The Grand Tour Game Review

By Andrew Ogley, 19 days ago
Viewers of the TV series of The Grand Tour will be familiar with the three presenters being challenged to put something together with only rudimentary fundamentals, usually requiring a hammer and an inordinate amount of duct tape and generally resulting in a spectacular failure whilst still managing to be hugely entertaining. It's all for the show of course, and yet somehow, in answering the question "how hard can it be to make a racing game based on a successful TV show?" they've managed to do it again, albeit without the hammer and duct tape. The Grand Tour Game, turns out to be the same sort of hugely entertaining failure.

The Grand Tour Game

In full disclosure, I'm a fan of the previous incarnation of BBC's Top Gear and I took out an Amazon Prime subscription just to watch the new series after Jeremy Clarkson left the BBC and took his two co-presenters with him. I'm also the racing guy here at TA, so this should have been the perfect title for me, and yet it's left me in a quandary.

The idea behind the title is quite novel and brings a unique approach to the racing genre. The game features episodes from the first two seasons — the first episode of each season — and promises more episodes with season three of the series which has just started airing. Each episode features full-motion video from the actual show, and players get to participate in the racing challenges that took place in that episode. This all works impressively well. The transitions between the real TV segments to the video game elements is seamless. It's so well done in fact, that if you're not paying attention you may well miss the switch between the two.

From season one, you'll get to take part in the opening sequence to the whole series, the grand entrance to The Burning Man festival. You'll also get to race the holy trinity of the hybrid supercars: the Porsche 918, Ferrari La Ferrari and the McLaren P1. You'll race around the same race circuit, and it all looks rather convincing. Players will race as each of the three presenters and there are soundbites and clips from each of three. From season two, players will race cars from the past, present and future, meaning a Lamborghini, an NSX and they will even get the chance to race the Rimac supercar on the same hill climb that gave Richard Hammond some serious cause for concern. The whole concept, much like the challenges on the show, is actually quite sound and quite intriguing. It's innovative and sounds like a good idea, but also like the show, it's only when the team gets to work that it all starts heading towards that all-too-familiar spectacular failure.

The Grand Tour Game

The gameplay is strictly arcade, in extremis. There are controls for accelerate, brake, drift and gadgets — more on that point later — and that is it. There are no manual gear changes, no possibility for changing camera views, no difficulty setting, no collision damage, and whilst the cars all behave differently, the physics model is not entirely realistic and the controls can be a little wonky. It begins to feel like Mario Kart only with more realistic looking cars. This feeling is exacerbated further by the introduction of power-ups and weapons, such as distracting text messages that obscure the screen, pink candy-floss colored smoke, or ice cream slurry that turns the road into an icy mess for your opponents. Somehow, racing the holy trinity of supercars with such gimmicks seems almost sacrilegious. Who knows what il Commendatore would be thinking when seeing his Ferrari supercar blowing fluorescent pink smoke out of its exhaust.

There are circuit races, point-to-point races, timed laps, speed challenges, and drift challenges to complete. There are 15 events in season one, 11 in season two, and at the time of writing, 16 in season three. However, with each challenge only requiring the player to achieve bronze, silver, or gold medals, once gained, there's little reason to revisit the individual events, and whilst you might not strike gold on all events first time of asking, the difficulty level is not particularly high and most players will get them all eventually. Unfortunately, however, there are no online leaderboards, so players have no incentive to improve on their individual best scores. For the record too, at this moment there is no online play at all, although the driver records screen does have an entry for online play, so maybe that is planned for a later episode. The developers have promised episodic updates in sync with the Amazon TV series and so far they have been true to their word with extra content being delivered after the opening two episodes of the new season.

Whilst the transitions between FMV and the racing elements are well done, graphically the rest of game is only reasonable. It's unfair to hold it up against the far superior Forza Horizon 4, and it's certainly not last-gen. it settles somewhere in between the extremes, so don't be expecting petrolhead eye candy of any sort. Fortunately, it plays relatively smoothly with no visible screen tearing and no real framerate drops.

The Grand Tour Game

Outside of the campaign mode, local split-screen racing is possible with players being able to create their own combination of events, cars, drivers, and gadgets, or race a complete set of events from a single episode. Players can race against three other real-life opponents or take on the AI, which for once, has various difficulty settings. It's here too, that players can also take on the role of Abbie Eaton, the show's resident professional race driver. Again, there is no multiplayer or online mode at all.

Achievements are a mix; there are some very quick and simple ones that will pop quickly, but there are some grinds involved, such as winning 50 races with each of the presenters and race driver or using a particular gadget 50 times. These will take time. For the base game, there are 26 achievements. So far, it seems that each new episode and related content will deliver more achievements, so completionists will have to re-visit the title regularly if they want to keep their percentages up.

Overall, looking at the gaming elements alone, to steal a quote from the show, "frankly, it's a bit rubbish" and there are clearly much better arcade racers available. However, there is one big caveat, as a complete package, just like the show itself, it is hugely entertaining. As a fan of the show, revisiting those early episodes or rewatching the episode that has just aired and subsequently taking part in all of the same events, it all works well. By rights, it shouldn't. When all is said and done, it's a very mediocre game, and yet, taking everything together, it actually becomes quite enjoyable. The idea of mixing the real-life show with the game elements is clever, innovative, and works surprisingly well. You do feel like you are really competing in the events from the TV show, sufficiently enough that, as a fan, you tend to overlook the very basic arcade racing of the title.

Check out our Best Xbox Arcade Racing Games Available in 2018 article for a compilation of other great games in this genre.

Summary

As a game, there is no getting away from the fact that this is just an extremely basic arcade racer which pales alongside some of the bigger and better-known racing franchises. But as a way of delivering new and episodic game content, and merging TV and video games, it is quite innovative and really works. Which brings me back to the quandary, purely as a game, it is mediocre at best, but for fans of the show, there is something quite entertaining and quite enjoyable about the title. Fans will have a smile on their faces as they work through all of the content and events, and if that is what the title is aiming for, then that is probably more than enough.
2.5 / 5
The Grand Tour Game
Positives
  • Seamless and innovative presentation and delivery
  • Episodic content will be updated regularly
  • Entertaining for fans of the Amazon series
Negatives
  • Extremely basic arcade racing
  • No online features
Ethics Statement
The reviewer spent around ten hours playing through the available episodes. 18 of the 26 achievements were unlocked. The download code was provided by the publisher for the purpose of review. The review was performed on a standard Xbox One.
Please read our Review and Ethics Statement for more information.
Andrew Ogley
Written by Andrew Ogley
Andrew has been writing for TA since 2011 covering news, reviews and the occasional editorials and features. One of the grumpy old men of the team, his mid-life crisis has currently manifested itself in the form of an addiction to sim-racing - not being able to afford the real life car of his dreams. When not spending hours burning simulated rubber, he still likes to run around, shoot stuff and blow things up - in the virtual world only of course.