'Grip' Hopes to Revitalize Classic Car Combat

Hopes to reinvigorate the car combat genre

Rollcage holds a special place in the hearts of combat racing game fans, it’s unique take on car combat and its speed has been unmatched since it’s release in 1999. While other games have attempted the same level of brutal automobile battling, none have been quite as satisfying as driving up and off a wall to avoid crashing at top speed.

That’s why Chris Mallinson, the game director on Grip, decided to quit renovating houses and develop a modern version of the reckless racer. He was so determined he reached out to Rollcage's original creator, Robert Baker, to make sure he would hit the mark for a completely new game. And even though Mallinson has never made a game before, Baker got on board.

“Back in 2014, I was looking around for some kind of sequel to the experience I had playing Rollcage,” Mallinson said. “Then I decided to start one up, I don’t have any experience but my determination convinced Baker to make this game.”

Grip, like the game that inspires it, it’s a fast-paced racer where cars can flip casually and keep on driving on either side of the vehicle. It allowed me to continue speeding after taking a nasty tumble, even though I had done a nasty flip right into a giant boulder. It combines the forgiving nature of Mario Kart with the adrenaline inducing action of Burnout.

I had the chance to sit down with the Xbox One version of the game at the ID@Xbox event at the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco. The controls felt a little loose, with my car floating into obstacles after tapping on the steering wheel. That’s expected when flying down a desert road at breakneck speeds, but being able to use that speed to ride on the walls of tunnels and bounce off obstacles was absolutely delightful.

I flew through three different courses, two in a dessert locale and one through an industrial city. And even though it was my first time playing, the games forgiving nature kept me going. Items let me catch up to the pack if I fell behind and no matter how brutal a crash was, I was never lagging far behind. I only had the time to try the game's campaign, but Grip also features an arena battle mode where you’re pitted against fellow drivers in a fight to the death.

While creating the spiritual successor to Rollcage is Millinson’s primary goal, he also wants to reinvigorate the car combat genre in general. He knows he probably won’t reach the same popularity that the battle royale genre is enjoying, he just wants more cars to beat up.

“There are some games that have done car combat recently, but nothing big right now,” said Mallinson. “Genres come and go, everyone knows that, and Rollcages type of racing game has gone, maybe it’s time for it to come back.”

While it’s been out on Steam early access since early 2016, Grip is prepping for a release on PS4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch later this year.