Car racing games, you either love them or hate them. So for those who enjoy a good old fashioned racing game, the famous tv series the Grand Tour has come to the PlayStation. It’s quite an interesting concept that was released in conjunction with the third series of the car enthusiast tv show. The game released a couple of weeks ago on the PlayStation store for €11.99 so the question needs to be asked… is it any good?
The Grand Tour Game is aimed towards putting fans behind the wheel of the cars from the latest series by bringing them to the shows iconic locations including their home test track, the Eboladrome. Clarkson, Hammond and May have been involved in the making of the game, lending their voices to add to the “banter” and authenticity.
Moving seamlessly from clips of the show to gameplay, Amazon’s aim is to create a game that will infuse the series elements with the game to make a satisfying experience for the shows fans.
“It’s a video game featuring me, the crashy one, and the slow one. That’s all you need to know,” said Jeremy Clarkson.
In The Grand Tour Game, players aren’t just stuck with an episode by episode story-line but they can race and challenge each other face-to-face. Using the four player split-screen (it’s been a long time since I’ve said that) you and 3 of your mates can sit on the couch racing the cars and sling both physical and virtual insults at each other as you race to the finish. In a kind of watered down Mario Kart way, players gain power-ups like High Tea, which spills tire-shredding cups and saucers, and More Horsepowers, which lets you blow past the competition to help make the action unpredictable.
“We’re committed to authentically capturing the spirit of the show: cars, banter with friends, and (mostly) friendly competition.”
Craig Sullivan, Creative Director at Amazon Game Studios.
Interestingly no other video game has ever tried to keep pace with a tv series before, especially releasing installations alongside episodes which means what’s to come is relatively unknown until we see Series 3 of The Grand Tour. This weekly dropped content will take the form of challenges based upon the series, meaning that if Clarkson and his pals drive a supercar, you’ll drive a supercar. If they instead, say, drag race forklift trucks… it’s time to start working on your forklift license.
The Good Stuff
Now we know what the game is all about, let’s get into the review. To be honest I don’t really have a lot of positive things to say about The Grand Tour Game. Unless of course you are already a fan of the show. I’ll get onto the bad stuff in a moment but first let’s look at positives.
Firstly, the details gone into each car is properly slick. Engine noises for each car are different, the spoiler on the McLaren actually moves in tandem with your acceleration/braking and in general, the cars just look really good. This car detail goes a long way towards streamlining the game. Especially considering the transition between tv series footage and in-game cutscenes is meant to be seamless. That’s really it when it comes to the graphics, other than that there isn’t a lot to write home about. As the game is predominantly track based there is very little detail gone into the scenery which means it just looks a bit dated. Sad that, when the cars are done with real care.
The only other thing I can find to say positively about The Grand Tour game is the novelty factor and the popularity of the tv series means that fans of the show will get their kicks. One moment you’re watching the hosts attempt some questionable automotive antics – the next you’re at the wheel yourself – same car, same location, same chance to make a massive mess of it (which you probably will). The episodic nature of the story mode will get fans excited but once the novelty factor wears off that’s it, bubble burst.
The Bad Stuff
It’s safe to say I’m not a fan of The Grand Tour Game, but my experience with that game led me to have a good idea of what the game could have or should have been.
On a purely technical level cars handle weirdly, the game looks aged (beyond the actual cars), and the physics are bizarre. Which is annoying considering the developers’ pedigree. The staff included developers from the Burnout and Need for Speed franchises yet this game somehow feels lacking.
From a visual standpoint overall the game doesn’t even compare to racing game benchmarks and in most cases, the commentary by Hammond and co kills the user experience rather than adding to it. Seriously I ended up playing in mute for a while so I could focus on getting to grip with handling rather than listening to their nonsense. If you’re a big fan of the series this probably won’t bother you too much but for me the forced banter that seeps into every crevice of the far screams “We’re funny lads laugh with us”. It’s also not limited to just the story mode. In split-screen there is a power-up called Texting, where you send “hilarious” texts to your friends to force them into crashing. Granted these things are funny to fans of the show but if you’re looking for a car based game, there’s better around.
While I said that the cars looked great and they all sounded different you would have thought each vehicle would handle differently. Well, you would have been wrong. There is no difference between driving the Mustang vs the Rimac electric vehicle. It’s going to be interesting to see as the series develops if these problems are fixed by the time bikes and other vehicles are included.
As we said there are a couple of different gaming modes. In terms of single player there are two elements, the story and single racer. Using the Grand Tour track you can complete straight up driving challenges like time trails where you earn a gold, silver or bronze medals based on your lap time.
I found the single player experience missed that wow factor. I played the first three segments of the story based on old episodes of the Grand Tour and it’s just kind of meh. There’s a challenge called “Hammond’s Clean Pants” which is based on one the episode’s other races, driving around a track in a McLaren P1 – a car so fast Hammond might you guessed it ‘poo himself’. The challenge is pretty simple, don’t make Hammond sh*t himself. Your goal is to perform a clean lap but any time you crash the man himself would shout ” oh, poo!” and you get awarded a poo emoji. Yup, that’s the challenge and it tells you all you need to know about the quality of the story mode and scrptiing.
The main saving grace for The Grand Tour game in my opinion was the four-player split-screen mode. Gone are the days where interactive gaming with your friends in the same room was commonplace. Nowadays we’re more likely to stick on the headsets and play together but alone. So during Dry January the idea of having “the lads” up for a car racing evening was a bit of blast from the past.
In reality, it’s a pretty standard four-way race, across a few different tracks and the person with the most points at the end of the races wins. This feature is meant to show the camaraderie of the show but it ultimately fails as the banter in the room with your friends far outweighs the canned laughter The Grand Tour game actually brings to the table. Also in a move like a watered down Mario Kart players can use a bunch of power-ups such as a speed boost and texts, which flash up on the screens of your opponents, obscuring the view. It all feels a bit cheap but fun, the exact opposite of the show. While it’s fun and we can all have a bit of laugh in the multiplayer mode the races eventually end up as a farce as the poor control system takes over. Cars spinning out, players bouncing off each other like bumper cars through each turn and just annoying commentary takes the shine away from what could have been a really fun feature.
The Goosed Verdict
I want the game to succeed, it’s a great concept and the Grand Tour is probably the biggest car enthusiast show on the planet. And here comes the but…. the Grand Tour Game just feels like a bit of a cash in on the iconic trio’s reputation.
The detail in the cars is quite nice and the idea of split-screen gaming with your friends is becoming a thing of the past, so it was really cool to be able to do that again. However, the control system feels a bit clunky, the “banter” is clearly forced and the story mode is kind of boring. Oh and finally in today’s day and age not having an online option is shooting yourself in the foot.
We will wait to see if Amazon Games come good on their promise of recreating the shows each week. Having said that I think asking punters to buy into the game to drive watered down version of each weeks episode is a bit of a tough ask. Put it like this, I won’t be patiently waiting for the latest episode/DLC, the game simply isn’t that good. Guess that’s why the game is under €20.
Maybe it’s me, maybe I’m asking too much but as with the PlayStation Classic, this just feels like a rushed attempt to hit the market and make some profit around the novelty/hype factor of the shows return to the air.