If you've owned an original PlayStation then you might be familiar with one of the most underrated racing games of all time: Rollcage. Finally, the formula is back after 18 years so get ready to race upside-down one more time!
For the uninitiated, Rollcage has you race around in vehicles with oversized tires that allow you to flip upside-down as well as drive up walls and on ceilings. I first discovered the franchise through a demo disc and was absolutely hooked. The gameplay was unlike anything I have played before, the graphics were awesome for their time, and the soundtrack featured some of the best music I've ever heard in my life up to that point. Grip: Combat Racing has the exact same premise and will feel very familiar to those who played the Rollcage series. The racing is incredibly visceral and thrilling and I even caught myself leaning forward and really getting into the action a few times; something I rarely do while playing any game. The combination of spot-on controls, elaborate tracks with multiple paths, useful power-ups, and a simple yet effective boost system all add up to make one damn good racer.
One thing that Grip: Combat Racing accomplishes that Rollcage simply couldn't back in its day is provide amazing and engaging graphics and an intense sense of speed. Admittedly, it's not as good looking as a AAA racing game like Forza Horizon 4 but it still looks fantastic. When you reach top speeds, the way the camera shakes on rough terrain and the fact that the visuals get more intensely blurry makes each race feel all the more exciting. Plus, the tracks offer plenty of distinct environments on different planets which is very cool.
When it comes to audio, the effects of engines revving, weapons being fired, and explosions add a layer of satisfaction to the onscreen chaos. Meanwhile, the all drum and bass soundtrack is decent although it doesn't quite reach the highs of the Rollcage games' music. The first game had the best soundtrack with a perfect mix of big beat, drum and bass, house, and breakbeat and the second was powered by the phenomenal Moving Shadow label; sure, it was also all drum and bass but it's still impressively varied. Some of the music here sounds like someone merely tinkering around with a drum machine. I should know; I've done that a lot in my life.
Grip: Combat Racing definitely isn't short on content. For starters there are three core gameplay modes: Race, Arena, and Carkour. The races themselves come in a handful of varieties such as combat races, elimination events, time trials, etc. Arena mode actually has its own set of intricate arenas where you drive around and attack your opponents for points; kind of like Twisted Metal. It features a capture the flag and a unique Time Bomb variation as well. The latter of which will have players race away from the player with the bomb and if they get caught in the blast, they'll get infected and eventually explode then the last player standing wins. Carkour mode is a set of 19 single player challenges where you obtain all of the collectibles in as little time as possible. You can play all of these awesome variations within a single player campaign where you unlock vehicle customization options as well as online and local split-screen multiplayer.
Although the gameplay, presentation, and amount of content are superb, Grip: Combat Racing unfortunately has some annoying aspects. First of all, some of the tracks can be brutally unfair. For example, one forces you to carefully drive up a wall and if you fall off; you have to replay a significant stretch all over again thus likely placing you in the back of the pack. I wouldn't usually mind but it's incredibly easy to screw up, especially if you get hit with a weapon. In some tracks, it's possible to get wedged in hard to escape places but thankfully, there's a respawn button for whenever you get stuck. Finally, the AI can be all over the map. I found every single arena match against AI opponents to be brain dead easy while some seemingly easy races can be downright brutal and unforgiving. I hate being in a clear lead then having a few opponents whip by me right at the finish line. That happened far too often yet it was always surprising.
Grip: Combat Racing not only brings back the exciting racing gameplay of the highly underrated Rollcage series, it manages to make it even more enjoyable. Factor in online play and you're left with one of the best arcade-style racing games ever made.
- + Exhilarating and visceral racing that'll keep you on the edge of your seat
- + Great visuals and sense of speed
- + Arena and Carkour modes are super-fun
- - Soundtrack is decent yet it severely lacks when it comes to variety
- - Some tracks can feel quite unfair
- - Imbalanced AI difficulty