Codemasters' Race Driver GRID turned out to be one of the best Arcade racers ever made when it hit next-gen consoles and the PC earlier this year. We couldn't get enough of its thrilling racing, superb damage modelling and stunning visuals. With a unique rewinding time feature thrown in it made for a racer that will be remembered as one of the best of this generation. So where does that leave the DS version?
GRID on the DS attempts to offer much of what made the home console and PC games so much fun, but it clearly can't do everything. The difference in power between the handheld and a next-gen console is so vast that you're really getting a very different game. Gone is the unique flashback feature which let you rewind time, leaving a simpler arcade racer set across Asia, USA and Europe, where you compete in high powered cars and attempt to earn reputation points.
Many of the event types from the home console version of GRID have made their way over to the DS game, with 10 on offer over the course of the Race Driver game mode. As well as standard Single Races, Championship races (a series of races in one event) and Time Trials, you'll also take part in Speed Tests (average speed over a lap), Acceleration and Breaking Tests, Steering Tests (steering through gates), Chase events (pursuing an opponent), Survival events (opposite to Chase), Drift Battle events (scoring points for power slides), Togue (mountain racing) and Blueprint events (making courses to spec). Even though GRID on DS feels like a cut down version of its bigger brother, it's by no means short on content.
There's even an element of upgrading and customisation to your cars. As you progress you'll be able to upgrade your engine, steering, gearbox, tyres and chassis, giving you better performance when out on the track. Customisation comes in the form of drawing decals using the DS' touch screen. Missing from the handheld version is the sponsorship management that you used to help your performances earn money in the next-gen versions. Its absence once again makes the DS game feel cut down, but it's not a huge loss.
On the track GRID on DS plays very well. You don't get the same level of control as you do in the other versions and the handling model feels far more basic, but it's a solid arcade racer that arcs back to the 32-Bit age of the PlayStation and SEGA Saturn. Collision detection isn't brilliant and AI drivers aren't the smartest on the block, but they do their job and put up a decent fight. Thankfully the sense of speed is solid, which is vital in an arcade racer. Car and track detail is basic, but that's to be expected. For the most part the frame rate holds firm but does nose dive during certain corners on certain tracks. Nothing major but a slight blemish all the same.
Exclusive to the DS game is the track creator. Although quite fiddly at first it's a more than competent tool that can be used to create some pretty decent circuits. You can build tracks very much like you're setting up an old-skool Scaelextric kit - Track parts are selected from a menu and it's up to you to position them - and you can also free draw using the touch screen and stylus. Numerous other details like track lighting and weather can also be specified, before saving and then playing till your heart's content. Circuits can then also be shared with friends. If you want you can even race your created circuits with friends (or any circuit for that matter). GRID supports up to four players via multi and single-card play and online.
Race Driver GRID on DS can't really compete with the ultra slick game of the same name released on 360, PS3 and PC, but it does still offer some fun arcade racing on a platform short on good racers. It's packed full of features and is well worth a look for anyone wanting some racing thrills while out and about.