There was almost certainly a mild curiosity that came over me when I heard that The Grand Tour Game was actually a real thing that was happening in real life. My initial reaction before anything else was quite simply ‘this is going to be terrible’. As a fan of dem’ video games, to say that licensed video games have a chequered history would be an understatement. And this? This sounded like nothing more than a cheap cash-in, thrown out the door quickly in order to launch as near to the release of the new series as possible.
Turns out, I was right. This about as much as video game as I am a member of Little Mix and yet, I find myself intrigued. Placing the controller down I realised that I didn’t hate this game at all, it was actually rather enjoyable. You know, enjoyable in a ‘huh, this wasn’t as dreadful as I was expecting’ kind of enjoyable. That kind.
If you’ve kept up with the concept of The Grand Tour Game, you’ll know that the games selling point is the fact that once a new episode of the upcoming series has finished, you’ll get to play through each of the races included yourself with the same cars and the same locations. Every week new content will hit the game as episodic releases alongside the series. That, in itself, is a cool concept. Especially as you can watch a new episode, see one of the races included and get excited about being able to see how well you would fare as either Clarkson, Hammond or May. That’s neat. For the asking price of £12? You have yourself a deal Mr. Bezos.
The issues arise when the game actually begins. You see, how it works can be tested out through two pre-packaged episodes, namely the first episodes of the previous two series. You get to play through them from beginning to end with video from the episode interspliced between the action. From the humble beginnings – the series opening with Clarkson driving on his own in the rain but then Hammond and May join up alongside him – to when Clarkson decided to bet the destruction of his house on a speed lap, you can do it all. You can even watch segments of the episodes that tie the races together if you so choose, though they can be skipped with a quick tap of a button and work more as loading screens than anything else (the accompanying soundbytes to said button press do grate after a while, mind).
It’s when the races begin that it all falls apart. The handling of every car is more or less exactly the same and if you get a handle (heh) of it quickly then each challenge isn’t going to be too difficult. Namely, there’s been absolutely no effort to tweak the feeling of the supercars. None whatsoever. The only car that feels slightly different is the house car that goes around their test track, the Eboladrome (lovingly recreated here). Naturally once you finally get an idea of how the cars feel the race is over, and you’re pushed onto another challenge.
What is interesting is the variety. There’s a challenge where you have to get Hammond around the track without him screaming, which pretty much means don’t come off the track and you should be golden. There’s a challenge where you have beat Clarkson by getting as far away from him as possible – a pleasant experience for all involved, I would imagine. If you’re at all familiar with the show then everything will feel familiar, the problem is there’s no balance. Whilst it’s fun to go back and have a go at these events that took place throughout the episodes. they don’t feel realistic because the cars don’t act anything like the would in the real world. Bizarre considering the pedigree Amazon recruited to throw this together (former Burnout devs, for example). At no point do you ‘feel’ like Clarkson, Hammond or May, you’re just moving cars from one point to another. Nothing about the control feels polished or complete, it just feels done. Like, ‘that’ll do’. Forza this is most definitely not.
In the team challenges there are even power-ups you can collect to irritate your competitors. You can get yourself a boost of horsepower, a cloud of pink smoke or you can send an insulting text, obscuring their view. It’s very weird in concept but you can imagine that should such things exist in real life these three would use them relentlessly. It’s the only part of the game that feels like a ‘video game’, and turns supercar races into Mario Kart. If you’ve ever imagined being The Grand Tour gang with your friends you’ll be glad to know there’s local multiplayer (no online), four player multiplayer, in fact. The funniest thing about this is that yes, there are three main presenters, so the fourth person is just literally another Jeremy Clarkson. In this universe there are two Clarksons. I’ll let you decide if that is indeed a good thing or not. It’s such a jarring, bizarre decision. Why not just restrict it to three player? In my head that makes much more sense.
I wanted to hold off finishing this review until the first series three content had been released, and sure enough, it appeared in the game the same day the episode launched via an update. Nice. I had just finished the episode before jumping in and I was excited to play through Clarkson’s Senna film only…it wasn’t there. It had been replaced entirely with a run around the Eboladrome with Hammond. What on earth? That’s not exactly what I signed up for here and I find it strange that they’ve left out an entire film’s worth of racing around the tracks here and replaced it with something that wasn’t in the episode at all. The logical part of my brain suggests licensing issues with the car manufacturer prevented it from being used, but why replace it with something completely different? Another strange choice in a sequence I’m discovering as I play through the game.
Still, credit where it is due. The Detroit content was great, with some solid recreations of locations I had just seen the guys whip around on TV present and correct. Two drag races, some lap time challenges, a donut volume competition and meaty muscle cars powering through the empty streets. It was pretty impressive how well it translated, the video-to-game transitions as smooth as you like. Hammond’s makeshift racecourse through an abandoned factory was the highlight, even if it was in fact, absolute tosh. The fact I could even have a go at it myself is the entire point of this game, and you know what? It really works.
The Grand Tour Game is exactly what it says on tin. It’s interactive versions of the challenges you’ve seen on screen, on your console – so long as the development team are allowed to make them, it would seem. The handling is a nightmare, the drifting is blisteringly illogical but you can tell that there’s a team behind this that really believe in the idea. Today I found out that it actually works.
I was ready to trash this cash-in to high heaven, and no, it’s not going to bother Forza or Gran Turismo anytime soon as your favourite racing game. It’s an interactive companion to see if you could do any better at being a member of the crew better than Clarkson, May or Hammond.
And with twelve more content drops incoming over the next three months, that twelve quid price tag is looking like a bit of a bargain. Better than getting fired for punching someone because a steak was cold.
The Grand Tour Game is available now on PS4 (reviewed on PS4 Pro) and Xbox One.
Developer / Publisher: Amazon Games
Disclaimer: In order to complete this review, we purchased a copy of the game. For our full review policy, please go here.