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The gravity-defying Grip: Combat Racing flips out of early access

You turn me right round, baby, right round

Time must be warping as it's 2018 and a new Rollcage game just launched. While not officially a sequel, Grip: Combat Racing by Caged Element is unmistakably kin to the cult PSX rough-and-tumble future racer, and out now. Featuring symmetrical armoured jet-cars that have no concept of 'upside down' and tracks that don't particularly care much for gravity either, it's a messy, scrappy combat racer closer to Mario Kart than Wipeout. It's been in early access since 2016, but today it speeds past the finish line. 90s drum & bass awaits in the trailer below.

The launch version of Grip is a hefty chunk of racer. 23 tracks, plus 5 arena battle maps and 19 platforming challenges at launch, and the usual collection of single-player, online and split-screen modes. It's pointedly retro, with a pounding yet old-school drum & bass soundtrack (courtesy of Hospital Records, who also had a hefty presence in Forza Motorsport 4) that takes me back. For those who never played Rollcage, Grip is very similar to Mario Kart. You go fast, you drive dirty, you shoot your friends and watch out for the dreaded blue shell equivalent if you're in first place.

Grip's biggest twist is that it's more twisty than anything Mario has had to deal with. Large chunks of track have drivable walls and ceilings, and the symmetrical cars handle sudden flips with remarkable ease, although it takes the camera a moment to right itself. There's not much air control, though, so jumps tend to be risky manoeuvres, especially if there's someone lobbing homing missiles at you as you take to the air. The platforming 'carkour' mode is a good place to practice the trickier parts of driving these weird little rocket tanks, but the basics are intuitive enough.

The release version of the game featured a beefy solo campaign mode. While there's no story to speak of, there's a whole boatload of events to complete against increasingly tough odds. I've not had a chance to play much of today's release version, but hopefully I'll be able to get in a few laps later this evening. I can say that it looks lovely, though. Maxed out and running at a solid hundred FPS, it's certainly easier to keep track of than the PlayStation original, and I'm hoping there'll be plenty of players online in a week or two. Rollcage was always better with other humans.

Grip: Combat Racing is out now on Steam and Humble for £22.49/€26.99/$26.99. Those who bought the early access version get a set of golden car skins - shiny, but too tacky for me. The game is published by Wired Productions.

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Dominic Tarason