Code-cracking madness — Codemasters acquires Slightly Mad Studios

It’s time to talk about another acquisition that I and at least one other person didn’t see coming, and it once again involves the racing-game genre.  Codemasters has a handful of ongoing series in their garage, such as DirtGrid, and the official Formula 1 games.  They now own new territory thanks to their acquisition of fellow British developer Slightly Mad Studios, makers of the Project CARS IP.  If you ask me, this is a big deal because they’re two of the most prominent companies when it comes to today’s racing games, not to mention they both have really good assets and licenses.  With this purchase comes very valid questions — Is one of the four aforementioned series being canned? Which licenses that Slightly Mad Studios owned could be used in Codemasters’ Grid series, and vice versa for the Project CARS series? Regardless of what theories we come up with, the best thing we can do is to wait for Codies to give us the answer..And you bet your buttons I’m excited to know what’s up.

Review of Grid (2019) — I always race to win

I know I’ve said this at least several times before, but I’m gonna have to say it again  — Codemasters has a long resume when it comes to racing games. Whether it be rallying, Formula 1, or even over-the-top off-roading, the British publisher has done it all. But while Dirt and F1 have still been going strong, fans had been wondering if/when the Grid series would return to the track.  Well, after five years, we don’t have to wonder anymore.  This self-titled reboot is the series’ debut on current-gen hardware, and I’m here to give you the full synopsis on everything it brings to the table.  So with that out of the way, let’s drop the green flag and get this review started.

Turn the car into the wind

Like other established series such as Gran Turismo and Forza MotorsportGrid tasks you with making a name for yourself in a variety of racing disciplines.  You won’t find rally racing or modern Formula 1 in here, but you get to race sports cars, open-wheelers, touring cars, tuner cars, and stock cars from different eras of the sport.  During your career, you must not only place high in the standings, but also manage your race team properly.  It’s your job to collect prize money, buy (And paint) the cars you want, and hire teammates.  No virtual racing career would be complete without a diverse track roster, and this game delivers a hefty number of road-course, street-course, and oval configurations.  There are only 13 locations at the moment, but more will be added in free updates.

GRID-dle cakes

Of course, all of the above would be meaningless if the racing itself wasn’t solid, and the folks at Codemasters have once again delivered solid racing in spades.  While not an arcade racer like Need for Speed or BurnoutGrid tries to be a little more accessible than Gran Turismo and Forza Motorsport.  Despite the car-setup functionality being quite simplified, the driving does have weight and realism on both gamepad and wheel.  Flags and pit stops are non-existent, but you still have to drive carefully to avoid crashing out or being penalized.  If you race an opponent too aggressively, they’ll become a Nemesis and try to give you a taste of your own medicine.  Like the previous game in the series, you have the ability to ask your teammate to charge through the pack or play defense, not that they’ll always be able/willing to do what you ask them to do.

Online multiplayer is a bit shallow in this game, as you only have quick-match and private-match options.  Without any search options for public lobbies, you basically jump into public races hoping that the events found are to your liking.  If you want an online race that can be run the way you want it, you have no other alternative but to invite 1-15 friends who have the game.  It’s not a dealbreaker, but I do hope this online-mode drawback can be sorted out.

Pedal to the floor, lap is runnin’ faster

After sitting in its garage for the last five years, the long-running Grid series has made a satisfactory comeback in the form of this reboot.  It may occasionally bust a flat or drop some horsepower, but it still belongs on the shelf of any type of racing-game junkie.  Checkered flag, here I come!

Review of Onrush – A spiritual successor to Codemasters’ own Fuel?

If you’re a diehard fan of driving games, chances are Codemasters has been one of your favorite developers. The UK-based studio has dominated the genre with long-running series like Dirt, F1, Grid, and Micro Machines. But if you remember their post-apocalyptic off-road racer called Fuel, you might be intrigued by this new addition to Codemasters’ garage, so to speak; Take the vehicular combat of Burnout, put it in a setting akin to Fuel, and you get Onrush.

The Pikes Peak Hillclimb on caffeine

Set in an environment that embraces crazy driving and dubstep music, Onrush looks, on paper, like a spiritual successor to Fuel because of its vehicle selection, which is comprised of ATV’s, dirt bikes, trucks, and dune buggies; Two teams drive (Not race) on a variety of off-road courses in an attempt to win a set number of rounds. Depending on the event type, a round is won by driving through enough checkpoints, staying in the designated zones, wrecking the other team enough times, or racking up the higher combined score. Drivers are equipped with a speed-boost button and rack up points and boost by drifting, catching air, performing stunts, and making contact with anything that has wheels. You also have a special move that grants a period of unlimited boost and harder hits, but it has to be charged up first. All of these moves would be meaningless if the game didn’t have tight controls and hilarious crash physics, and the team at Codemasters delivers in those departments as per usual.

The graphics engine succeeds effortlessly in making the mountain-based courses and damage-modelling look very realistic; Even the drivers look satisfactory despite the wacky nature of their outfits, which can be customized in a number of ways as you progress through the campaign. Codemasters has also given you the ability to decide whether you prefer better graphics or faster framerate, which is a really nice touch. No matter how many vehicles are flying all over the place, I didn’t run into any bad frame-drops. I personally prefer the graphics over the audio as the game’s soundtrack only has dubstep, but I have nothing against you if that’s your favorite genre of your music.

Since split-screen seems to not be that popular these days, a vehicular-combat game would be in remiss if online multiplayer wasn’t offered, and Onrush checks if off the to-do list; 12 players can duke it out in the event type of their choosing and on a laundry list of tracks. The game’s crash physics and emphasis on rough driving will lead to a lot of cursing or laughing, or possibly both.

Get down and dirty…Totally not referencing another Codemasters game

Codemasters didn’t create anything groundbreaking here, but it will still rev up the engine of any kind of driving-game fan. If you’re a longtime supporter of wacky driving games like Mario Kart, Need for Speed, and Burnout, you might want to give Onrush a test drive. Let the scrap metal fly!