Amazon Game Studios' 'TBA' game for Gamescom 2018 turned out to be 'TGT', an acronym that fans of the series will immediately identify as The Grand Tour. From later this year onwards we'll see The Grand Tour Game launch as an episodic title, and what this means is that Season 3 of the show - which is currently being filmed and is expected to air before the year's end - is produced alongside the PS4 and Xbox One versions, with both episodes set to release weekly at the same time, with the same core content.
The idea is that every Friday, viewers get to play the expanded, interactive experience with a controller in hand, right after watching the show. With this roadmap in place (which uses a setup based on a season pass) the trials and challenges will be as crazy and unexpected as they can be, and a full release would either spoil the surprises or be loosely based on what's to come.
To put it in other words, this is all about "you get to be there us", with 'us' of course being racing enthusiasts and TGT hosts Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond, and James May, with the trio announced via a video first shown in Cologne (they were shooting in Asia). The game will actually include a good range of the former Top Gear trio's VA quotes, chatter, and commentary, as the player is not a random avatar, but in fact is one of the hosts for every event. You'll find their rivalry and friendship in the game all the time then, for better or worse.
Each playable episode, and each of the parts of that episode, is then introduced by an FMV video with footage taken from that week's show, and after playing an early pre-alpha version at Gamescom, we should say that the in-game action won't be trying to compete with the likes of Forza Horizon 4 in the "best graphics" category. It's ok so far, but other than some fancy effects and a couple of hi-res textures, both car models and environment details seem pretty average.
The same can be said about the driving physics as most of the time - especially when in four-player split-screen - we felt like we were racing on-rails, with little weight shifting or believable grip, and let's keep in mind that extreme weather, track and lighting conditions will come into play. We're not asking for the accurate simulation of a racing sim - even though we're sure Clarkson, Hammond, and May would've loved that - but the very best Mario Karts and Need for Speeds were first and foremost built on top of fun physics.
Now that we mention four-player split-screen and Mario Kart, TGTG takes a few pages from Nintendo's book. Not only can you play together with three additional friends locally (which we're sure will make for scheduled Friday evenings show+game sessions), but you also have to collect and activate different power-ups. There's the typical boost (which is of course called "More HPs!"), but we loved the "Texting" item which allows you to, Blooper's ink-style, splat a bunch of SMS text boxes on your rival's screen. As they're actually fun to read, they can be really distracting besides obstructing your FOV. On top of that, an interesting touch about these power-ups is that you can stack a couple of them, releasing them together for better effect.
The trademark humour of the show and the trio is sprinkled on every aspect of the game, from Clarkson's "holy cow!" bursts when you pull off something exciting, to the WC-shaped "useless" medals when you perform poorly. There are also poops granted to those who can't keep their car on the track, along with an endless series of bad jokes.
In terms of content, signature locations such as the Eboladrome TGT test track will complement the crazy ones chosen for each episode of the campaign, in both single-player and multiplayer. We got to drive both the BMW M2 at the test track and the VLF Rocket V8 Mustang in the LA environment, but we also spotted a couple of McLarens and Lambos. With the show's rights, a good bunch of cars and licensed music tracks are expected to complete a full package.
The concept behind The Grand Tour Game is pretty unique and refreshing, and with the TV show's creators already striving for never-before-seen situations and stunts on screen for Season 3, we might see a varied range of playable content drops coming based on those creations. However, variation is not all that matters with racing games, even if they're arcadey, and if the graphics and, above all, the driving physics aren't there to add to the fun when the game releases, this will be remembered as just that: a cool concept.