Lose your grip.

Title: Grip Combat Racing AirBlades DLC
Platform: Xbox One (reviewed), PS4, Switch, PC
Developer: Caged Element
Publisher: Wired Productions
Release Date: Out now
Price: Free update for all platforms
TL;DR: A nice idea but feels misplaced in the overall scheme of Grip
Family Focus?: Click here for more information

I reviewed Grip Combat‘s base game way back last year; it was a review full of praise for the game’s brilliantly chaotic races where speed and violence reign supreme, ultimately landing Grip as one of my favourite games of 2018. Developer Caged Element has continued to nurse the game since its launch, dropping a handful of tasty morsels for players with new tracks, new modes, and the latest update bringing the titular AirBlade vehicles. Arriving as a free expansion, AirBlades promises a return to the Wipeout or F-Zero racers that we’ve all longed for. And while the DLC provides exactly that, it’s something that feels at odds with the rest of the game.

I’ll happily concede that the new set of anti-gravity vehicles hit the nail on the head in recapturing the grimy, futuristic look of the AirBlade cars. The DLC offers a catalogue of cars that look as if they’ve been chiselled out from a gigantic block of metal before being pushed on to the showfloor of some greasy back-alley garage, resting as an amalgamation of the slick Pod Racers from everyone’s favourite Star Wars (save for the giant turbines), with the bulky design of F-Zero’s cars and the speedsters from Wipeout. That said, there’s not too much to discern an anti-grav car with the base vehicles of the game. Sure, there’s a lovely little detail to the new vehicles, with the anti-gravity thrusters rotating this way or that way as you race but the bottom line is that the new AirBlades are a near replica of the base cars. Going into the garage to select a car, I thought I’d see some edgy new names like “Orbit.” or “Zoron Destroyer of Worlds,” but alas, all I got was Rogue Classic followed by Rogue AirBlade. The same goes for every other AirBlade, arriving as pretty much the exact same car save for the wheels and looking a tad slicker than their predecessors.

The big difference is the feel of the new AirBlades. Take a look at the stats and the first impression is that there’s practically no difference. AirBlades sacrifice a miniscule amount of braking power for a smidge of extra speed, but the stats are only half the story. In practice, the AirBlade vehicles do offer a stark difference on the track, but unfortunately, it’s a change that doesn’t feel all too refined. The AirBlades are fast – really fast – and while handling suffers minutely, I didn’t notice any detriments to simple corners. You might collide with a few more barriers than usual, but it’s never much of an issue thanks to the duality of the vehicles, meaning there’s not a true top or bottom to the car, and flipping your motor one way or the other doesn’t mean anything.

The area that the AirBlades falter most is on tracks that have a fair amount of debris: the icy FIC Outpost track posed the most problems for me with this. The track is dotted with a few rocks here and there, and because of the speed of the anti-grav cars, connecting with one such rock has a nasty habit of sending you flying into the air, bobbing around for a few seconds, watching the world pass by, before an unceremonious landing that’s wiped out all your speed.

You could put the above down to simply not watching the tracks and you’d be quite right to think so, but with the grotesque speed of the AirBlades, reaction time is cut dramatically, and I found myself restarting races on tracks that I’m fairly comfortable with several times. It doesn’t quite manage to suck the fun out of races, but the slippery feel of the AirBlades, a camera that can’t quite keep up with your car spinning into space, mixed with the anti-gravity mechanic slowing down your fall, and it either presents a new kind of challenge if you’re a glass half-full kind of racer, or else it’s an issue that can quickly induce a boiling rage as you restart for the umpteenth time.

The introduction of the AirBlades also brings a new choice in what kinds of vehicles you want racing; you’re able to swap between only wheeled vehicles, only AirBlades cars, or a race full of both vehicle types. It’s the hybrid races that are the most troublesome for the AirBlade vehicles, with the robust “metal beasts,” that are the original cars looking oh-so-sturdy, able to recover faster, and seemingly ready to pounce on any mistake you make in a split second. Sadly, it’s a lot more fun to have races stick to one kind of vehicle than suffer through the pure chaos of a race that loses the nip and tuck of Grip’s classic races.

Impact is one of two new tracks for Grip

It’s not all bad news though; the new AirBlade vehicles are accompanied by two new tracks that seem built with anti-gravity cars in mind. First there’s the sprawling, outer-space Atlas Station track which takes you on a Mario Kart-esque race that features a planet overshadowing the track, a swirling road that has you corkscrewing through space before landing on sickly blue plasma lanes, and let’s not forget that there are roaming lasers at one point. Joining Atlas Station is the much shorter yet still enjoyable Impact track. Impact feeds into that Pod racer feel of the AirBlades, taking you through tight valleys that are carved into a sunburnt desert, and also has a planet looming over everything. Both tracks feel so intuitive and compliment the few positives of the AirBlade vehicles in a way that makes them a must play for the new cars.

Caged Element has definitely given its fans what it promised: a return to the anti-gravity racers of yesteryear. Unfortunately, the anti-gravity racer seems at odds with the rollcage style of Grip, and while it’s easy to separate those two conflicting genres with the in-game options, the Airblade cars feel surplus to requirements: looking nice and feeling fun to drive at times, but ultimately jerking the subtle equilibrium of Grip out of whack.

The Good:

  • Racing with all AirBlades vehicles feels like a nice balance
  • The new DLC also introduces two new brilliant tracks
  • Adds a new challenge to races as you try to keep the anti-gravity cars under control

The Bad:

  • AirBlade cars have a nasty habit of flying into the air and hanging up there for too long
  • The AirBlade models are essentially the same as the base cars
  • The camera is guilty of flipping out when an AirBlade car spirals out of control

Family Focus

ESRB: E for Everyone PEGI: 7

Grip is a combat racer, but you won’t see any blood or gore. It’d be a great game to pick up and play with your kids on the weekend.

Disclaimer: This review is based on a copy of the game provided by PR for the purpose of this review.