Since the first few months of 2014, a massive nostalgia wave seemingly shook Kickstarter and the gaming industry alike, and we’re not talking about some weak, two meters wave, but a full scale tsunami of hopes, dreams and returning gameplay formulas that were believed to be lost in time: a hype storm that promised to deliver a new hayday to many amazing sub-genres that have been silent for too long.
One of those subgenres happens to be arcade racing, which scene has been bombarded with titles, being them classy Anti-Grav racers like Formula Fusion and Red:Out or powersliding-based games like Drift Stage or Power Drive 2000, soaked in neon lights and synth beats…this roll call left only one type of game behind, and that’s what we’re talking about today: a spiritual successor to the PSX’s Rollcage, GRIP takes it to the streets with the speed of a bullet train and the grace of a steel-plated rhino.
The Flipside of Future Racing
Welcome to GRIP, the future you can watch via pirate TV for just 9.99 a month.
Basically, this game explains what happens while the shiny anti-gravity crafts of the official racing leagues smoothly zoom through exotic racetracks on earth: a bloodsport originated from traditional street racing -you know, the one without military grade weapons mounted on the cars-, but that devolved into all out battling once it got more and more famous throughout the solar system, because as we all know fame means money, and there’s never enough money, so why not murdering your opponent with a Scorpion Missile to get your hands on his paycheck too? He won’t be needing that anymore, right?
Well, i hope you took that into consideration, because that same opponent is now charging a railgun at you. Good luck.
There’s a high chance that the first thing you noticed while looking at the thumbnail, were the strangely big wheels on that armored behemoth hardly resembling a car anymore, well guess what: they’re the game’s main gimmick!
The vehicles currently come in two classes: the all-rounder Dominator and the sturdy, combat focused Dreadnaught, and the friction caused by their insane speed makes them stick to the ground so much that they manage to challenge gravity, wallriding to extreme extents, making even ceilings possible surfaces to take advantage of.
But wait, did i say ceilings? So what happens when the tunnel’s over and the craft hits the ground upside down, you must be asking. Well, there’s when the wheels’ size comes into play: being them actually larger than the frame, they make the vehicle un-overturnable, and effectively unstoppable unless it’s hit by a weapon (even then, when that happens the craft is just sent flying without any great momentum loss, but still taking damage from the hit). And this is what this game is all about: exploiting momentum and physics to shave off your times, while trying to land and dodge as much fire as possible.
Now, as far as the weapons go, in this current build (updated the 7th of july) we have the Scorpion Missile, a simple guided missile with medium damage output, the Aegis Backshield, which is…well…a shield that protects your backside, the Gattler machine gun, which is self explanatory, an EMP emitter that sabotages all the vehicles in its area of effect and the equivalent of the much feared Blue Shell from Mario Kart, the Assassin Missile. More weapons are in the making of course, including the aforementioned Railgun, for a total of thirteen weapons, chosen randomly by passing over a weapon pad, in a Mario Kart-ish fashion.
The Aestethic of Violence
Needless to say, this carnival of burning wreckages and roaring engines has quite a grittier tone than other futuristic racers : gone are the fancy branding, elaborate team color schemes and titanium plated tracks, leaving the place to gritty alien landscapes that have been clearly bulldozed down to build the makeshift courses in which the races take place, and their “DIY” nature is reflected both in their visuals and gameplay, with details like flares signaling where the road is supposed to be on FIC Outpost, or most of the track on Transport, built around what used to be a minecart rail, and shortcuts made up by parts of the enviroment that didn’t get torn down probably because of the organizers own lazyness, and because leaving them there could spark up the competition a bit.
As of now the current build has four total tracks, two of them i already mentioned: the FIC Outpost on Norvos and Transport on Liddo, while the other two are Figure 8, a night-time track possibly located on Jathra, and Yuri Industrial, the track featured in most of the press material and the first to be added, definetly located on Jahtra. They’re playable in three competitive modes (eliminator, time trial and of course, regular race) and a practice mode, while Playground Mode is more of a “lab” to test tricks, weapons and physics on, and it’s only playable on its specific “area”, a textureless arena reminiscent of Team Fortress 2’s fan maps, which is not even a flaw, being it a “test mode” that will probably get removed somewhere near the game’s full release.
While the original Rollcage didn’t have people like Tim Wright and The Prodigy in its OST, quite a few big names got their song to be part of it: we’re talking Fatboy Slim, E-Z Rollers, Ed Rush and Hoax, but in this case the music didn’t have the pivotal, mood-setting role that it had in WipEout, so when GRIP came around the artist selection was completely redone, shifting to a more industrial, heavy sounding shade of DnB, to better give that feel of speed and ferociousness, and artists like Full Kontakt, Xtigma and Silence Groove did god’s work, with tracks like Cyborg, Power Train, Reconnect and The Creeper flawlessly managing to give that “mechanically savage” vibe to every race.
What ARE those devs cooking?
To wrap it up, we can say that the lovely folks at Caged Element are cooking something the likes we haven’t seen in a long time: a mixture of simplistic yet effective driving mechanics, slightly busted combat and physics shenaningas that, combined with the fair share amount of customization promised during the Kickstarter campaign, and the yet to be implemented online AND local multyplayer, is probably going to be a must have for hardcore racing fans and casual speed demons alike.
I hope you found this article entertaining and somewhat insightful, this is the 3rd Runner, looking for a cheap ps1 to play Rollcage on.