GDC 2018 Preview: GRIP

Credit: Wired Productions
Credit: Wired Productions /

One fan’s attitude of “If you build it, they will race,” has turned GRIP from just a passion project into a high-quality racing game.

As gamers we are always looking for original stories and innovations to the medium we love so much. However, sometimes we really wish to play the classics that shaped our love of gaming, but with newer graphics and on our current generation of consoles. Sometimes we just want that sequel that we were promised but never got. This is a pain many of us can relate to. GRIP is built from Chris Mallinson’s love of the Rollcage games published by Psygnosis in the late 90s and early 2000s. Chris loved this game so much that he eventually delved into the world of online Rollcage fanatics and met a former developer on the game, Robert Baker.

Somehow Chris convinced Robert to work with him to create the spiritual successor to one of his favorite games. With Robert doing the programming while Chris worked on the art, the road to GRIP was paved with gaming passion of the truest sense.  Chris’s passion is further accentuated by the fact that prior to GRIP  he was working on renovating homes and had never worked in the gaming industry.

GRIP  has been in Steam Early Access since 2016 and sits at a 91% very positive rating on Steam. During GDC week, GRIP, was not only announced to get a full PC release later this year but to also come to PS4, XBox One, and Switch. At GDC I had a chance to sit down with Chris Mallinson and get a hands-on PS4 demo of this rad futuristic racer. As he describes it:

"GRIP  began as a passion project paying tribute to the great Rollcage games and racers of a past era, but it’s now truly transformed into a fully-fledged, futuristic combat racer fit for this generation. We’re extremely proud of the game and can’t wait to unleash it later this year on all platforms."

Though I never played the Rollcage games, Psygnosis was responsible for my favorite racing game of all time, Wipeout. For me, the fast-paced racing, oscillating track design, high-energy music, and responsive drifting made me reminisce about that futuristic racing classic. In my hands-on demo, I had the chance to check out two different tracks and mess with speed settings and AI difficulty. On my first race, I was able to crank up the speed and race on a neon green straightaway that looped. That first race blitzed by me like a teen raver running to see DeadMau5.

I took the speed down just a bit and used this adjustment to test out the various weapons at my disposal like machine guns and rockets. This made the game feel a little more like an adult Mario Kart. I was impressed on how changing a few settings can give the same track a different feel. Since the game currently has ten tracks in early access, I can see a lot of replay value in just simple setting changes.

The other track I played was a Mars-like dusty and rocky track more suitable for tighter rally-style racing. Racing on this track required a lot of drifting and fortunately, that was easy as just tapping square when in a turn. This track required more precision than the previous one to watch out for roadblocks and to take the right path. This felt like a completely different game and I mean that as a good thing. For a smaller game, GRIP  has way more track variety than I expected.

GRIP will have have an online racing mode but refreshingly also offers split-screen racing so you can just play with friends on your couch. Knowing how pick-up-and-play the game was in my demo, I look forward to getting others to play GRIP.

Not only does the game pack track variety it also has several game modes including time trial, deathmatch, and a Carkour mode that is exactly what it sounds like, car-based parkour. Though the tight futuristic racing is the biggest draw for GRIP, the game does have plenty of customization options and I was easily able to make a car that I described as the Mountain Dew Nascar car of the future.

Next: GDC 2018 Preview: Kaet Must Die!

What I played of GRIP  was pretty fantastic and PC gamers can check it out now in early access. For Xbox One, PS4, and Switch gamers, you should be getting it later this year.