The Grand Tour, Amazon Prime’s “car” show with the presenters from the old Top Gear, has just started to air its third series. To tie in with this, there is now a video game available that puts you in the shoes of Clarkson, Hammond and May, letting you drive the cars in the same situations that they find themselves in. When it launched, it had an episode from each of the first three series, and now as further chapters are released in the third series, the game is updated to add the action from the new episode into proceedings. But does this format work as a game, or is it a stretch too far?
The first thing to say is that The Grand Tour Game isn’t going to give Forza any sleepless nights. The driving is simplistic, the handling model unconvincing – you can get around any corner by simply lifting off the accelerator or tapping the “drift” button – and you can’t even change the camera, with the viewpoint fixed behind the car. There has been some thought put into the races though; they aren’t all first past the post. Some memorable ones see you having to drive around the the streets of Detroit while keeping James’ “fizz” up – something which is harder than it sounds – and having to smoke the tyres in Jeremy’s Lamborghini in the fastest time. Others stand out because they are completely ridiculous; driving a Fiat Panda 4×4 into the camera and trying to stay ahead of Hammond in his monster truck. As you may expect, driving into the camera is very hard, as all directional inputs are reversed and in order to get a gold medal in this race, you’ll be going for a good long time.
There’s a flavour of Mario Kart in place with The Grand Tour Game too, with pickups that can be collected and used to attack the opposition or give yourself a boost of speed. These can be used against AI opponents, or in the local multiplayer modes that are included. These offer couch multiplayer for up to four players, splitting the screen in order to let everyone race together. You can take part in a single race, or in a Grand Prix mode, which selects three races across a variety of courses, with the winner the one who gains the most points over the three events. The multiplayer works well, with no slowdown or anything to report, and the weapons available make it good fun. There’s nothing like seeing your seven year old son overtaking you, triggering a Whippy Slippy in his wake, and giggling furiously as you slide off the course into a fence.
Graphically and the game isn’t bad at all, with the transition from video footage to you taking control of the car being very well done. Each race is set up with an introductory video, taken directly from the episode that you are playing, and it’s here where the game starts to make a bit of sense. Taken as a racing game on its own merits, it’s poor, there’s no other word for it. But should you be looking to see The Grand Tour Game on Xbox One as an extension to the episode of The Grand Tour show that you’ve just watched, taking the photos from Columbia, drifting a McLaren around a race course, or filling the shoes of the professional racing driver, Abby, as she tears around the Eboladrome, it all works. The Eboladrome in the game is actually harder to drive around than it is in real life, as they have put a wall in the centre of the Isn’t Straight and it makes the course a lot narrower.
The audio effects in particular are pretty decent, and you’ll constantly hear the presenters bicker and argue as they do in the show; taking this in sucks you that little bit further in. Unfortunately, the engine sounds from the cars are pretty limp, but the narration is normally louder anyway.
This all comes together to create a strange ‘game’. If you like The Grand Tour, then this is an easy sell. It puts you pretty much in the show, doing what the presenters have just done and allows the chance to drive the very expensive cars in a stupid way. If you hate the show, or aren’t a fan of Clarkson et al, then this isn’t strong enough to make sense as a standalone purchase.
I personally love the show and have enjoyed the game, with the new content arriving each Friday being a welcome expansion to the whole Grand Tour experience, however, I have to judge this as a game in its own right, and as such there is no way it can get anything near a high rating. There is fun to be had, but I know many will be put off before giving it a chance, and even though the later episodes introduce some quirky tasks that add to the fun, it doesn’t ever make it a good game.
If you enjoy the show, then by all means add another point or so, but otherwise, The Grand Tour Game struggles on the gaming front.