Review: Grid, Racing Game for the PC

I have been a huge fan of PC racing games since the days of the orginal Papyrus Nascar Racing and the old Thrustmaster steering wheel.  Sadly, Papyrus has long since been screwed by EA, which completely destroyed the NASCAR series, and my old Thrustmaster rests in a landfill somewhere, breaking one too many times to be repaired.  Still, most less demanding games didn’t need a steering wheel, and I enjoyed several of the Need For Speed (Underground, mostly) games, TOCA and several others with my gamepad.  So I hardly thought about it at all when I purchased the new game by Codemasters, Grid.  I was in for a deep disappointment.

Driving with the gamepad is like racing a Ferrari by steering with your knees.  You can’t even go down the straight aways properly, rather making your way by slamming into one wall and then into the other.  To be sure, a few hours of practice helps, but by no means makes you ready to really compete.  I was dumbfounded.  I had added all the driver’s assists, changed all the sensitivity settings, etc.   And still I couldn’t back out of a driveway without 6 accidents (just a slight exaggeration).

Searching around the web, I found that many people were having the same problems.  Some gamers suggested that using the keyboard was easier (it only took him two hours of trying with the keyboard to finish his first race), but using the keyboard for a racing game is like using someone else’s lips to kiss a hot girl.  It’s just a dead experience.  The real concensus was that you needed to have a steering wheel.  Looking around, I was pleased to see that the prices for steering wheels have dropped pretty dramatically since I bought that first edition Thrustmaster almost 20 years ago.  I may have to get one.  The problem is that I didn’t get far enough into Grid to know whether the game deserves it.

The graphics are near perfect and the crashing, as some people like, is fantastic with great damage.  The cars, neither you nor your opponents, don’t have that annoying magical ability to just catch up as they do in some of the Need for Speed and in all the terrible EA NASCAR games.  But I’m just not sure about the tracks and the story line.  So far as I can tell (and I’ve played very little), the story is nonexistent and it’s merely a prettier version of an urban racing game but impossible to drive.

So these are my options:  buy a steering wheel, or turn the game in for credit.  I’ve been thinking about going back and playing some of those old NASCAR Racing games, so I may choose to go with the steering wheel.  I’ll let you know what I decide.  Any thoughts?  Feel free to share them with me.

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