NOTE: At the time of writing this review, the multiplayer component of GRID Autosport had not yet been included in the game. What follows is a review of the single-player experience. We will be providing a multiplayer review once the game has released and it is added.
One of the types of game I have been craving on my Switch is a great, realistic-style racer. I have repeatedly had high hopes for a game and seen them dashed by either a bad port or just a disappointing game. As such, when I heard that Codemasters was bringing the GRID series to Switch, I got really excited. The British developer is arguably the best multi-platform developer of racing games. Surely, if anyone was going to be able to nail a realistic racer on Switch, it was going to be Codemasters.
Well, GRID Autosport is here, and I’m pleased to report that it is the best in the genre on Switch. That’s not that high a bar, though, so how good is it?
Let’s start with my biggest issue with the game, though it’s not the fault of the game itself. The Switch has a fatal flaw for racing game fans, and that’s that the triggers on the controller aren’t analog. This may not seem like a big issue, but for racing fans, it makes controlling a vehicle really challenging. When you’re pushing a vehicle to its limits, you need very precise inputs and to graduate the power and braking. You just can’t do that on Switch because the triggers are digital. They’re either on or off. There’s no way to apply half-power or anything other than full power or nothing. Seriously, Nintendo opted to include an infrared camera on the Joy-Con, but not analog triggers!
Right, enough about the Switch hardware, let’s talk about the game. The GRID series started as an offshoot of the DiRT franchise. While DiRT is all about off-road action, GRID moves the focus to track-based racing. There are five different disciplines on offer: Touring cars, Endurance, Open-wheel racing, Tuner, and Street. You start off only being able to access a couple of races for each category. As you level up, however, you’ll not only gain invites to more events but also get more offers from teams to drive for them. Once you reach at least level 3 in each category, you gain access to the first GRID series event. These are longer and feature events from all the different disciplines.
The actual racing has a focus on simulation, with some arcade-style concessions to make it accessible. For instance, if you slide your car a little, it doesn’t slow you down anywhere near as much as in titles like Forza or Gran Turismo. Tweaking the difficulty options is essential to make GRID Autosport the best for you. This is not just in terms of how good your opposition is but also how the car handles and how much of it you control. I spent my entire first race wondering why the power would drop out on the car when I was coming out of a corner. At first, I thought it was something to do with the traction control, but it turned out to be down to the handling assist.
Once I had the difficulty set just how I wanted (I highly recommend the custom difficulty option), I started flying through the different events on offer. The Touring, Open-wheel, and Street options all behave pretty similarly. The Endurance events see you racing for 8 minutes rather than a set number of laps. These races require you to really look after your tyres. You will find your level of grip after 7 minutes to be considerably lower than when you started. This is only exacerbated if you spin your wheels, slide your car, or venture off-track. The Tuner category offers a few different events. Alongside the standard races, there are time attack and drift events. I do have to say that the drift events are particularly tricky when you can’t ease off the power and can only apply full acceleration or nothing.
As you may have gleaned from the different categories, there is a lot of content on offer here. You are going to have to put in some serious hours to level up all the categories and complete all 3 GRID series. And even if you do that, the game will offer up more events with different combinations of tracks and disciplines. On top of that, there are another 20+ championships available from the main menu.
Alternatively, you could create your own events. You can choose to create an event in any category, with numerous vehicle options for each, and then choose which of the 26 tracks you want to race on. And there are some absolutely classic tracks available, such as Spa Francorchamps, Silverstone, and the Hockenheimring.
These tracks look great thanks to the superb graphics that the teams at Codemasters and Feral Interactive have managed to tease out of the Switch. While it lacks the level of particle effects and advanced reflections you’d get with the likes of Forza or Gran Turismo, this is still a very pretty game. The draw distance, general textures, and visual fidelity are among the best on Switch.
The frame rate is also surprisingly stable. There were only a few times that I noticed a drop in the frame rate. These rare occasions usually occurred when there was a lot of stuff happening. For instance, one was when a huge collision happened in front of me. It involved around 8 cars, and there were spoilers and bumpers flying through the air. Overall, though, this is a treat on the eyes in both docked and handheld mode.
I have longed for a quality, realistic racer on Switch since day one. With GRID Autosport, I finally have one. The controls may be a little flawed due to the Switch hardware, but the game rises above this. The racing is of a high quality, and the difficulty is easily tailored to your preferences. There’s loads of content on offer to keep racing fans busy for weeks and months to come. And this is even before multiplayer is added to the game. If you are a Switch owner and have even a passing interest in racing games, then GRID Autosport is a title you must have in your game library.