Inspired by the PlayStation’s Rollcage, GRIP is a high octane combat racer with weaponry that twists and turns through some stunning tracks at blistering speeds. It resides in a genre which doesn’t see the light of day too often – apart from Nintendo’s own Mario Kart and Sony’s WipeOut – so will it be enough to make GRIP stick?
Caged Element has taken a jump into the past to revive a twenty-year-old franchise. Without a doubt, GRIP is the spiritual successor to the ever popular Rollcage series and seeks to bring the high-speed thrills to the modern gamer. This is immediately evident through the games courses. Tracks which twist and turn with cylindrical designs with vehicles designed with this in mind; much like the RC cars of the mid-2000’s. Walls and ceilings are all within bounds as players attempt to reach the finish line first using speed boosts and power-ups along the way.
Unlike games such as Mario Kart where there are a plethora of devastating items to collect, GRIP has a more simplistic system in place. 9 power-ups scattered throughout the tracks vary from speed boosts to shields to missiles; all designed to give the player – or AI – an edge while racing. Mastering the weaponry can feel a little tricky at times.
Each vehicle has two slots to store pickups which can be activated independently by pressing either the L or R button respectively. While launching the left power-up is fairly simple and feels natural due to the position your fingers rest on the controller, I found that playing with the JoyCon using the right power-up slot felt awkward owing to the ZR button being used to accelerate. A simple button mapping, however, could remedy this.
Caged Element has done a great job in emulating blistering speeds without compromising the player’s reaction times. Moving at 300mph and more feels almost real with tunnel vision coming into effect. With everything directly ahead remaining crystal clear while anything out of immediate focus is reduced to nothing more than a colourful blur. It’s a simple yet effective method of adding immersion and keeping the game playable.
But with this in mind, I felt that the physics engine of the game was left wanting in some instances. While each of the game’s vehicles has their own weight rating, I couldn’t help but feel the vehicles felt quite light and for lack of a better word, floaty. While I didn’t find this too much of an issue while racing along the flat parts of the tracks, utilising the walls and ceilings felt that every slight tilt of the joystick felt too sensitive. Launching from a tunnel and landing at any sort of angle would see the vehicles twist and turn in the air as if performing some peculiar form of acrobatics.
In between races players can visit the Garage which provides options to customise each vehicle’s colour and design. As you level up during the course of the game more machines are made available which have different stats – pretty standard for a racing game, allowing players to use vehicles more to their own style. Some may have a better base acceleration but sacrifice overall speed, while others have better handling with various other stat alterations.
In addition, GRIP also offers up a lot of content, with a number of game modes to choose from. There’s the standard lap style race where points are awarded for dealing damage to your opponents as you all clamour for first position, an elimination mode, as well as a Speed Demon mode where weapons are removed allowing players to win based on skill and speed alone. These can all be played in single player and online as well as in split-screen couch co-op mode; something which a number of developers these days fail to acknowledge.
Performance wise, GRIP plays well. Apart from a few issues with twitchy controls, it’s a visually good looking game. While the Switch port may not stand up to the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One iterations it holds a steady frame-rate both in docked and handheld mode with no significant slowdown or stutters. It also offers all of the same content so players won’t be missing out. As well as it plays on Nintendo’s hybrid, I’d be happy to say it is potentially the best version of the game due to its portability and the Switch’s ease of sharing controllers for a quick tabletop gaming session. Though I am sure there will be those out there that will disagree.
Overall, I really enjoyed my time with GRIP. Being a fan of games like Rollcage it was nice to revisit the genre on a modern day console. The ability to take the game with me is an added bonus and split-screen multiplayer is the icing on the cake. While the game isn’t without its flaws – the oversensitive controls at times – it’s certainly worth picking up especially if you’ve grown bored of Mario Kart.