Amazon's Prime Original The Grand Tour picked up right where the glory days of the BBC series Top Gear left off. Three blokes who knew exactly what they were doing; Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May, along with their long-time producer Andy Wilman, made creating the mammoth show look easy. With decades of television under their belt at the BBC, it was no wonder the show made for slick viewing, with fantastic camera work, pacing and punditry elevating the presenters' natural chemistry to new heights.
As a bit of a stab in the dark, Amazon tasked their development team at Amazon Game Studios to create a console game for PS4 and Xbox One based off the TV series. Simply titled "The Grand Tour Game" this episodic release is out now, in its initial form. Sadly, much of the show's production value, expertise and overall polish are missing here, and The Grand Tour Game follows the same trend as many disappointing licensed games that came before it.
The premise is simple, you play the show. Presented as episodes, you are shown segments of a TV episode and are then tasked with playing out the same scenarios yourself. However, at launch, the content on offer is lacking. Two episodes (one from each of the first two seasons) are playable, and consist of a number of different tasks depending on how the show played out, including timed laps, drift challenges and drag races. Completing the tasks alone whilst skipping the cutscenes clocks in at around 15 minutes per episode, making the current single player runtime sit at a measly half an hour. On top of this, there is a local arcade mode playable with up to 4-player splitscreen across three tracks, making for rather slim pickings.
The real issues lie with the presentation and core gameplay. Coming off a year where Xbox and PC fans saw the brilliant Forza Horizon 4 and PS4 users had a taste of arcade racing action with The Crew 2, The Grand Tour Game feels markedly last generation in presentation, design and execution. There is visible pop-in present in each of the stages, and a strange filter that gives the show an almost film grain aesthetic. This is in stark contrast to the beautifully polished 4K presentation on offer within the TV segments, only further highlighting the gulf in quality.
The best way to describe the driving physics is "floaty". They don't feel too far off what a Need for Speed game would offer, but still manage to feel a step lower. You never quite feel planted to the tarmac, and there is a noticeable looseness to the handling, with a large focus on unrealistically drifting at 150mph to get yourself around corners. The vehicle types do display a tangible difference though, with a nice weightiness to muscle cars and a more nimble, agile feel to the sports and supercars on offer. The driving physics are perhaps the biggest disappointment, as they could have elevated the rest of the experience had they at least emulated the arcade driving physics utilised by games such as PGR, Forza Horizon and the majority of the Codemasters racing library.
There is fun to be had when the game takes itself less seriously, and introduces item pickups akin to Mario Kart. The arcade race mode is the best place to do this, allowing for "gadgets" to be turned on and off at will. These include a "more horsepower" option similar to NOS, and three distraction-like power-ups in the form of "Candy fog" (a smokescreen), "WhippySlippy"(a slime trail) and "Texting" (an on-screen phone message). Combine this with the awkward but sometimes funny voiceover done by Jeremy, Richard and James and this mode can be a laugh, especially with friends. This is where the game feels most at home, reflecting the laid back persona of the three television presenters, allowing the game to be what it is; a basic arcade racer.
Sadly, this does little to help the overall package, which feels like a low budget advertisement for The Grand Tour. A little more time in the oven could have helped the game feel more like a standalone experience, but as it stands, little outside of its affiliation with the TV show holds up. It remains to be seen what the content from season 3 will offer, but issues at a core level with the visuals, driving physics and general lack of polish mean additional content will likely suffer the same issues.
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