While in-app purchases turned into dopamine-powered cash registers and Candy Crush knock-offs have dominated the App Store gaming scene in recent years, there are occasionally exceptions that show what is possible on the iOS platform and potentially what could haven been the norm. GRID Autosport from Feral Interactive (actually from CodeMasters originally, but ported to iOS by Feral), which was released for the iPhone and iPad a few weeks ago, is one such a example.
First off, Feral went against the grain, and is selling GRID for a flat $9.99 with DLC and updates included without charge. I downloaded it Friday, and was immediately prompted to download a DLC Pack and HD Textures without additional charge. For those of us who came to gaming through the console world, this is the way we are used to things working. You pay a fair market price up front to get a good product. The $9.99 that GRID runs for seems very fair compared to what the same game would set you back on a console.
You may or may not get charged for DLC for current titles these days. In most cases today you will, and that sometimes turns into subscriptions and other mechanisms to make it into a steadier recurring revenue stream for developers. However, the idea at the heart of console gaming is that you get a complete game that is polished and immersive and when you DO pay for DLC, it is for more than a few coins or a requirement to get past a certain point in the game. You get new levels, missions, characters, tracks, cars etc for your hard-earned money. GRID is much more exception than rule on iOS in this regard.
Next up on this game’s list of distinctions is its quality. GRID’s graphics and visuals are off the charts for an iOS game. Not only are they very sharp and realistic looking, which is in keeping with the game’s more realistic take on racing physics, but the frame rate is also as smooth as silk on my iPad Pro. I’ve seen the term “console quality graphics” thrown around a bit too liberally in reference to iOS titles before, and I’ve done it myself on occasion. However, it really isn’t an exaggeration with this game.
Pretty visuals don’t mean much if the gameplay isn’t any good, but that definitely isn’t the case here, either. The controls are very responsive and easy to pick up, with both tilt and touch styles supported. There are also several game modes and over 100 cars and tracks each to try, so you actually feel like you got something for that up front price of admission.
If you are a fan of arcade-style racing games, you might be a little disappointed as GRID is much closer to Forza, Gran Turismo, or Real Racing 3 on iOS than Mario Kart or Asphalt. Crashing is not encouraged in most modes and extreme movements will lead to your car spinning out and finishing in last place in the traditional race modes. While there is a Party Mode with a Demolition Derby that loosens things up a bit, what really separates GRID from an arcade racer is its physics. That’s where the realism truly lies. There are no massive jumps or crazy flips happening here like in Asphalt, and that’s ok. GRID does what it does fabulously well.
I’ll admit that I’m usually in the arcade racing camp, but I appreciate GRID for how good it is. The controls are consistent, so once you get used to what it takes to turn, corner, and brake, you can stay on the track and in the race without too much trouble. However, I can tell in a small amount of play time that perfecting the controls will remain a challenge. This will keep me coming back, which is the hallmark of a quality game.
Speaking of controls, another of the major features of GRID is MFi controller compatibility. This is what really put it over the top for me. Having controller support turns my iPad into a 13″ gaming powerhouse, so it was a big feature for me. I appreciate what developers do with touch and tilt controls, but after getting a Nintendo Switch and gaming on it almost exclusively for months while at home or traveling, it’s clear to me that I am just a controller guy at heart. When I look at a racing, action, or sports title on iOS, the first thing I look for is whether it has MFi Support.
Again, GRID costs $9.99, which is a BIG price tag for an app these days, but you are getting a lot of game for that price. It may not be worthy of a full $59 on a Switch cartridge, for example, but I would expect to see the same title to set me back $29-$49 on a current gen console. I’ll pay $9.99 for that quality, plus portability, plus the ability to share the title amongst my family’s devices ANY DAY.
The only thing left that is missing in my book is tvOS Support. While that device hasn’t been super popular, GRID would be amazing proof of what is possible on the bigger screen with iOS. For what it’s worth, Feral told the Apple TV Gaming Blog, “We’re looking into GRID Autosport for Apple TV, but have no confirmation either way at this point.” That’s probably a nice way of saying no, but the fact that they didn’t close the door leaves me with a little hope that we may see this eventually.
If today’s App Store was full of gaming titles like GRID, with this much attention to detail, graphic quality, and comprehensive experience, then I think you would see a completely different consumer mindset. Normal people who game on iOS today expect free titles, but then somehow just don’t even consider the cost of in-app purchases over time. This is the state of the App Store today, and that mindset chokes the life out of pay-up-front titles that aren’t as strong or able to make a splash like GRID.
Some will say that I’m wrong and that the relative lack of success of Nintendo’s Super Mario Run, which was free to try but then a single price model after, proves it. I would respond that most people who are willing to pay money up front for great games on iOS have pretty much given up hope on the platform. Most of us did so years ago. We’ve moved on to other things like traditional consoles and the Switch, and sometimes don’t even notice when something like Super Mario Run shows up on iOS. I was fortunate that I noticed a release announcement for GRID on Flipboard, or I would never have known it was there. I rarely go searching the App Store for great paid titles anymore because there just aren’t that many. In this case, I’m glad I did.
Maybe I’m cynical, but I don’t expect GRID to change anything for gaming on iOS. I think the in-app purchase model is too ingrained and too much of an easy cash register for most developers to pass up. However, GRID does at least show that there is still potential for high quality paid titles in the App Store. As long as there are games like this that can make a go of it and get the kind of positive attention that GRID has generated, there is hope that the situation could improve for those of us who prefer to pay for a title that’s actually worth the price. The bottom line is, if you like racing games, buy this one. Also, if you want to tell developers that there are still some of us left who will pay up front for a great iOS title, consider parting ways with a very reasonable $9.99 as well to make your point. If you appreciate a great game, you won’t be sorry.
GRID Autosport is available in the Apple App Store for $9.99, and is compatible with the iPhone SE and above and the new iPad or iPad Pros.