It seems we can’t get enough of arcade-style racing games these days, because just a few weeks after the release of Nickelodeon Kart Racers, a new competitor in the genre is also nearing its debut in Grip: Combat Racing. Unlike Kart Racers though, Grip has more of a hardcore edge to it, and much, much more speed. In fact, Grip’s main gameplay mechanics revolve around speed, so while it shares aspects with other Mario Kart clones, it also sets itself apart with its focus on speed and how it is used to gain the advantage over your competition.
Grip: Combat Racing is best described as a blend between the old school F-Zero series, and of course Mario Kart, because what racing game with combat elements isn’t these days. The F-Zero inspirations are evident in its futuristic setting and car designs, which aren’t hovercraft, but do have the ability to drive in a flipped manner, which makes for some insane maneuvers as you’re driving on the side of a wall to pass another racer. You can sense a bit of F-Zero in the game’s focus on speed and boosting as well.
In Grip, you can get your chosen vehicle going over 700mph, and like I mentioned earlier, speed is everything, and I’m talking in a literal sense, because your vehicle’s maneuverability is dictated by how fast your going. Unlike most racing games, the slower you go the less control you have over your vehicles turns, so you’re encouraged to go balls to the walls speed wise at all times. That’s because the faster you’re going, the better control you have over navigating your vehicle through the game’s 22 tracks, which include sections what will see you spiraling through tubes, or driving on the ceiling to get the inside edge on the competition. This is where Grip shines, because it really is thrilling to be zipping across a race track at insane speeds while riding up walls, or doing barrel rolls through tube-like structures, all in an effort to keep going as fast as possible to ensure victory.
The Mario Kart influence is seen in the combat aspect of Grip. There are nine available pickups that range from defensive to offensive abilities that all can change up the outcome of a race. There are heat seeking missiles, leader blasters, machine guns, turbos, shields, and other abilities that can change the course of a race in the drop of a dime. Due to the speed factor though, I didn’t find the pickups to be as big as a factor for winning as they are in Mario Kart and its clones, mostly because of a built-in boost meter that can get you back in the thick of it shortly after being blasted or derailed.
Grip definitely has traits from other competitive arcade racers, but it’s far from a hollow knock-off. This little title has a bunch of modes to explore, which include a campaign full of various race types and conditions, a single player mode featuring five different race types, an arena for deathmatch, CTF, and other competitive modes, and a Carkour course that tasks you with reaching a point as quickly as possible. It also supports online multiplayer, and 4-player local co-op, so it’s definitely not lacking in ways to play it.
Visually, the game isn’t anything to write home about, and its default film grain look is rather poopy to behold. If you turn it off the clarity gets much better, but there’s nothing visually that really stands out. The cars in particular are rather bland looking, and while you have a garage that you can unlock various vehicles in, they all still look rather boxy and similar. The courses, which are spread out over multiple alien planets, do feature some lovely looking color tones, but overall the graphics aren’t overly impressive.
The unimpressive visuals really didn’t impact my gameplay experience though, which I have to say can be rather fun at times, but not an experience I’d call life changing. The controls are fine, and at times they can make you feel the high speeds your car is going, but during others, you’ll feel like you’re controlling a rag doll thanks to this game’s physics, which literally make your vehicle feel like a paper plane if it catches any sort of air. It just feels odd when you compare it to how the controls feel while you have four tires firmly planted on the ground.
Grip is a good game, I just don’t think it’s an experience you have to rush out and play. It’s also a hard sell during this time of year when there are multiple, high-end AAA games in the wild that will eat up most gamers’ play time for the foreseeable future. Although, if you’re looking for a bit more hardcore take on the Mario Kart franchise, Grip can provide it for a reasonable $39.99 price tag. I didn’t find it to have the silly type of fun and shenanigans that accompany a Mario Kart session, but its controls, multiple ways to play, and the focus on speed, do make it an entertaining experience in small doses.
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Review Statement: The author of this review was provided a PS4 code by the publisher for the purposes of this review.