I’ve been flirting with the idea of playing a racing simulation again, so when Stadia finally launched with Grid, I figured I’d kill two birds with one stone: test out how smooth the game runs on Google’s new streaming platform and satisfy my motorsport craving. Turns out both are super effective.
I remember fondly the sweltering hot summer day when my dad took me to Best Buy to pick up the PlayStation 2 Gran Turismo 3 A-Spec bundle. That summer, I must have poured hundreds of hours into Gran Turismo 3 on a small tube TV in my bedroom. My parents were not rich, so if we got a game, we had to get real cosy with it for a long time.
Flash forward to 2019. Grid is making me dig up all this basic racing knowledge that I had tucked away, and it’s reignited this love I have for the adrenaline rush of hitting the brakes at the right time and flooring it through a turn.
It feels like sitting at a piano after not having played in years and somehow remembering an old song that I must have practiced thousands of times.
My fingers know to ease up on the gas and draft behind cars whenever possible. The on-screen score counter reminds me that I’m doing the right thing, and I always respond well to positive reinforcement. I also respond extremely well to wrecking my car or getting spun out by a “nemesis.” In Grid, if you love-tap another driver too many times, they’ll have it out for you during a race and slam into you or purposefully try to spin you out. It’s actually wonderful and really nudges you to play nice.
The game also holds your hands with the familiar colour-coded arrows on the track that tell you when to slow down and where the most effective lines are. If you spin out in the grass after a sloppy turn or ram too hard into a wall, you can always rewind a limited amount of times and try it again until you begin to memorise the course itself. This isn’t anything new, but for someone who’s been out of the loop for some time, it’s nice to have.
Grid also seems to be the perfect onboarding racing game that falls somewhere between arcade and simulation. It doesn’t bother with licence tests or the minute troubleshooting of swapping out brake pads or transmissions. It lets you jump in by asking you to pick a car class like Touring or Tuner (my favourite), pick a car and get to racing.
It is, however, making me want to jump into something a little more simulation-heavy. I even sat down and watched this video of YouTuber Super GT giving a demonstration of the most effective ways to tackle the famous real world Laguna Seca track in Gran Turismo Sport. I watched, glued to my screen and taking mental notes for other similar turns in Grid where I was having some trouble. I’m also now 100% subscribed to their channel.
Grid also looks stunning on my TV at home on Google’s streaming Stadia service, and it’s the one game that, for me, runs extremely well in regards to input latency. I haven’t done any Digital Foundry-style testing or anything but it just feels right, and the HDR pops on levels set during a sunset in Havana or nighttime in Shanghai. Grid has warmed me up a lot to Stadia, since the Google service frees it from being tied to an experience I can only have on my TV.
I played the game in bed on my phone on a lazy Sunday morning, and was able to get a circuit done in the office on my desktop computer running on a Chrome browser during a work lunch. And if I can get my parents’ Wi-Fi to work this Thanksgiving break, I’ll even try to get some time in using my phone in the same childhood bedroom where I fell in love with racing games over 18 years ago.