Grip: Combat Racing is a combat racer available from retail stores and for download from the PlayStation Store for the PS4. Grip: Combat Racing aims to pay homage to Rollcage; developed by Attention to Detail and published by Psygnosis, Rollcage was a big part of the combat racer genre’s evolution on PS1 and PC with Rollcage and Rollcage: Stage II in 1999 and 2000 respectively. Grip: Combat Racing actually features multiple development team members that brought Rollcage to life to begin with. Can Caged Element deliver the definitive renaissance of futuristic combat racers in the form of Grip: Combat Racing?
Gameplay begins with an optional tutorial informing the player of how to accelerate, steer, collect and use weapons and power-ups, driving on the ceiling and much more besides. It is an effective tutorial that only takes a few minutes to cover the major gameplay mechanics before allowing you to continue the tutorial for as long as you prefer until everything becomes second nature.
Campaign is essentially a futuristic racer’s equivalent of a career mode comprising of a multitude of tournaments situated throughout numerous tiers. Each tournament features upwards of three events containing varying quantities of opponents, laps, difficulty and engine power taking place on differing tracks and event types to keep the action and tournament rankings feeling as unpredictable as possible. However, it would have been nice to see a podium showcasing the top 3 vehicles at the end of each tournament, although podium presentations are not included.
Single player mode allows the player to participate in any event type as an individual event on any track with the choice of event duration such as anywhere from 1 to 20 laps in races or time limit and kill limit in a deathmatch arena event, while further customisation also includes the quantity of participants from 2 to 10, if power-ups are situated on track, catchup assistance, destructible vehicles, mirrored track, difficulty level and engine power. However, the player can also customise a tournament of up to half a dozen events including classic race, ultimate race, elimination race, deathmatch arena and speed demon, alongside all of the customisation options from individual events; therefore you could even create your own endurance tournament with as many as 20 laps per race for half a dozen consecutive race events culminating in a points table to decide the winner of the tournament.
There are three event categories including race, arena and carkour that each contains a multitude of event types. Race event category comprises of a traditional race to the finish line for the win with an emphasis on speed accompanied by plenty of weapons and power-ups referred to as a classic race; ultimate race offers up a combat race in which points are awarded for utilising weapons that hit opposing vehicles; elimination race sees a competitor eliminated from the back of the field after every 30 seconds; speed demon is purely about racing with no weapons allowed; and time trial offers the chance to set your fastest lap time against the clock with no other competitors on track. Arena includes deathmatch in which vehicles are surrounded by lots of power-ups to fire at each other’s vehicles with the competitor that has destroyed the most vehicles winning the event; steal the stash tasks teams to steal the loot from the opposition’s base and return it to your base without your team’s vehicles being destroyed by the opposition in the process; and a survival focused event in which competitors must avoid the shockwave or their vehicle will begin preparing for attempting to defeat other competitors in addition to itself. Carkour comprises twists, turns, loops, jumps and various obstacles form challenging driving skill focused tracks were the player has to collect every collectible in as fast a time as possible.
Track design is quite diverse as there are a total of 23 tracks for race event types spread throughout 4 unique planets named Liddo 5, Norvos, Orbital Prime and Jahtra, while there are a total of 5 tracks that can be specifically chosen for the deathmatch arena event type that are set within the 4 planets, alongside a multitude of smaller themes and track designs for the carkour event type yet every bit as creative. Every track has moments that can catch the player out if not absolutely actively learning the track layouts such as a change in track surface or having to be forced onto a wall or ceiling in order to continue your vehicle’s momentum, while there are also obstacles and jumps to contend with that are capable of spitting your vehicle off the track or at least the ideal racing line. Some tracks have an alternative that is reversed and other tracks are set at night that are included in the quantity of tracks; however an option to race on mirrored tracks essentially doubles the quantity of tracks in every event type by fundamentally changing right turns into left turns and vice versa.
Vehicle design is clearly heavily inspired by Rollcage, while being quite varied as every vehicle has a similar shape to its structure albeit with differing aerodynamic elements. Each of the 14 vehicles has a unique name and five attributes including acceleration, maximum speed, grip, brakes and strength, although only three vehicles are immediately available, while the higher quality vehicles are unlocked by earning enough XP to level up to the corresponding level. Meanwhile, the player can also visit the garage to customise their vehicle’s hue, saturation and brightness of the primary and secondary colour and the hue and saturation of the tertiary colour for bodywork, alongside the hue, saturation and brightness of the primary and secondary colour for rims and the contrast and brightness of tires. There are also different sets of paintwork, decals with customisable positioning and rotation, tires and rims that are unlocked by attaining a certain level.
Weapons and power-ups can be collected throughout the track to compensate for them only lasting momentarily. There are five weapons including a scorpion homing missile that manoeuvres around obstacles to hunt for the vehicle it was aimed at; a raptor high calibre machine gun that fires bullets rapidly enough to send opposing vehicles off course; an assassin 1st place tracking missile that automatically targets the race leader; hydra rocket swarm fires a swarm of micro missiles that causes vehicles to lose their grip and inflicts lots of damage when the entire swarm hits a single vehicle; and spearhead explosive darts. Meanwhile, power-ups include the painkiller protective shield that prevents any weapons hitting your vehicle; the firestorm injection system turbo charges your vehicle with a huge burst of extra speed in a method that is reminiscent to a futuristic energy recovery system (ERS); ramraider road clearer clears a path for your vehicle to overtake the opposition by forcefully moving them to one side; and disruptor pack compressor slows down time for every vehicle other than the competitor who utilised it, while if you are at the back and use it, then time will be slowed down for a greater period of time in order to progress through a tighter field of vehicles. A further variation in weapons and power-ups comes in the form of being able to briefly hold the input to be able to gain a more powerful version or alternative use when having a weapon or power-up in both inventory slots.
Grip: Combat Racing’s sense of speed is truly exceptional even when racing on the low engine power setting driving one of the three vehicles available at the beginning. Getting an entry into and an exit out of a corner spot on followed by hitting an on track speed boost pad and engaging speed boost power-ups elevates the pacing to an entirely different level, although the wild engine power setting is really where the flat-out roar grunt of the vehicle’s engines shine. However, handling will not always feel precise purely due to the varying attributes of each vehicle, so players should not expect to get the best handling out of the first few vehicles; instead having to learn the boundaries of each vehicle’s qualities which if anything is an excellent design choice given there are 11 vehicles to unlock.
Players can earn XP to level up in any mode and event type via finishing position, setting the best lap time, the amount of time spent in the air, the quality of success rate with particular power-ups, alongside defeating rivals in campaign mode and more besides. Earning as much XP as possible is important as levelling up unlocks vehicles, further vehicle customisation and more besides.
There are five camera angles including a first-person perspective that shows none of the vehicle’s bodywork, while the second first-person perspective is located on the top centre of the vehicle and showing the bodywork situated around it, alongside three third-person perspectives that range from being slightly behind the vehicle to being a fair amount further back from the vehicle. Both first-person and all three third-person camera angles allow the player to pan the camera angle a full 360 degrees to assist in attempting to prevent an overtake or knowing exactly when to deploy the temporary shield after an opponent has unleashed a weapon or power-up in your vehicle’s direction.
A Collector’s Edition limited to only 300 for general sale comprises of Grip: Combat Racing on the available platform of your choice and a free Steam key; a double Vinyl, CD soundtrack and MP3 download key; 3 x 12” double-sided art prints; classic game manual and lorebook; 8GB Grip USB drive featuring an exclusive video from creators Rob Baker and Chris Mallinson; bonus downloadable content including Nyvoss Hex paint kit, Vortex Rims and vehicle decals; Grip sick bag; vehicle decal stickers; and numbered card of authenticity.
The car combat racing genre is adequately covered on Vita with games such as ModNation Racers: Road Trip, Sonic and SEGA All-Stars Racing Transformed, Table Top Racing and Wipeout 2048, although given the fact that Jak X and Little Big Planet Karting never received Vita ports; there is still room for Grip: Combat Racing to shine if it was to be ported to Vita with remote play providing consolation. Grip: Combat Racing’s remote play performance is incredible as it retains the quality of graphics, audio and general performance as the PS4 version. Split-screen multiplayer is displayed in split-screen during remote play, although it would have been much better to have the player using remote play to have their own full Vita screen with the other player having a full television screen. There are no remote play control optimisations as accelerating and braking or reversing are mapped to the top right and top left of the rear touch pad respectively which would have been far better suited to being re-mapped to R and L respectively; therefore the most comfortable remote play control scheme is the retro era styled control set C were the player including holding X to accelerate and pressing square to brake or reverse, although weapons and power-ups would still be re-mapped to the top right and top left of the rear touch pad.
The controls are appropriately mapped to the DualShock 4 controller with the default control scheme consisting of holding R2 to accelerate; pressing L2 to brake or reverse; pressing R1 to engage the right-sided power-up; pressing L1 to engage the left-sided power-up; pressing triangle to use a turbo boost; pressing X to launch charge; pressing square to utilise the handbrake; pressing O to switch target; pressing up or down on the d-pad to zoom the camera in or out respectively; pressing left on the d-pad to view the provisional scoreboard; changing the direction of the left analogue stick to steer your vehicle; changing the direction of the right analogue stick to pan the camera in the respective angle; pressing the share button takes you to the share feature menu; and pressing the options button to display the pause menu. Tapping the touch pad to reposition your vehicle on track after facing the wrong direction having been spun or hit by an opponent’s weapon or power-up, while vibration occurs when your vehicle or a nearby vehicle is hit by an opponent’s weapon or power-up, alongside the light bar producing green to display a positive amount of health for your vehicle or a light orange when your vehicle has been hit by a power-up or weapon from an opponent.
Meanwhile, there are two alternative control schemes including swapping engaging the right-sided and left-sided power-ups from R1 and L1 to O and square with switch target and handbrake moving from O and square respectively to R1 and L1. The third control scheme is essentially a classic control scheme harking back to PS1 era retro racers such as Rollcage I and II by remapping accelerating to holding X; braking or reversing to pressing square; pressing O to boost; pressing triangle to switch target; pressing R2 or L2 to engage the right-sided or left-sided power-up respectively; pressing L1 to use handbrake; and pressing R1 to launch charge. Players will absolutely find their own most preferred and comfortable control scheme from the three to choose from as they vary so wildly from two modernised control schemes to a retro era control scheme, alongside optional vibration, adjustable vibration strength, steering sensitivity, steering speed and dead zone size.
Graphically, Grip: Combat Racing’s developer Caged Element has utilised Unreal Engine 4 to exact its full potential via exceptional vehicle models, track design and surrounding environments, while lighting, shadows and particle effects also play a huge part in depicting the times of day the events are taking place at and the combat side of racing as vehicles unleash all manner of weaponry and power-ups at each other. For instance, sunlight peers through the haze within Haze’s surroundings on Orbital Prime, while smoke emerging from spinning up the tyres on the starting line of the grid in the build-up to the race and the futuristic exhaust looks incredible as does the exhaust’s reflection on the track surface. Grip: Combat Racing has a consistent frame-rate performance at around 60 frames-per-second to maintain a genuine sense of speed even when not engaging speed boosts. Meanwhile, a range of graphical enhancements have been implemented via full PS4 Pro and HDR support, while Xbox One X also features enhancements.
Grip: Combat Racing’s presentation is mostly good across various menus such as the main menu, campaign menus, single player menus, track selection menus, garage vehicle customisation and selection menus, split-screen multiplayer menus, online multiplayer menus, settings menus, game manual menus and various gameplay menus with support for navigation via the left analogue stick, directional pad and face buttons, although it does not include support for navigation via the right analogue stick and touch pad. Menu backgrounds are mostly excellent, especially due to comic book stylised artwork during loading screens, although the backgrounds during menus are designed to flip upside down at a moment’s notice; there really needs to be a setting to turn off the menu background flipping back and forth as it is the kind of thing that some players may have to look away from rather frequently.
Sound effects include your vehicle and opposing vehicles accelerating and engaging speed boosts, firing weaponry and utilising power-ups and more besides. Grip: Combat Racing’s soundtrack will please fans of drum and bass music accompanying futuristic racers as there is a 24 song soundtrack full of drum and bass music as presented by Hospital Records including Submerge by Battery x Makoto; Coyote by Krakota x Urbandawn; an instrumental of War Games by Inja x Pete Cannon; Citadels by Krakota; Diorama by Royalston; Restless by Rawtekk; Sunday Grunge by Whiney; Talisman by Whiney; Clap Track by Lynx; and much more besides. There is no DualShock 4 speaker implementation, although it could have produced such sound effects as when an opposing vehicle unleashes a weapon or power-up towards your vehicle by beeping gradually more intensively to warn of the necessity of performing evasive action in order to avoid it from hitting your vehicle or when your vehicle successfully hits an opponent with your weapon or power-up.
The trophy list includes 36 trophies with 21 bronze trophies, 9 silver trophies, 5 gold trophies and 1 platinum trophy. Easier trophies include the Got A GRIP bronze trophy for finishing the tutorial; the You Did A Thing bronze trophy for finishing a race; the More Than A Pink Slip for destroying an opponent; the I Did It My Way for creating a custom tournament; and the Demolition Man bronze trophy for destroying some scenery. Harder trophies include the GRIP Master gold trophy for the ultimate test of endurance through racing 10,000 laps in total; the Playground Bound gold trophy for finishing all carkour courses; the Combat Racing Legend gold trophy for finishing the campaign; and the Stolen Victory silver trophy for winning a race by passing the leader in the last second of the race. It is estimated that depending upon skill and a good trophy guide to provide some helpful tips that it would take between 15 to 25 hours to platinum the trophy list.
There are technically three sets of difficulty levels as there are four A.I. controlled opponents difficulty levels including easy, normal, hard and lethal, while there are three track difficulty levels comprising easy, normal and hard, alongside three engine power settings including low, normal and wild. Major differences within each set of difficulty levels see A.I. controlled opponents being more aggressive and accurate with their use of weapons and power-ups in addition to having more pace and making less mistakes throughout the course of the race, while tracks that are categorised as hard are tougher to master, alongside higher engine settings making the vehicles faster yet harder to handle. Therefore, players should become accustomed to the easiest difficulty within each of the three difficulty categories before even considering turning up the difficulty on any of the three categories.
Split-screen multiplayer for 2 to 4 players presented in vertical or horizontal split-screen including every event type other than carkour, track, vehicle customisation for both players and event customisation that is available in single player with up to 10 vehicles in the field due to the option of choosing your preferred quantity of A.I. controlled vehicles. Split-screen multiplayer performance is just as fast and flawless as single player, while the graphical fidelity is also retained at an amazing level of quality.
Online multiplayer supports 2 to 10 players in 7 event types including classic race, ultimate race, elimination race, speed demon and all three arena event types. Players can search for an online lobby that suits their preferences of event type and so on, while if an online lobby is not available to join at that moment due to being full, then your own online lobby will be immediately created for you. There are a vast range of customisable options for your online lobby such as event type, your own vehicle selection, individual races or a tournament of up to half a dozen events, voting for track selection, quantity of laps from 1 to 10, number of participants from 2 to 10, pick-ups, catch-up assistance, destructible vehicles, if the track is mirrored, if A.I. controlled vehicles fill the rest of the field, difficulty level and engine power. However, despite the optional inclusion of A.I. controlled vehicles; there has to be a second player within the online lobby instead of being able to begin with A.I. controlled vehicles, so as to avoid any period of time waiting for other players to join your online lobby, then when players eventually join, they would be able to drop-in to replace the A.I. controlled vehicle that is nearest behind the vehicle that is controlled by the host of the online lobby.
Online leaderboards are focused on global rankings and friends rankings with each leaderboard containing each player’s rank; name (PSN ID); and the time set within each world and track for race, arena and carkour event types.
Grip: Combat Racing’s replayability stems from 9 event types, earning XP to level up to unlock vehicles, 14 vehicles with unique attributes, customisable vehicle and event options, campaign career mode, split-screen multiplayer for 2 to 4 players, online multiplayer for up to 10 players, online leaderboards and more besides that will collectively have players returning for quite some time.
- Title: Grip: Combat Racing
- Developer: Caged Element
- Publisher: Wired Productions
- System: PS4
- Format: Retail/PSN Download
- Cross-Buy: No
- Cross-Play: No
- Players: 1-4 (Split-screen Multiplayer)/2-10 (Online Multiplayer)/Online Leaderboards
- Hard Drive Space Required: 5.7GB (Version 1.02)
- Career Mode - 90%90%
- Gameplay - 90%90%
- Graphics & Sound - 93%93%
- Controls - 90%90%
- Difficulty - 90%90%
- Replayability - 93%93%
Overall, Grip: Combat Racing delivers a stunning renaissance within the combat racer genre throughout combat and racing gameplay on their unique merits as every event type is excellently balanced to produce an entertaining challenge that players want to continuously test their skills on. Grip: Combat Racing is highly recommended to fans of Rollcage, Rollcage: Stage II, racers, futuristic racers and combat racers in general.