Score: 7.5/10           |         RACING         |         SHOOTER         |           MILD VIOLENCE

“GRIP: Combat Racing is a fast-paced, insane racing game that will have you on the edge of your seat vying for first position, with the threat of missiles and other weaponry hot on your tail. The ability to drive on literally any surface can be disorienting at first, but once you get used to it it’s a wild ride of thrills and spills.”

GRIP: Combat Racing is a futuristic combat racer developed by Caged Element Inc and published by Wired Productions. Grip started in early access on Steam back in February 2016, and now has been fully released on Steam, Xbox, Playstation and Nintendo Switch on November 6, 2018. In one word, GRIP is insane. It reminds me of two oldschool games from the early 00’s – 1NSANE (Insane) and Star Wars Pod Racer. The parts of 1NSANE that I remember are just going flat out nuts trying to finish the race and blow the other racers up. From Pod Racer, its zooming around the race track at insane speeds, trying to outmanoeuvre and boost away from the other racers to finish first, where the slightest mistake can cost you the race. The drum and bass sound track, supported by Hospital Records, also gels well with the fast-paced nature of the gameplay.

The first five races I aced easy enough, but the sixth race was a bastard! I ended up coming second after many rage-filled attempts and accepted the 2nd place. Back in the menu I was looking at the achievements list and there is a rare one for finishing first place 6 times in a row, and I just missed it, DOH! Now having progressed a fair way into the game, I don’t see myself winning 6 in a row any time soon, let alone 2 in a row!

In GRIP, you race in a futuristic vehicle with raised wheels that enables them to drive on pretty much any surface and can change from driving on the floor to driving on the roof, which then twists and becomes the floor, and then loops you round and it’s just crazy. There is no right way up and they can flip sides whenever they need to and just keep on accelerating forwards. Even when in the air they can be manoeuvred if you stop accelerating. I’m starting to understand what it feels like to be the balls in a pinball machine, bouncing from one surface to the next. Sometimes it’s all happening so fast that I just hold down accelerate and hope for the best, trying not to adjust the vehicle too much while it’s going through crazy spins up down and all around.

While you’re trying to figure out which way is up, you also have other racers to contend with. Early on the races involve first vehicle across the finish line, and power-ups are just speed boosts. This took some getting used to, but once you understand what the twists, turns and obstacles look like, you can pre-empt the moves you have to make. It really did make me feel like I was playing Star Wars Pod Racer again, only this time I had the roof and walls to utilise as well as the ground. All the vehicles in GRIP are heavily armed, and most of them heavily armoured. There’s a variety to choose from, ranging from sleek and light vehicles built purely for speed, all the way to ironclad behemoths that can not only deal out the punishment, but also take it. There are five models of vehicles – Terra, Cygon, Vintek, Pariah and Nyvoss, each with 3 variants that can be unlocked as you level up.

As I progressed through the races, power-ups turned into weapons, and these are both glorious and royal pains in the backside. Some of the power-ups are beneficial for you, such as the Painkiller which is a rear shield, and there’s also the Disruptor which slows vehicles in front of you while speeding you up and vehicles behind. Then there are the offensive weapons such as the Raptor which is a large-calibre, high-speed, semi-targeting machine gun that tears chunks into your opponent’s hull, sending them spinning off course. My favourites so far are Scorpion Missiles (homing missiles) and Hydras which shoots a barrage of miniature rockets, deployed in a spiral of destruction straight in front of your car. When you lock on and land a missile, the explosions are mint and can allow you to overtake a vehicle or two in quick succession. Obviously, the weapons that you pick up can also be picked up by your opponents and in the early stages after the start line, it’s always a hustle to get the first power-up.

Through the single player campaign, you race through championship events to clear each tier of races. Completing that tier will unlock the next, and as well as when you level up your player, you’ll unlock new vehicles, paint jobs and cosmetic upgrades to tyres and rims. Some of the vehicles you can unlock look bad ass and the customisation is cool. As you complete a couple of tiers, more game modes introduced. Aside from the standard Speed Demon racing mode, there’s also Classic Race (standard racing but with weapons), Ultimate Race (points scored for amount of damage dealt), Death Match Arena and Elimination Race. My favourite mode by far is the Death Match Arena. This is a free-for-all demolition derby style event as you try to get to the power-ups first and cause maximum carnage, trying to take out as many racers as you can whilst also trying to stay alive yourself. Each map goes for 5 minutes and I could just keep playing this mode over and over, it’s so much fun! Another feature I really enjoyed was Rivals. Once you reach Tier 3, as you start completing the championship events, you will start to form rivalries with the other racers. Once you complete all the championships, you must race and defeat your rival before unlocking the next tier. In racing games like this there’s always a couple of AI racers that you’re wrestling for that top spot, so it’s cool for the game to recognise this and then put you up against your toughest rival in order to progress the tiers.

As you unlock each of the 11 tiers, you are rewarded with new power-ups, new races and the difficulty of the AI racers increased. I found a big leap in difficulty going from easy to normal racers, to the point I was starting to struggle to get better than 3rds and 4ths in some tracks. I won’t mention the countless times of rage when I would be coming first and then hit a rock or fall off an edge, to then be put into last place! Thankfully there’s an ‘Underdog’ achievement, for going from 10th to 1st in one lap, which made me feel better – boom! There were a couple of times where I was going so fast that I flew off the track, drove up a wall and came down stuck between rocks and a cement wall. Another time my car went into some of the rock visuals just before a tunnel entrance, slamming me into the wall. Other than that, the game runs really smooth and the 22 tracks across 4 different planets had good variation from race to race.

Overall, I gave this game a 7.5/10. GRIP: Combat Racing is a fast-paced, insane racing game that will have you on the edge of your seat vying for first position, with the threat of missiles and other weaponry hot on your tail. The ability to drive on literally any surface can be disorienting at first, but once you get used to it it’s a wild ride of thrills and spills. The fast-paced music adds to the intensity and Death Match Arena is by far my favourite game mode of a racing game in a long time.

This review utilised the Xbox version of the game via Xbox Game Pass with 9 hours of gameplay. GRIP: Combat Racing is available now on Steam, Xbox, Playstation and Nintendo Switch and is rated PG for Mild Violence, Online Interactivity.

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