There is no shortage of amazing arcade racers on the Nintendo Switch. Mainstream successes like Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, indie darlings like Fast RMX, and even sort of accessible cash grabs like Nickelodeon Kart Racers have proven the genre’s staying power on the platform. The latest addition to the growing library of Switch racing games is Grip: Combat Racing, a port of the 2016 PC racer from Caged Element and Wired Productions.
Seemingly the lovechild of F-Zero and Twisted Metal, Grip is a weapons-based arcade racer where you traverse futuristic and dystopian tracks, compete in races fast enough to make Sonic blush, and blast your competitors to kingdom come with a lovely assortment of weapons and power-ups. The twist here however, is that your ride is equipped with high-tech oversized tires that allow you to grip onto walls and ceilings, literally flipping races on their heads for chaotic and seemingly zero gravity fun.
Launching the campaign you’re brought through a brief tutorial race before taken to your “garage” where you’re able to customize your own vehicle and begin your career. Initially your customization options are very limited: two different car bodies and a handful of tires to choose from. Other car options are really quick to unlock as you progress through the campaign and it isn’t long before you have an entire armory of parts at your disposal. Each single player mission consists of a few races and the occasional battle as you compete in different tournaments in your quest to become the Pokémon master – or something like that. Jokes aside, there actually isn’t anything in terms of story or context for the single player content. But arcade racers have never relied on a captivating story and they don’t need one now so we’ll move on.
At first glance, Grip presents itself a lot like a Wipeout or F-Zero clone, offering insanely fast races with a bright futuristic aesthetic. But in actuality, Grip‘s scenery is a lot grittier and more realistic, and its unique use of different terrain sets it far apart from the buttery smooth tracks of similar titles. There’s a nice combination of open-ended obstacle-filled tracks and closed courses where speed is the primary focus. The visuals do take a hit compared to its original PC counterpart as the frame rate likes to take nosedive during more chaotic sequences, and the background scenery is missing a fair amount of polish. These visual hiccups were never prevalent enough of an issue to be considered a deal breaker though. The clever gameplay and unique futuristic soundtrack more than make up for its visual shortcomings.
Unfortunately the controls are where Grip starts to lose its traction. You accelerate with the right trigger, brake and reverse with the left trigger, and the bumpers are reversed for weapon slots. This control scheme hits one major snag with the right weapon slot as hitting the right bumper without also letting go of the right trigger is an incredibly awkward move to pull off. A lot of the time I had to specifically strategize whatever weapon occupied the right slot so that whenever I used it, I would still be able to make up the distance lost by letting off the trigger to hit the bumper. In this fast pace of a racing game, letting off the accelerator for even a second could mean the difference between first and last place. On top of that, the vehicles have a lot of weight to them and are on the clunky side to handle, especially when driving on the walls hanging only by your tires. Mapping the accelerator to the A button and mimicking more Mario Kart style controls would’ve gone a long way in improving the overall gameplay.
The game is like Mario Kart in other ways however. Similar game modes and features have found their way into Grip, including a more weapon focused battle mode, split-screen as well as online multiplayer, and even a weapons-free time trial mode. All of these have been appropriately spiced up with Grip‘s wall running mechanics and are still a ton of fun to tear through with friends.
Despite its faults, there is a lot to love about Grip. This unique take on the combat racing genre has you covered floor to ceiling with pure arcade fun. If you’re willing to look pass the less than stellar controls and downgraded visuals, Grip offers up a not only a competitive alternative to the Mario Kart scene, but also in general a fun world to just drive absurdly fast in.
Grip: Combat Racing Review
Final Thoughts: GOOD
There aren’t a ton of futuristic racing games on the Switch, and Grip delivers the goods with high-speed frenetic action. It doesn’t perform as well as the PC version, but the Switch version is more than good enough for some fun multiplayer mayhem.
Evan Roode is a full time journalism student and amateur game historian. His favorite song from Guitar Hero III was “Even Flow”.