Review: GRIP: Combat Racing (Switch)

Is this a racer worth holding onto?

By Andy Hoover. Posted 11/07/2018 07:30 Comment on this     ShareThis
The Final Grade
1-Up Mushroom for...
Fun take on arcadey racing; unique focus on combat mechanic; well done campaign mode; great visuals and sense of speed
Poison Mushroom for...
Some notable performance issues; controls sometimes feel inconsistent, especially after collisions; new cars are earned too slowly

When it comes to crazy, arcadey, over-the-top racing games with insane track designs and a focus on weapon-based combat, gamers are often left wanting for choices; unless of course you happen to own a Nintendo console, because any given Mario Kart game will most likely suffice. However, if Mario Kart isn’t quite your cup of tea, or if you need a break from the series after a few dozen hours, then a broader selection is probably a good idea. Thankfully Switch owners now have that particular luxury of choice because GRIP: Combat Racing is here to give racing fans a little extra variety.

While GRIP might technically follow in Mario Kart’s general gameplay footsteps, you wouldn’t guess a similarity by a mere glance. Instead of bright worlds populated by cartoony characters, you have a rather bleak looking take on far off sci-fi environments that you race through in blocky, practically designed racing machines. Considering this, it should also come as little surprise that turtle shells and banana peels are eschewed in favor of missiles and machine guns. Also, instead of the gravity-defying designs of Mario Kart 8‘s vehicles, you are simply left with the game’s namesake- sheer grip, afforded by fast speeds and big tires. While GRIP unquestionably takes a lot of ideas from Mario Kart 8’s playbook, it really does more than re-skin the concepts as the core controls feel decidedly different and the game’s structure actually feels a bit more ambitious.

While GRIP‘s single player campaign has you progressing through a series of tournaments, there is a greater sense of progression and variety. Instead of simply experiencing new tracks and faster speeds, new weapons and race modes are gradually rolled out as you work your way through the game. While you start with simple tests of speed, you eventually encounter faster races with more opponents and greater focus placed on the game’s items and the combat that ensues. Some modes even place just as much focus on wreaking havoc with your arsenal as they do racing, because earning points with blows in combat sometimes counts towards deciding winners and losers. These variations aren’t consistent throughout the game, but they pop up frequently enough to help add a decent bit of variety. Outside the campaign, you can access all the various race types, including a dedicated battle mode with its own arenas, at any time for quick matches of whatever tickles your fancy or you can play with friends either in split screen or online.

Tying together every mode is a leveling system tied to points earned by winning races, hitting big jumps, and, of course, blowing away the opposition. This helps give you some more motivation to keep playing even if you blow through all of the campaign content, but the rewards earned for increasing your level are oftentimes underwhelming. New cars are unquestionably the big reward as each features unique stats which, of course, opens more options for different styles of racing, but they are spaced too far apart. Instead, too many of the unlocks are just new tires and paint schemes that offer only aesthetic differences. A greater variety of unlockable parts with different perks would have made for a more rewarding progression system and would have also added another level of strategy and meaningful customization.

Unfortunately, the ambition of GRIP‘s design isn’t matched by its actual execution. Given the game’s name, the controls actually feel surprisingly loose a lot of the time. You have your boosts, slides, and even jumps, but sometimes things feel like they just go haywire. When you lose grip, your car doesn’t feel like a complex machine that weighs thousands of pounds, it feels like a toy that bounces around unrealistically. Sometimes, the slightest impact can send you careening off at the strangest angles while at other times massive blows seem to not have any effect. It’s nice when this inconsistency works in your favor, but it’s incredibly frustrating when you find yourself completely turned around or flying off into oblivion for reasons you don’t really understand. While these instances don’t ruin every race, they occur enough to still be plenty annoying.

The visuals in GRIP show a similar level of ambition wanting for some extra polish. Overall, the game looks quite good as it uses Unreal Engine 4 to strong effect. The environments are large and varied and the sense of speed is genuinely impressive. A close examination of many textures reveals lower resolutions than is ideal, but you’ll rarely have time to notice and it’s more than made up for by some truly fantastic lighting effects. However, the game can be prone to some noticeable, game affecting slowdown. Most of the time the game runs quite smoothly, but as you increase the number of racers and the chaos of combat that usually ensues, performance can dip to annoying levels. At no point did I ever find the game unplayable, though, with the worst hits to performance coming in the battle mode where split-second reflexes are arguably the least important.

The music and sound effects are more or less exactly what you would expect for a futuristic racer filled with big cars and explosions. Everything sounds decent enough but none of it stands out as being particularly good or bad.

I can easily imagine plenty of gamers really enjoying GRIP; it manages to draw inspiration from its genre’s fore-bearers, namely Mario Kart 8, while still retaining its own identity. Most of its successes can be attributed to its quality visuals and art direction, enjoyable single player campaign, and the moments of ingenuity introduced by its greater focus on combat. However, there are enough consistently frustrating issues to hold it back from being truly exceptional for most. Both the gameplay and performance can feel a little too inconsistent at times as the controls and frame rate can sometimes be equally bumpy. Regardless, at its core, GRIP: Combat Racing is still an impressively fast racer that almost anybody should be able to have at least some fun with.

Nintendojo was provided a copy of this game for review by a third party, though that does not affect our recommendation. For every review, Nintendojo uses a standard criteria.

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