Set in a futuristic game show setting, The Grid brings fast-paced arena-based deathmatch shooters (such as Quake III Arena and Unreal Tournament) to arcades, allowing up to six arcade cabinets to link together for networked multiplayer. The game features numerous playable characters, weapons, and arenas, as well as pre-match cheat codes that can radically alter the game (similar to NBA Hangtime and NFL Blitz).
Along with a unique control scheme (featuring a flight-sim style joystick and a trackball), the game uses a payphone-style number pad (similar to San Francisco Rush 2049) that players can use as a password mechanism to store their persistent stats (including names and single-player campaign progress) for the linked set of machines.
The Grid is a basic deathmatch where you try to kill your opponents while gaining points and money. You can only hold one gun at a time, but various weapons constantly spawn throughout the arenas so it's easy to quickly change it up.
The different weapons all have varying range, velocity, and damage. The different characters also have varying core attributes. This wide range of options allows for many different play styles, and although the battles are generally fast paced encouraging constant running and jumping, many strategies can succeed.
Although the game is clearly designed for multiplayer, there is also a single player mode where the player races against the clock to collect enough points to proceed.
Aside from the 360 degree aim via the trackball, The Grid uses Doom style assisted vertical aiming, but this can be deactivated with a code, and the player can actually earn more points in combat for doing so.
One of the more unique aspects of the game is the arcade cabinet's control scheme. It consists of:
- 8-direction flight-sim style joystick on the left to control movement, with a fire button on the front and a jump button on the thumb rest.
- Trackball on the right to control aim.
- Button on the lower right to activate your super move.
- Payphone style alphanumeric numberpad
Set in the general " future" The Grid is a televised game show fight to the death where contestants battle via avatars in holographic arenas for money and prizes. The Grid's fictional producers wanted celebrities to be the player's avatars to boost ratings and be more interesting than the generic avatars of other virtual fighting shows. To do this, they digitally scanned the celebs that they chose, as well as programming in their actual attributes including their special abilities. Well, that is, every celeb except for Karasu "due to the fact that he is an outlawed ninja".
The Grid has 8 starting characters. Each starting character has a unique super move and starting weapon:
|Wes||Pull weapons from opponents to him||Single-Barrel Shotgun|
|Chiller||Flies using his jetpack||Mako (a shark-shaped energy gun)|
|April||Digs into the ground and reappears across the arena||Zeus Gun (fires bolts of electricity)|
|Cyrus||Leaps into the air and lands with force, hurting close opponents and making them fall over||Blaster (shoulder mounted energy gun)|
|Ike||Body slam that hurts nearby opponents and causes them to loose their weapons||Tri-Shot (three barreled energy gun)|
|Flint||Speed run stunning anyone he touches||Uzi|
|Trixi||Turns invisible for a short time||Harpoon (gun that fires harpoons)|
|Karasu||Flying kick||Plasma Gun|
There are also many unlockable original characters throughout the game. They each have different availability criteria, usually a certain amount of points, money, or both. Some of these characters are:
|The Host, Chuck Smiley||Creates clones of himself to distract opponents||Host Wave Gun|
|Cameraman||Teleports opponents around him far away||Tri-Gun|
|Trom||Sets opponents near him on fire, killing them instantly||Tri-Gun|
|The Gridman||Activates an energy shield||Brick Gun|
|Darla||Emits a shockwave, pushing opponents away from her (farthest)||Grid Pom-Pom Gun|
|Kristy||Emits a shockwave, pushing opponents away from her (strongest)||Grid Pom-Pom Gun|
|Cleo||Emits a shockwave, pushing opponents away from her (average)||Grid Pom-Pom Gun|
|Lawyer, Oscar||Steals money from players close to him||Grid Brick Gun|
|Red Dog 6||Rolls forward knocking anyone in front of him down. Think Kano in Mortal Kombat.||Red Dog Uzi|
There are also unlockable cameo characters from other games, like these from the Mortal Kombat series:
|Sub-Zero||Throws an ice ball freezing an opponent||Ice Ball Gun|
|Scorpion||Throws a fire ball setting an opponent on fire||Fire Ball Gun|
|Noob Saibot||Sucks close opponents to him, killing them||Noob Shotgun|
In addition to the individual weapons characters have at the start of a match, there are many different weapons that spawn and can be picked up around each arena. They are generally more powerful than the starting weapons. These include:
- Triple-Barrel Shotgun
- Grenade Launcher
- W.Y.G. (a double plasma cannon worn on the player like a backpack)
- Gat Gun (gatling gun)
- Bull Horn
- Flash Cannon
- Guided Missile Launcher
- Ricochet Gun (shoots horizontal saw blades that bounce off walls)
- Polygun (shoots an energy triangle, or multiples if charged)
There are also 2 special weapons. They are not spawned, but earned by the player. Also, unlike every other weapon they lack infinite ammo, but make up for it in devistation.
- Mega Shotgun - One shot kills, but only allows 4 kills
- Da Bomb - Instant kills all opponents
There are 16 arenas to choose from. They range from being generally open and flat to cramped with many obstacles. Some also have traps that are controlled by a player. Different arenas cater to different weapons and play styles, although they all encourage constant movement as opposed to camping.
There are 3 variations of each arena based on how many players are in the game. 1-2 is small, 3-4 is medium, and 5-6 is large. The arenas are:
- China Chamber
- Toxic City
- Pool Table
- Track Attack
- Ground Zero
- Basement BRKC
- Stayin' Alive
- Mutha's Vineyard
- X-Fan Kastle
There is also an unlockable "Gridworld" arena. This is only available if the code for it is entered by all players.
- Ed Boon along with other Mortal Kombat developers were moved to make this game drawing on the successful brutality of that franchise, and taking inspiration from arena shooters like Quake as well as the frantic pace and crazy powerups of Midway's own Smash TV.
- Ed Boon mentioned on the Giant Bombcast that The Grid was the most fun he has had making a game.
- Built on Midway's Zeus 2 hardware, The Grid had such a unique infrastructure that porting it to a console was unfortunately unfeasible. Some cabinets were sent to Microsoft to see if it could be ported to the Xbox, but Microsoft deemed it too complicated.
- Instead of having three sided polygons like most games The Grid has 4 sided polygons.
- The player name is the name that will represent the player on scoreboards and other times when written in the game. The call name is a name that is actually spoken by the commentator in-game, for example, "JOSH is in first place!"