself a restraining order. So how do I get my thrill seeking in? At home from my couch of course.

Nothing is more thrill-tastic than a fast paced over the top racer. You know, Like F-Zero, Motorstorm or Wipe-Out (the good one, not that waterpark party game crap). Along those lines is the brand new Grip. Its fast paced, full of action, and it makes me want to replace the window that I just shattered from throwing my... enthusiasm at it. Unrelated, does anybody know a guy selling controllers at a good deal? Asking for a friend. Grip cuts out its own niche by presenting itself as a racing game that lets you drive your vehicle with reckless abandon, because flipping yourself upside-down makes absolutely no difference. Each of the game's many machines has comically large wheels on each side, and a flat symmetrical body that lets you tear up the track without worry of derailing yourself. Kinda.


The topsy-turvy flippy-floppy upsy-downsy nature of the vehicles, and how they move about the track is one of, if not the main hook of the game, and both the tracks and game modes are designed around that. Each of the games many tracks is built in a way that has you driving around on the walls and ceiling, pushing upwards to 500 kph (that's kilometers for our american readers in the audience). Along the way there are all manor of hazard to watch out for. Going as fast as you are, many things will come up on you quickly, so simple things like branches in the road can become otherwise dangerous. If you bump into something of that nature while you’re upside-down you’ll lose all of your speed and go plummeting back to the ground. Grip is also defined by its combat racing. Unlike F-Zero, you’ll pick up weapons and power ups to help you eek out victories, or at the very least, stave off an utter defeat. At its core, Grip sounds like it should be an awesome game, but, ironically, it loses some traction in the details.

Arcade style racing games have always set themselves apart from more realistic style racing because they don't follow the rules of physics. That's fine. That's fun even. Grip is absolutely an arcade racer, but some of the gameplay, or more specifically, matters of control, left me scratching my head and wondering if Grip goes to bed, looks of the poster of Forza on its wall, and dreams of becoming a racing sim when it grows up. The speeds you reach in Grip are fast. Really fast. And the best way I’ve found to make quick turns at quick speeds was to put the controller down and order a pizza. That turn ain't happening buddy. In grip you have access to two types of brake. The normal brake found on your left trigger that when held long enough sets you into reverse, and the hand brake located on the 'X' button.

The hand brake is, I’m sure, the intended tool players are supposed to make sharper turns with, but it slows you down to a painful halt and brakes (tee-hee) the pace of the game. “Royce, that's too whiny”, you say! And you would be correct if that were a solitary issue. Unfortunately hand braking to make a turn highlights a second problem that Grip suffers from; insane rubber banding. Rubber banding is an effect that occurs in racing games that more or less latches CPU players onto you no matter how well you are doing. You could be running a perfect lap, or three, and then on your first tiny slip up you’ll end up back in 5th. It's a bogus mechanic meant to artificially pad out difficulty.


The way the tracks are built leads to unfortunate side effects as well. Grip, because of it fast and wild nature needs big, wide-open, multi-pathed tracks, it’s not uncommon to, during a race, run off of a ramp or wall at a weird angle and end up out of bounds, or at the very least, positioned so poorly that you’re doomed to place last as it’ll take you a solid chunk of time to get yourself back into the race. At one point I landed on what I thought was another piece of the track at a different point (think the overlap segment of a figure eight), only to realize what I was actually on was decorative prop with no way down. Needless to say I reset the race and finally got around to calling the window guy.

Weapons feel unsatisfying. The most useful of the bunch is the boost item which can give you a decently meaningful jolt of speed, but the others feel more or less like a crap shoot. The seeker missile is only effective if you have a clear line of sight, which is fair, but corners are plentiful and you’ll miss often. The gatling gun, when used, is hard to even see. You’ll hear it, but there is little by way of graphical effect to show you if you’re connecting the blows or mowing down the family of geese beside him. Being hit by the gatling gun it’s even more infuriating, because again, there is no clear graphic for what is happening. Instead you’ll be driving along in one direction one moment, then you’ll begin swerving because bullets turn vehicles now.

What Grip does have going for it is the amount of stuff there is to do. There’s a campaign mode, single player and multiplayer splitscreen free racing, and of course, online racing. Free racing is what you might expect. You, or you and a friend get to build custom races by choosing your vehicles and then flipping through a bunch of rules. Turn off, or on, whatever your heart desires. Similarly this can be done online as well. Where Grips racing content shines is its campaign mode. What you won’t be getting here is any kind of real story, so perhaps the word campaign is a bit of a misnomer. Instead you get a series of event style races with many number of rules ranging from basic races with boosting only, to racing with all weapons, to death matches which function as a sort of battle mode. These event races are plentiful, and difficult. Even on easy Grip can be challenging at the best of times.

Each of the games many racing modes will net you experience points. Where there are experience points there are levels, and where there are levels there are unlocked rewards. Experience gained is determined by various metrics, but even if you get last place you’ll still get something. Position, finish time, and even if you got a boosted start, all come into consideration when calculating experience. Reaching different level landmarks will unlock new vehicles, tires and decals for you to customize your ride with. Each of the games many vehicles handles differently, but sadly the tires do absolutely nothing to change that. They are 100% decorative, and 100% difficult to make out the patterns going 450 kph, making them functionally useless. You’ll spend more time with the decals, and changing the colors of your machine.


Another thing that Grip unequivocally nailed was its visuals. I don't know what kind of future we’re going to live in that requires the types of vehicles we’re seeing used here... but I imagine it would be kinda Mad Max-y, and grainy. The future is a Snapchat filter. For real though, Grip looks fantastic. While there are a plethora of tracks and cars to choose from, some do stand out more than others and they are beautiful. I’m a sucker for snowy environments, so my personal favorite track is pretty clear, but each and every track from the cities, to the ruins, to the fields, feels distinct and wonderful.

Unfortunately the same can’t be said of the music. The music itself is fine, and the composers should pat themselves on the backs, but it gets lost in all of the noise. Grip sounds the way you would imagine. A bunch of loud engines competing to be the loudest. The only thing noisier is political a discussion during Thanksgiving at my family’s place... HEYO! Sound levels can of course be adjusted to lessen the motors and up the techno, but then, and maybe this is just me, but I have a harder time focusing on the game itself. A neat feature that can be found in the options menus of the game is the ability to toggle specific tracks on and off if there are any you’d prefer not to hear anymore.

While Grip is a good idea, and has loads of potential, its current iteration did little to make me want to keep playing. I didn’t hate my time with it, but I didn't feel the drive (tee-hee) that I do with many others games, urging me to turn it on in the morning. Grip simply suffers from too many gear grinding gameplay annoyances that jump out at you at every opportunity for it to feel like the experience that it should. Every time I felt like I could keep playing it for an extended period I’d either get stuck on something mundane, or have my run ruined by a minor error that sets me into last place. No doubt there are many others that will enjoy Grip just as much as I didn’t, and as a game, it's not so poor that I wouldn't recommend it. In fact, it's quite the opposite. If you get the chance, play a round of Grip or two to see what you think. There is fun to be had, but as far as comparing it to the fast-pace racers that got my blood pumping growing up, Grip is laps behind.




Overall: 6.5 / 10
Gameplay: 6.0 / 10
Visuals: 8.0 / 10
Sound: 7.0 / 10

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