You know when you sometimes wish that old games would make a comeback? GRIP is the outcome of that process and for good or for bad, it has managed to bring a piece of the 90s kicking and screaming into the present.
Back in the mists of the 90s, the high speed, gravity-defying Rollcage had a lot of fans. It was admittedly riding high on the wave of futuristic racers that Wipeout managed to create but, to give it credit, Rollcage was pretty fun. GRIP, then, is its spiritual successor. In actuality, it’s a little more than that, as it has been lovingly brought back to life by Robert Baker, one of the original programmers of Rollcage, so it shares some DNA.
One thing that perhaps isn’t as welcome is a return to the basic workman-like menus that confront you when you first load up the game. They work, but they’re a faff and really detract from the overall experience. Thankfully, the gameplay itself makes up for this.
Unashamedly arcade is how I’d describe the action in GRIP, its aim is simple; race a big, chunky wheeled tank across some rather interesting futuristic landscapes with low enough downforce to drive on walls and the ceiling, picking up power-ups like speed boosts and weapons and then coming first. THat’s pretty much it.
The landscapes are well designed, with long drops and short cut areas that require skill or luck to get to, often relying on that ability to drive on walls. Long stretches of road backed by industrialised landscapes create memories of Wipeout and twist and turn as you’d expect, while added tunnels create some good opportunities for using that 360 driving. Other areas have cliffs and huge jumps, the timing of which will see you either drop in front of the pack of end up at the back.
All of this is matched with a Drum and Bass soundtrack that sounds as if it’s been pulled straight from the same era as Rollcage, though without more of the high profile tracks that made the genre sour back then. It’s still fitting to the action today, so I commend them with sticking to the original feel.
Single races are good fun and there are time trials to test your speed but it’s in multiplayer, including the glorious return of 4 player split screen, that really help bring the game to life. If you can gather friends together on one TV, GRIP can be fantastic fun and even online it retains a certain special place for instant gratification where other games may seek to complicate things.
Despite its faults, the archaic menus and the bugs still found in the game (I crashed out of the game a few times and found myself stuck on scenery in another race) GRIP is a bit of a welcome blast from the past and one worth playing if you’re a fan of uncomplicated arcade racers.