Just as The Grand Tour show isn't really about the cars, the game isn't really about the gameplay.
Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May spend the best part of their year travelling to exotic locations with their mates, in supercars commoners wouldn’t even dream of parking next to, powered by a seemingly infinite budget to do with them as they please; and they get paid millions to do it. You are never going to have that life, but good news! For just AUD $20, The Grand Tour Game lets you pretend to be part of the biggest motoring show…in the world; at least for 30 minutes.
The cross-media concept is unlike any I have encountered before. The idea is you, dear viewer, fire up your Amazon Prime Video subscription (prompted directly from the game) and watch the weekly episode of The Grand Tour Season 3. As each episode becomes available to stream, a new episode of the game is also released, allowing you to play through what you have just witnessed and momentarily live out the fantasy.
With The Grand Tour Season 3 set to premiere on 18 January 2019, we are yet to have that intended experience. At launch, The Grand Tour Game comes with a scattering of content from the first two seasons. To be exact, it features just the first episodes from Season 1 and Season 2 respectively.
Effectively using these episodes as a demo of what’s to come, the implementation is actually pretty good. Selected scenes from the show are used to introduce each segment and then transition into gameplay when something takes place behind a steering wheel. It retains the competitive banter and middle-aged bickering that has made the trio an international juggernaut through video, and allows the player to takeover when the racing starts.
Just as The Grand Tour found success through legions of casual fans more invested in the characters and adventures than the intricacies of motorsport, The Grand Tour Game has its sights firmly set on an audience who considers Mario Kart 64 to be the pinnacle of racing games. This isn’t Forza Horizon 4, and certainly not Forza Motorsport, but it isn’t trying to be.
Both gameplay and visuals resemble a mobile game played on PS4 and Xbox One. Cars all feel similar, regardless of their class, and while there are speed differences between them, the lightweight handling is very consistent. Richard Hammond crashing while trying to handle a gentle corner is a possibility, but there’s no need for a racing line or even a rewind feature, such is the simplicity of the controls and each scenario.
The bite-size events stay in the same lane, ensuring the narrative doesn’t lose any steam and the three characters — they reason you’re playing the game — remain on-screen in cutscenes for more time than is spent playing. Events range from straight up races against AI racers to drag races that are over in a matter of seconds, to drifting challenges and time trials. Then there are events with more personality, such as trying to finish a lap without making Hammond scream or ensuring James “gets the fizz” from the Ferrari La Ferrari. With more episodes to work with in Season 3, we hope to see more possibilities present themselves for unique situations.
The local split-screen multiplayer adorns the menu like a relic from yesteryear. With support for up to four players, and AI to cover any shortcomings, it promotes couch multiplayer over online carnage. Multiplayer becomes more like a kart racer, with a greater focus on Mario Kart-style items, which are scarcely used in the single-player. Boosts are fairly self explanatory, while candy fog blinds tailgaters and text messages are like a combination of a Red Shell and Blooper — it automatically targets a player ahead of you and disrupts their screen with a giant text message insult. I like the humorous twists, but it would certainly benefit from a greater variety of items.
With just three courses and only 11 cars, multiplayer loses its hook after a single Grand Prix. All courses are from the first episode, The Holy Trinity, and none are especially memorable. Yes, the Eboladrome is represented, but it doesn’t come close to the giddy excitement of racing around the Top Gear Test Track in Gran Turismo 5, and later in Forza Motorsport 4, 5 and 6.
According to the stats page, there is an online mode. Except, errrm, there isn’t. That’s not gone well, has it? Presumably, more courses and cars will become available with the Season 3 content, which appears to comprise the bulk of the game. The lack of content, and total omission of the online mode, suggests a barebones multiplayer mode was rushed to make launch, so hopefully it is expanded over the coming weeks.
Start playing The Grand Tour Game after work tonight and you will be done with the single-player campaign before your Uber Eats order arrives. S01E01 takes about 40 minutes, while S02E01 takes around 30 minutes, including video content; hit fast-forward and the gameplay component of each is around 15 minutes. Events can be replayed in an attempt to earn the gold medal, but I obtained 13/15 and 9/11 golds respectively across the two episodes on my first run through.
The small selection of content is also matched by a relatively small price — just AUD $20 (on Xbox, it’s $23 on PS4 for some reason) / USD $15 / £12. I’m pleasantly surprised to see a major franchise price its game adaptation appropriately, rather than charge a premium on name alone. That’s assuming the Season 3 episodes considerably increase the overall content. If all 12 episodes receive a corresponding game update, twenty bucks is looking like a steal. That’s what we are led to believe will be happening. If it’s successful, I expect the remaining episodes from the first two seasons will be added as DLC — the menu is definitely setup for both of them to have more than a single episode, and this version is sold as the “Season 3 Bundle”.
Our review remains in progress until all episodes have been released. At such a low price, dedicated fans will want to take the plunge and experience the weekly episodes alongside the show, as intended. If you’re not streaming on day one, it’s worth waiting to see what the full package entails — and remember, just as The Grand Tour show isn’t really about the cars, The Grand Tour Game isn’t really about the gameplay.
The Grand Tour Game was reviewed on Xbox One and purchased by the reviewer. Click here to learn more about Stevivor’s scoring scale.