I’m not what you would consider to be a fan of Top Gear, and hell, I’ve never even seen an episode of The Grand Tour. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not bashing the quality of either show, but motoring shows just don’t appeal to me. Give me a racing game, on the other hand, and I’ll jump right in and throttle it for hours on end, despite not being very skillful. When The Grand Tour Game was announced, one aspect of it massively caught my attention; its episodic format. The question is, however, is it a formula that works in the game’s favor?
In truth, it’s a double-edged sword, but we’ll touch up on that shortly. To those unaware, The Grand Tour Game doesn’t just simply follow in the footsteps of its counterpart show, it emulates it. The game is largely built around the show’s third season, though, at launch, it offered moments from the first and second season’s opening episodes. This was due to the game arriving ahead of the third season, and so, the developer crafted this content to give players a taste of things to come. Let’s talk briefly about how its episodes will function.
Whenever an episode from the show releases, the game will see moments from that episode emulated, essentially allowing you to watch the show, and then play the show. This is exactly how the first two seasons’ opening episodes function. That is to say that you don’t get the entire first and second season, just their debuts; The Holy Trinity, and Past, Present, or Future, respectively. What you will get, is the show’s entire third season. The game will update each week with moments from each new episode that season three unleashes.
I wanted to wait until the game’s initial update arrived before forming this review, allowing me to see this foundation working first hand. Booting up the game takes you to a clean menu that consists of single player, multiplayer, a driving record, and the ability to tweak a few settings. The latter is fairly self explanatory. I’ll point out that the game only supports local multiplayer across two modes; Face Off and Grand Prix. Regardless, each mode functions in the same way, with some further options allowing you to alter the gameplay.
The multiplayer will also fill out as more content is released, made apparent by the arrival of season three’s first episode. Setting up a game is as easy as can be, and you’ll be enjoying custom races on its maps, in its vehicles, in no time at all. What sets multiplayer apart from the rest of the game is its Mario Kart-like Gadgets. That’s correct! You and up to three other players wont only be racing for first place, but you’ll be utilizing the power of pick-ups as you race for supremacy. Despite there only being a few to make use of, they’re quite fun.
Of course, they’re also pretty outlandish. Ice-cream, for example, enables you to fill the track to your rear in thick dairy, making it slippy for those in your rear-view. There’s also fog, which makes it hard to see for those that get caught in your path. Some may argue that these additions are generic and filler, but for me, I quite enjoyed the inclusion. Whatever the case, and overall, the game’s multiplayer is a nice addition, and as alluded to above, more vehicles and tracks will be added in unity with the content that arrives in single player.
If you’re one for the stats, the driving record will keep track of your progress. Oddly enough, the driving record charts online play, but there’s no option to play online at present. Further to that, the game’s official Twitter account was asked about online multiplayer, to which they replied by stating that the game does not support it, and supports local play instead. Perhaps this is simply an aspect of play that the devs toyed with, and forgot to remove from the record? I don’t know. What I do know is that online play is not included in the game.
When you’re done with the multiplayer, you can jump to the game’s main event, it’s single player component. Once again, the menu remains clean, allowing you to select from three options; season one, season two, and season three. Unlike the latter, the former two will not grow beyond their current serving, meaning that much of the game’s post-launch support will be taken from the third season, which has just started up on Prime today, January 18th. With that said, the game’s first content update emulates moments from that.
Selecting a season will then take you to an episode list, and once you select an episode, you’ll be able to play scenes from that episode. So, for instance, let’s say you wanted to follow presenters Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May, taking to the desert on their way to Dry Rabbit Lake, as depicted in season one’s The Holy Trinity, you can do just that. Equally, you can dive to season two and play as the lads as they determine which is better, cars of the future, cars from the past, or cars from the present. It’s quite interesting.
You even get to play as Hammond whilst driving the Rimac, moments before his severe crash during the hill climb in Switzerland. The game’s scenes vary in length, and typically come with show segments both before and after the gameplay occurs. This transition is quite fluid, and it’s pretty cool watching the show, and then being thrown into spotlight when the play kicks in; same car, same location, same rules. There’s some framerate issues during the shift, clearly the system is struggling to transfer, but this only occurs infrequently.
Nevertheless, that’s how The Grand Tour Game works. You’ll watch footage of Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May, and then in the blink of an eye, you’ll be taking on their role. In theory, the game will continue to implement new content as time moves on, covering the entirety of the current season. That being said, I do have a concern with this system, and I suspect that its content delivery plan will more than likely split the crowd, especially during its launch month. Regardless to its rather generous slashed price tag.
The concern I have is that on paper, it all sounds quite intriguing – new weekly episode, new weekly gameplay. The problem, on the other hand, is that should the developer fail a certification process for any given update, it’s likely going to throw the schedule out of whack. Whilst there’s no indication that this is going to happen, I think it’s something to be mindful of. In regards to it splitting the crown, I suspect many will be let down by its current depth of content. Why play in segments, when you can wait a few months and play it all?
I actually really like the system. It’s interesting and it’s certainly going to maintain traction, and I daresay other developers will be taking notes. The problem, however, is that as it stands, there’s little more than a few hours worth of play time, and that’s if you’re taking the multiplayer into account. Once again, this will indeed change as time passes and more episodes are released, but it’s hard to recommend the game for its content at present. Perhaps, if you’re on the fence, it’s worth waiting a few weeks to see how its supported.
I feel quite confident judging the game as is. I’ve waited for the first episode to drop, and I have a firm insight as to how it functions, how it plays, how diverse it is, and how it’s all wrapped and served. Each episode takes roughly an hour (if that) to run through. Replay value can be found through its medal system, being that, depending on your performance, you’ll earn medals of bronze, silver, and gold variation, per-scene. The game’s difficulty really isn’t that steep, meaning that you can mop up gold medals fairly quickly throughout.
The game does sport some diversity across its scenes, with the show segments thrown in to tie everything together quite neatly. Although you can indeed rewind and fast-forward these show moments, I thoroughly enjoyed watching these segment. Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May have a very comical vibe, with personalities that bounce off each other really well. In fact, if anything, the game has me wanting to watch the show more than it does play the game. There’s even an option to watch the full episodes online.
However, this option ultimately takes you to the Amazon App. Either way, the developers have seamlessly strung together the scenes in a way that makes sense. It’s neatly structured and follows a solid path. The gameplay content itself is quite varying. One moment you’ll be watching the lads ranting about who has the better car, before being slammed behind the wheel to prove who the alpha is via a drag race. In another moment, the lads will be introducing the iconic Eboladrome test track, before you’re put on track to test it yourself.
That, by and large, is how the game channels your attention. Though, I do think there’s some unnecessary additions that serve merely as padding. One example is that of Jeremy showing what his Lamborghini is capable of. This scene amounts to little more than a few donuts to generate smoke. That’s it. I appreciate that the developer has to work with the source material, but a filler scene (and there’s a few of ’em) only highlights how desperate the developer is to fill each episode with varying moments. Quality over quantity, please.
Season three’s Motown Funk is easily the best episode of the lot. The content here is less sporadic than its peers, and better rounded as a result. Hopefully the developer can maintain this pace in the long-run. Now, we’ve touched on the game’s foundation, but what about the actual gameplay? Let’s start with the controls. The controls are easy to adjust to. Accelerating and braking is achieved via RT and LT, respectively. Steering is tethered to the left stick, and camera adjustments to the right. Hit A for your gadget, and hold X to drift.
It cant get any simpler than that. It’s important to understand that The Grand Tour Game is an arcade game, not a sim. That said, some mechanics that come as standard in most racers is sadly not present here. Chief among them? You cant swap your camera’s perspective, meaning that you’re stuck with the default. It doesn’t help matters that the handling of most vehicles is far from forgivable. Most cars have a clunky, unresponsive feel to them. It’s a shame really, especially when we take into account that the developers have experience.
There’s also something quite baffling about the damage system in place. The game seems to decide at random when you’re out for the count. Several times did I endure a head-on collision at high-speed, to drive away like nothing had happened. Other times, another racer lightly bumped my rear, and I got “crashed”, the game’s term for wrecked. Sure, this only amounts to a quick respawn, but it does add unnecessary tension regardless. I also take issues with the game’s audio and visual design, or the lack of refinement to be accurate.
The show’s presenters have, to my understanding, recorded exclusive lines for the game. Now, whilst I’m a newly born fan of their hilarious rants, I cant quite forgive the developer for practically muting the background noise whenever dialogue is spoken. During play, the presenters will often yap to one another, but it tends to massively overpower the noise of the game itself. Of course, this can simply be fixed with some minor adjustments, but it certainly shouldn’t be like this, right out of the box. Then, there’s the visual design within.
The Grand Tour Game does well with its vehicle design, with each motor nearly perfectly replicating their real-world counterpart. I’ll even commend the game’s tracks and locations, even though they’re a bit rough around the edges. The problem, for me at least, is the background detail. It’s ugly to the point of distraction. I don’t expect AAA quality in a game that costs very little, but there should have been more care to attention on this front. Don;t misunderstand me, there’s certainly some fun to be had here, but it’s fleeting at best.
The Grand Tour Game’s content is worth its asking price. I’ll give it that much. Though with that in mind, its cost almost perfectly mirrors its overall quality; cheap. If you enjoy the show, this will certainly be up your street. Though, for those of you that prefer well-rounded and, at the very least, defined racing experiences, this isn’t go to do you much justice. It’s a sub-par mixed bag. The game’s fun tone, its fair diversity, and its accessibility, doesn’t quite manage to overshadow its technical issues, its clunky handling, and its generic framework.
The Grand Tour Game sports a unique content delivery system, but it’s one that goes in and against the game’s favor. That being said, this all means very little in the face of its undefined framework. Whilst the game does a good job of representing the show’s stylish character and imitating its format in fun ways, it predictably falls short where it really matters. This is, at very best, a mixed bag of pros and cons.
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox One. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version.Want to keep up to date with the latest Xt reviews, Xt opinions and Xt content? Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.