Review – GRID Autosport (Switch)

With a new GRID on the way, the Switch port of GRID Autosport was the perfect way to reacquaint myself with the simcade franchise. While the console has slowly but steadily built quite the library for itself, its catalogue of racers has remained disappointingly thin. A quality port of a high quality Codemasters racer would be a huge boost, but there was an obvious issue. The Switch’s lack of analog triggers made the idea of playing a sim focused racer on it sound like a nightmare. Yet Feral Interactive achieved the seemingly impossible, through tight optimization and a wide variety of control schemes for any skill level.

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It just looks great, even for a game released in 2014.

When GRID Autosport originally released, it was in direct response to the tepid reception to GRID 2. Touted as a stripped down, no-nonsense, return to racing basics, anything that kept you from getting straight to the action was removed. Car customization, garages, a story driven single-player mode, all gone and surprisingly unmissed. Racers have always been one of the worst offenders of feature bloat, piling on menus and systems keeping you away from the race. Not so here, and this approach meshes especially well with the Switch’s pick up and play mentality.

While there are quite a few modes available, the meat of the single-player is Career mode. Split across multiple seasons, you are in charge of which of the five racing disciplines you will participate in for each season. There are no limits, so if you wish to focus on a single disciple for multiple seasons in a row you are free too. Or if you’d rather split your focus across multiple, that’s just as valid. Also before each season, you choose which racing team you will be competing in. Each one comes with their own unique set of objectives, further diversifying your chosen play style. Being able to build your racing career based off of how you wish to play makes it feel far more personal then a plot driven mode ever could. Not to mention it adds plenty of replayability.

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Cockpit mode, a sim staple, made it’s triumphant return in Autosport after being removed from GRID 2 for some reason.

 

Though it’ll be where you spend most of your time, Career isn’t all there is. There’s the Extra Championships mode (originally released as DLC) which features a variety of custom Drag, Touring, and Sprint cups. Then there’s Time Trials, a racing staple. Finally there’s the Custom Cup maker for you to design your own event, and Quick Race to jump straight into the action. It’s everything you would expect and all in all a lot of content to keep anyone occupied for a long time. The Extra Championship cups especially, which also comes with a unique benefits from being on the Switch. They were meant to be completed in one sitting with no ability to save, the Switch’s instant on/off capability side-steps that restriction cleanly. For some people, it’ll make the mode playable.

All the content in the world means nothing if the game doesn’t perform or control as needed, something that is especially true for racers. Fortunately Feral and Codemasters knocked it out of the park here. Performance wise there are two graphics modes. A Performance mode that prioritizes a solid 60fps over visual quality, and a Quality mode that does the inverse. Personally, the game looked great enough on Performance mode that I felt no need to ever switch to Quality, but more options are always welcome. A sentiment that certainly carried over to control schemes.

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The difference between Performance and Quality visually seems to effect the distant environment more then it does anything up close.

There’s a grand total of four different control schemes and full custom mapping as well. There’s Classic Buttons where you control using only the buttons no sticks. Classic Analogue controls using only the sticks, allowing for the precise accelerate/braking control higher difficulties require. Then Classic Combo combines the two modes for a more standard racing experience where you accelerate/brake using buttons, but steer using the stick. Finally there’s the motion controls which were actually pretty well implemented, though your mileage in handheld mode will vary. On top of all that, the game is also playable with single horizontal Joy-Cons and GameCube controllers.

While the game has considerable single-player content, those who prefer their racers to be multiplayer aren’t totally out of luck. Codemasters has already confirmed that the full online mode will be coming soon in a free patch. GRID Autosport’s¬†online was just as great as its single-player, and came with full car customization and upgrading systems to add a feeling of progression. With no launch window other than “soon” however, some people may prefer to wait until it’s released.

Overall though, it’s an incredibly impressive port of an already impressive game. The lengths Feral Interactive went to make sure this game lived up to the Switch’s full potential are incredibly impressive and set for a bar that won’t be easily cleared anytime soon. Here’s hoping Codemasters has a few more ports like this coming down the line, Dirt Rally and F1 on Switch would be a dream.

Graphics: 7.0

Once we hit HD gaming, racers looking amazing is a baseline and even years later GRID Autosport holds up.

Gameplay: 8.0

The ultimate simcade experience with a full range of difficulty options and a variety of disciplines to master.

Sound: 4.0

Either due to file compression or merely being outclassed by newer racers, the sound design is underwhelming.

Fun Factor: 8.0

The novelty of playing a racer of this caliber on a handheld never really wore off. It’s a full proper Codemasters racing game experience on the go.

Final Verdict: 7.5

GRID Autosport is available now on Nintendo Switch and PC.

Reviewed on Nintendo Switch.

A copy of GRID Autosport was provided by the publisher.

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