GRIP: Combat Racing gives you all the tools to drive like a crazy person, but imprecise control can often turn cool tricks into a disaster.

GRIP: Combat Racing is the kind of arcade racer that I always wanted back when I was a kid, playing games like Star Wars Episode I: Pod Racer and Lego Racers. With acrobatic cars, wide tracks with multiple paths and an assortment of weapon pickups, it seems like the perfect action racing game.

So why do I feel like it’s missing something?

See You on the Flip Side

As a spiritual successor to the 90’s Rollcage, GRIP lets you take control of a car that can drive both right-side up and upside down.

The tracks all play into that feature and are full of ramps that let you drive on the walls or even ceiling. Driving on almost any surface can lead to some pretty intense Speed Racer kind of moments where you’ll be jumping and flipping around in extreme speeds while avoiding dangerous obstacles.

If you do happen to hit one these obstacles, though, all the adrenaline you built up gets knocked right down. Your car stops dead in its tracks, and you either need to guide it back to the road, or use the extremely slow reset option, which will spawn you back on the track at zero MPH. Either way, if you get knocked aside, it’s almost impossible to recover in time to get back in the lead.

The problem arises from the way cars handle. The vehicles in GRIP: Combat Racing don’t have enough, well, grip. The result is that one wrong move sends your car spinning out or flying off the track.

GRIP: Combat Racing review

While the game gives you all the tools to drive as dangerously and recklessly as possible, you are actually better off driving safe. Make one wrong move, and it just might cost you the race.

When you do manage to keep your car stable for long enough, the tracks have a lot of intense paths to offer, with pipes, ramps, and hidden shortcuts.

The weapons add a fun twist to all of this, and while most of them were very consistent with other kart racing games, my favorite was, in fact, the shield. Being able to block an incoming rocket just as it closes on you is one of the most satisfying things in GRIP: Combat Racing.

All those features come together to give you a great feeling of nostalgia for those 90’s arcade racers.

360 Degrees of Racing

GRIP has a single-player campaign which will take you through increasingly complicated tracks and slowly unlock new weapon pickups and game modes.

Although the earlier races, where your car drives at reduced speed are a bit slow, once you finally get to the more advanced races, the real rush of speed the game has to offer becomes clear. As you advance the campaign, you unlock new cars and cosmetics, which is always a great motivator.

GRIP: Combat Racing review

You will find yourself racing in different modes, such as Speed Demon and Classic Race which are races with varying assortments of pickups. But you get the best experience from GRIP: Combat Racing with the Ultimate Race mode. In Ultimate Race, you battle not for position, but for points that you score by landing weapon hits on rivals and pulling off spectacular tricks with your futuristic car. Naturally, chaos ensues as you focus not on getting to the front of the pack, but instead doing cool jumps, flips, and tricks.

Going Beyond the Finish Line

When you’re not climbing up the campaign tiers, you will also be racing around and taking out players in Arena. Arena Has you driving in an enclosed area, picking up weapons and using them to score points by hitting your opponents.

While the cars in GRIP are agile, they’re built for blazing down spanning tracks, and the arenas didn’t always feel like a natural space for them. Driving around aimlessly, trying to pick up items and randomly launching them at other cars isn’t the best use for the game’s unique vehicles.

GRIP: Combat Racing review Carkour

Outside of actual driving and firing weapons, you can test your handling skills with “Carkour,” which is like parkour but with cars. Carkour lets you put the vehicles’ incredible agility to good use, as you traverse challenging tracks and compete for the best time.

Carkour reminds me a lot of TrackMania, but even though I was looking forward to playing in this mode, it doesn’t bring anything new to the table. The tracks were very linear and very technical, but not in a way that is very rewarding or challenging.

An exception is a Carkour level called Job Site. The entire level is a vast construction site where you need to collect purple orbs by pulling off tricks and climbing on things. Job Site is the true realization of Carkour as it let you go and freely explore the construction site while executing cool tricks; kind of like you’re playing Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater, but with a huge car.

Pimp Your Ride

Although GRIP: Combat Racing does not have the eye-gouging textures of games like Forza Horizon 4 or ONRUSH, it sure doesn’t lack style.

GRIP: Combat Racing review

Most of the tracks are laid out to form beautiful, streamlined paths which will carry your cars through twists and turns in a hypnotic way. The different sci-fi environments in the game are all beautifully imagined, even if it’s not always as fun to race through them.

The cars themselves are not as detailed as I’d hoped they would to be, but you can customize them to your liking, which is always nice.

When it comes to sound, the game has relatively simple sound effects. They are all functional and to the point, but not as immersive as in other games in the genre. I especially felt the lack of whooshing sounds as I zoomed past obstacles at tremendous speeds.

The music, however, is spot on. For some reason, I find drum and bass to be the perfect soundtrack to driving, and GRIP: Combat Racing’s is loaded with fantastic upbeat tunes. Whenever I started a race, I’d feel the rush of adrenaline flow through me thanks to the engaging soundtrack.

GRIP: Combat Racing review

GRIP: Combat Racing, rather fittingly, has two sides. When it works, it really works. You get that perfect rush of speed, and your car becomes the fastest flipping thing ever. When you do crash, you crash hard, and it knocks the air right out of your massive tires.

I grew up playing with Hot Wheels cars, and the different corkscrews and loops make me feel like a little kid all over again. The assortment of weapons and game modes made GRIP a varied experience.

You can race by yourself, in split-screen, and even online. There aren’t a lot of new split-screen racing games these days, so if you’re looking for one to play with friends on the couch, GRIP can be your answer.

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