The racing game genre is something that doesn’t really change that much. Obviously, there are constant, subtle improvements to visuals and physics engines. There’s rarely anything game-changing, though, like the Battle Royale mode has been to the shooter genre. Codemasters’ ONRUSH did a great job of trying something new but for some reason, it didn’t really connect with an audience. The first game from Amazon Game Studios for Xbox One takes a leaf out of Telltale Games’ playbook by creating an episodic racing game. So, how does it shape up?
As the name suggests, The Grand Tour Game is based on Amazon Prime’s car series, The Grand Tour. This is the show from former Top Gear presenters Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond, and James May. It is known for its hijinks and the epic trips that they undertake. This could make for some very fun levels and exciting gameplay. Unfortunately, the episodes on offer here don’t feature any of the more outlandish stunts that they do. There are currently only two episodes on offer. One from season one and another from season two. Season 3 of the show begins on the 18th January. With the game due to get a new episode each week to reflect what happens on the show.
The episode for season one features the coming together of the McLaren P1, Porsche 918, and Ferrari LaFerarri. It starts at the beginning of the show. Jeremy Clarkson leaves the UK after Top Gear, flies to the US, and drives a Ford Mustang to a sort of festival in the desert. This will be familiar to anyone who has watched the first episode of The Grand Tour. The game tries to immerse you in the show by including lots of video footage and then trying to mix in playable sections through creative use of camera angles. It’s obvious when it is a playable section but I liked the effort that was made to blend them in.
The visuals of the gaming sections are obviously noticeable when compared to the real-life footage of the show. For a first game on Xbox One, though, I have to say that it looks pretty good. It’s not a million miles away from the benchmark set by the Forza franchise. Colours are bright. The car models are really good. The environments look spot on. It may not match up to Forza but it puts some other third-party titles to shame. Particle effects are also handled pretty well. There is a little texture pop-up on things like trees but as every racing game does that, it’s very excusable.
Of course, having nice visuals is pointless if the gameplay sucks. The handling model in The Grand Tour Game is very much on the arcade side of things. I started to struggle a couple of races in because I was playing it like Forza. I was trying to brake perfectly into corners, avoiding any wheel spin or sliding. Despite nailing it, I just couldn’t win the event. In frustration, I decided to just powerslide around the next corner and suddenly I was in contention again. It turns out that drifts are the order of the day. You are able to maintain most of your speed around corners through drifting. This isn’t like Ridge Racer, though, where you’re sideways for entire laps. It’s more akin to something like Need for Speed.
There are 15 events in the season one episode and 11 in the season two episode. This may sound like a reasonable number but according to the in-game stats, I’ve only played for 45 minutes. A lot of these events are also very similar. In the season one episode, six of the events involve doing one lap of the same circuit. With season three of the show due to have 12 episodes, this does mean that we could get around another nine hours of gameplay. A total of ten hours of gameplay may seem a little low for a racing game but when it costs less than $15, it seems fair.
As of this moment, The Grand Tour Game is a title that doesn’t really live up to its potential. The visuals are good. The integration of the show is admirable. The gameplay is solid, once you get the hang of it. My issue with it is that the episodes included at the moment are not that good. The show is known for its crazy journeys and outlandish vehicles and none of that is here. What is currently available is very standard racing fare. If Amazon Game Studios can include more of the absurd hijinks in future episodes, then this could be a really entertaining title. At the moment, though, this is only recommended for fans of the show.