EnjoyUp Games dropped onto the Xbox One this time last year with their single screen top down racer, Rock ‘N Racing Off Road DX. With dire visuals, mechanics and audio to accompany the lacklustre gameplay it didn’t go down too well, with only a fairly decent multiplayer mode saving it from utter disaster.
Now though, the small independent developers are back, and this time they are going all out in order to hit the summit of racing, combining their Rock ‘N Racing tag with a Grand Prix feel. Is it enough to push them to the verge of a video game podium or are they still struggling in and amongst the back runners?
Well, it certainly isn’t the former. Not in any way.
Still viewed from an overhead aspect, Grand Prix Rock ‘N Racing ditches the single static screen for a larger scrolling affair. With 20 cars lining up on the grid, revving their engines in anticipation of the lights going green, very little has changed from the offroad variety that we were previously treated to. Unfortunately, as with its predecessor, Grand Prix throws itself into the initial bend, loses control and heads straight to the scene of an all-mighty mashup. In fact, for even the most hardened F1 fans or racing gamers, Grand Prix Rock ‘N Racing fails to deliver with every opportunity.
Formula One cars are well known for being at the forefront of both the technological and motor-sport world. Admittedly, this effort may not use the licensed name but you’d have to be some kind of fool to not realise the attempted connection. Grand Prix Rock ‘N Racing, though, places you in control of a car so underwhelming, so lacking in power and so completely devoid of grip that it’s untrue. Starting at the back of grid in your first full season, you’ll struggle to make it through any of the ten tracks included without losing the will to live. Believe me when I say you’ll struggle to experience any form of entertainment.
It must be said, I’m a bit of a veteran when it comes to video game racers, managing to hold my own quite well with the vast majority of racers that I come across; but managing to finish any higher than 15th in any of the races in my first season was a tricky old task. Even then, I only actually placed in anything other than last place due to the sheer incompetence of the AI which controls the other cars.
Crashes are frequent, but utterly random and all too often you’ll find yourself flying through the air, spinning around before landing upside down through no fault of your own. The evil culprits who have instigated the collision could well be seen fleeing from the scene of the crime with little care in the world…or be left driving around in circles forever more; obviously dazed and confused from what has happened. It’s all a bit too haphazard for my liking and instantly puts anyone who has braved taking charge of the controller on the back foot. It is thankful that EnjoyUp have anticipated that incidents will be frequent and have included a quick reset button for getting your car facing in the required direction again. However using this sees your car placed in some of the most awkward track positions. If you’re lucky enough to find you’ve been placed out of harms way on some gravel, you will struggle to get your car moving with any sense of urgency. Finding yourself dropped back onto the middle of the track means it won’t be long before the useless AI happily pile into the back of you once again.
Of course, you may get lucky and find that the AI drives right through you, or discover a part of the track which allows you and your car to become one with the tarmac, disappearing and reappearing like some time travelling superstar. But then this is a small indie title, with a limited budget, so I’ll occasionally let odd inaccuracies like that go. At least for a while.
Stick with Grand Prix Rock ‘N Racing and with each and every race you complete, you’ll begin to find tokens thrown your way. These can be used before a race to upgrade your car with better speed stats, throw on a faster, more powerful acceleration hit, get some better, grippier tyres, or order your mechanics to fit a more complete turbo system. You’ll only really find the odd one of two tokens coming your way initially, but the more you upgrade the more you can compete – or at least try and get yourself into a position to compete – in further seasons. The option of manual gears as opposed to the standard arcade-like auto box is seemingly a nice touch. However, in reality the constant drone of the crowd and the noise from the overhead helicopters ensure that those yearning for a more complete, fully interactive gear changing experience are left even more frustrated.
So that leaves us pinning our hopes on the actual racing but again this disappoints. Once you’ve raced round the re-imagined Silverstone, Monza or Sao Paulo once, there really isn’t anything to make you want to do it again. The circuits are visually drab with very basic grandstands to help draw your attention from the dire racing action and there is very little else in place to help bring any positive vibe.
Aside from putting ourselves through near hell in the season mode, EnjoyUp have included both a time trial section and multiplayer option for us to um…enjoy. Both do exactly as you would expect but the time trial section really doesn’t bring a whole load of pleasure to anyone but the most masochistic. Grab some mates and fire up the multiplayer though and you may just find a reason to play Grand Prix Rock ‘N Racing. In a similar vein to their off-road effort, if you’ve got some local compatriots who wish to have a laugh and fancy chipping a quid or two each into the pot, then it could well be the local split screen side of things which will keep you busy for an evening. With the chance to mess around with any of the ten included tracks with up to three other friends and keep going for anything up to 7 laps with or without the AI, it may not be the ultimate party game, but for a group of petrolheads who want some old school 1980’s racing, it may just suffice. Similarly, the championship mode can also be played with a friend via split screen. Just make sure you’ve got a whole ton of beer in to help the time pass a bit quicker.
So we’ve already established that Grand Prix Rock ‘N Racing isn’t the finest game we’re going to be playing in 2016, but there must be something that we like. Well, for its slow start, and for all its dodgy visuals, sounds, mechanics and oddities, if you decide to spend a little more time with it, then at least you’ll find something to keep you going for a little while.
Admittedly, you may not enjoy what you’re doing, but if you are obsessed with getting your racing machine fully upgraded and fancy nailing a few achievements, then it delivers…if only because the gamerscore on offer is not relinquished easily. With various ones on offer for winning each individual race, smashing a couple of times that EnjoyUp seem to believe are par for the course, or finally praying to the gods in the thin hope that you can win a championship, there is most definitely a long term goal in Grand Prix Rock ‘N Racing. Don’t expect to be gathering the full 1000 gamerscore that is attached to the game though as I for one believe that managing to win the championship in the very first season is completely impossible. Your car just isn’t competitive enough…and won’t be for at least 20 races!
It must be said that I’ve played a lot of games on my Xbox One over the last few years, but this may just be one of the worst I’ve encountered. From the damn commentator who constantly repeats the same three or four lines over and over again, to the random-filled races, terrible AI, poor visuals, utterly disgusting sound and occasional screen lag, Grand Prix Rock N Racing is about as far from fun as you’re likely to find. It is therefore left in the hands of your friends and family as to whether the multiplayer side of things makes this Rock ‘N Racing title worthy of a one time shot.
EnjoyUp are a long way from that podium top step. A very long way.
Related: Let’s Play Grand Prix Rock ‘N Racing on Xbox One