Now, I know what you’re thinking, but no this isn’t going to be a review for the long-awaited third instalment of the Speed film series starring Sandra Bullock. What you should expect however, is an in-depth look at a high-octane racing game from developers Lion Castle, who previously dipped their toes into the genre as publishers for Super Street: The Game. Billed as an accessible and fun transformation of the usually overly technical motorsport games, Speed 3: Grand Prix will be hoping to explode onto the scene to a great reception from the folks who have a hard time with the hardcore sims.
If you told me there would be a racing game that’s combining the style of Formula One with the aggressive nature and volatility of Burnout, I’d bite your hand off for it. On paper, that’s what Speed 3: Grand Prix is trying to achieve, but unfortunately it’s gone terribly wrong. In fact, I’d rather bite my own hand off than play it again nor see anyone else go through such a traumatic experience.
Speed 3: Grand Prix is an adrenaline-fuelled racer with a penchant for destruction to put its own spin on the motorsport genre, hence it would’ve been helpful to have some kind of tutorial. Then it could not only explain the controls, but also the giant green bar floating above your vehicle and the volatile action you’re going to witness. Instead it just wants to throw you straight into either a Tournament, Quick Race, or Time Trial.
The Tournament mode is the equivalent of a full season, as you compete against 15 other AI drivers across six different tracks – yes, a mere six, which is astonishing really. Each season is differentiated only by the amount of laps you’ll need to complete, starting at three, before increasing to five for the next and seven after that. It also adds a two-lap qualifying round after the debut season, without actually telling you that’s its purpose. Given the fact there are four seasons in total, you won’t get much longevity out of Speed 3’s marquee offering. Actually though, it’s a blessing in disguise because the gameplay will have you begging for mercy.
The idea is to race to the finish and achieve the top spot by being an absolute brute on the track, side-swiping the opposition and bashing into anyone who comes close. If the health bar of any vehicle gets fully depleted, that car explodes and has to respawn, which could cost you a few places. This is genuinely a smashing concept, however the terribly erratic collision mechanics and the unpredictable handling combine to create a real pointless mess. Making contact with any other vehicle, or barriers, is likely to cause damage to your own and the severity is clearly decided by the roll of a dice.
You could literally go full pelt into a t-bone style takedown and emerge relatively unscathed, but then a minor swerve towards an overtaking vehicle can see large chunks of damage inflicted upon yourself. The worst example is slightly grazing the barrier around the track, only to immediately explode, while the next occasion will see you just receive minor damage at most. It’s especially tricky to avoid impacts due to the handling, which feels tetchy one moment and horribly sluggish later on in the same race
Speed 3 appears quite glitchy too, with random puffs of smoke popping up as if there’s a car in that spot and wrecked vehicle bodies staying on-track lap after lap. Respawning is strange as well, with no ghosting in place for your car and so you often spawn with full health, only to instantly get rammed in the rear, needing another respawn. The most bizarre occurrence involved a driver on the home straight going at top speed into the barrier every single time I reached that segment, as if it was stuck within some kind of death loop. Perhaps they’d just had enough of the game and wanted out.
As you can probably guess, the other modes won’t alter the painstaking gameplay, but just in case you’re curious, there’s Quick Race for a one and done experience that’s nothing to write home about. And then there’s Time Trial, which is the typical mode for attempting to complete laps in the fastest time possible. It’s possible to play both of these via two-player split-screen, although I wouldn’t put any of my actual friends through that personally.
Aside from the gameplay, Speed 3 isn’t helped by the outdated visuals and the generic looking tracks. Imagine having a measly six tracks, located in places like the USA, UK and Russia, and five of them are boring as hell. Heck, one is just an oval that takes 30 seconds per lap and it’s so bland that you’ll be sick of it almost instantly. The Japan track is alright at least, injecting a bit of nightlife into proceedings and being slightly eye-catching with neon signs and cherry blossom trees.
Even the sound department fails to deliver as you’re driving around to a completely irrelevant soundtrack accompanying the action. That’s if you can hear anything other than explosions when out on the track; it’s effectively a warzone and every few seconds the sound of jet engines backfiring resonates throughout the location.
Overall, Speed 3: Grand Prix on Xbox promises an exciting concept that it simply fails to provide. The main Tournament mode doesn’t offer much longevity, the actual gameplay is a messy affair – although not in the way it’s intended – and it lacks any sort of fun factor. It’s also incredibly sparse in terms of tracks, with the Japan circuit being the only one that has a bit of character. Considering the launch price, there’s no way I could recommend Speed 3: Grand Prix to anyone – not even my greatest nemesis.