Just not gripping enough.
GRIP: Combat Racing is a high-speed racer, about as fast as they come, which is both its main draw and the cause of its biggest fault.
On the surface, GRIP: Combat Racing offers plenty of content, including different tracks, several different vehicles with more than enough customisation options and even a variety of game modes. It doesn’t take long, however, for this to be left in the dust. The tracks, while stylised and gritty, just don’t feel special. There’s no one track that really sticks in the mind. The vehicles available to you increase as you level up each feel unique, with slightly different handling, acceleration, speed and other stats. Selecting your tyres from a wide variety, however, makes no difference to your racer beyond the cosmetic. And that’s not very noticeable at 500 miles an hour.
Driving through pick-ups will reward you with a random defensive or offensive single-use weapon, but these are all lacklustre and uninspired. Homing missiles, rockets, machine guns, shields and speed boosts are the most common – but because you can race on walls and ceilings and switch between them rapidly, they’re often cumbersome to use. They also seem to be rather unimpactful, at least in single-player mode, as you’ll quickly regain your lost positions after taking a missile in the behind.
The wall-and-ceiling racing is GRIP’s big selling point, and for the first couple of hours it’s great fun, but it quickly wears off. This is partly because flipping to ride on another surface doesn’t usually provide you with much of a benefit, and can often result in a nasty glitch, seeing you vaporised before respawning back on the track, not necessarily facing the right direction. When playing solo, mind, this doesn’t have much of an impact on your standings in the race, as the AI controlled racers visibly slow down to allow you to catch back up.
For fans of the genre there are a number of game modes to choose from, each offering differing experiences. There’s the race mode, which understandably fills up most of the rota, made up of several different types of races, including what is perhaps the most exciting way to play GRIP: the Elimination race. Rather than destroy enemies with the weapon pick-ups, every 30 seconds the racer in the bottom position is eliminated. This ensures tense moments of all-out acceleration when you find yourself facing death in the final few seconds.
Then there’s the arena mode, pitting you against rival competitors in an arena where dealing the most amount of damage wins the race. There’s even a ‘carkour’ mode, where stunt courses require you to complete a series of increasingly difficult stunt courses. The variety of game modes and tracks, often dark and futuristic, promises a solid racing experience – but unfortunately that’s not the case. You can reach speeds of over 750 miles per hour in GRIP, which would certainly feel fast if the frame rate on the Switch was either high or consistent. Sadly, it’s neither. At the start of a race the game visually stutters, and it doesn’t get much better throughout. Split-second turns, speed boosts and shots onto your enemies can be completely ruined by the poor performance on the Switch.
Graphically the platform isn’t doing the game any favours either: juttering, pixelation and reduced texture quality are all blindingly apparent. Most of the time your vehicle, which has enough downforce to ride on the walls and ceilings, doesn’t actually appear to even make contact with the track. While these aren’t such an issue when you’re speeding around the track, it provides a poor first impression of the game, which the rest of the package fails to recover from. Playing in handheld mode makes reading the menu text almost impossible. And the music is another area of the game that fails to impress – each track sounds similar to the previous, and there’s no impression left by any of them. If I heard any of these tracks again I don’t think I’d recognise them.
GRIP: Combat Racing does provide fleeting moments of excitement, but even if the graphical and frame rate issues are resolved with a future patch, after the first few hours there just isn’t much reason to get back behind the wheel.