Available now for the low, low price of £11.99/$14.99, playing The Grand Tour Game is like taking a trip back in time.
Remember when video game tie-ins to movies were all the rage? For a period, every time there was a major movie release, a hastily thrown together video game would release beside it. Most of them were complete and utter tosh; turgid experiences whose only purpose was to bleed unaware purchasers' wallets, or purses, dry. Every once in a while though, you'd encounter one that was bad yet still strangely amusing. The Grand Tour Game is like that.
Released alongside the premiere of the third season of the Amazon exclusive show, there's not much to The Grand Tour Game right now. You can play one episode from season one, one episode from season two, and engage in local split-screen races. More content is promised as the third season of The Grand Tour plays out, though. Each of the single-player episodes currently available offers around a dozen driving challenges for you to complete, and while they're not going to amaze you for reasons I'll get to later, what is impressive is how they're blended into the actual footage of the programme.
You see, each episode in the game comprises of footage taken from the corresponding episode of the show. Essentially, you sit down to watch an episode of The Grand Tour with the caveat that you're in the driving seat during the driving segments. And even better, the silly celebrity and talky bits that take place back in the tent have been removed. Each episode, then, is more concise and entertaining, keeping the focus on the cars. Though if you do want to watch the episodes in full without any gameplay bits, there's the option to do that as well.
Unfortunately, The Grand Tour Game's gameplay isn't all that great. The handling leaves a lot to be desired, neither feeling particularly sim-like or arcadey. Also, there's not much feel to both acceleration and deceleration; it all just feels a bit flat. You'll be unsure whether you should try to brake when approaching corners, or press the dedicated drift button that's usually found in outlandish kart racing games. It's often best to use both, though that still won't stop you from going off the track from time to time thanks to there being no real consistency with how the vehicles behave.
It's a shame that the actual act of driving isn't quite as solid as it really needs to be, as the scenarios you find yourself thrown into can be quite entertaining. Challenges range from simple races between Hammond, May and Clarkson, to racing through speed traps as fast as you can, and there's plenty of scope for more outlandish shenanigans in the future. Some challenges allow you to collect pick-ups, too, with effects ranging from text messages being sent to your competitors to distract them, to an effective burst of speed. For your efforts, you're awarded either a bronze, silver or gold medal, presenting a reason to go back and improve your performance should you fall short.
The usual The Grand Tour humour is present at all times, with Clarkson and co. taking any opportunity to shout at each other, and themselves, in a childish manner. With soundbites shamelessly lifted from the show though, hearing their voices gets old, fast. Very rarely does an outburst really gel with the action or situation. It generally feels like you're playing a budget racing game with someone sat at the side of you with one of those soundbite novelty toys, hammering the buttons whenever you crash, activate a pickup or do anything else of note. It's like Clarkson, May and Hammond have developed tourettes for the purpose of the game.
But for all The Grand Tour Game's awfulness, there's something rather charming about it. Like the show's presenters, it's old-fashioned, crude, unsophisticated and very silly. And yet somehow also a little endearing. It doesn't really matter that the handling isn't very good – its not trying to be Gran Turismo or Forza Motorsport. Besides, the bite-sized nature of the action means it never really has time to unduly frustrate you anyway. In fact, what offends me more than the handling is the fact that there's only one view – behind the car – which messes with my OCD need to play any racing game using a dashboard view of some kind.
With its price slashed by more than a half just over a week before launch, perhaps Amazon knew that its game wasn't up to par. At its new price though, it's worth a punt for any The Grand Tour fan. With more content set to be added on a weekly basis, it's going to be interesting to see how The Grand Tour Game grows, and whether issues such as the game's handling are ironed out. It's not a good game by any stretch of the imagination, but it doesn't need to be. This is one of those guilty pleasures that many will adore despite its myriad of issues.
Richard Seagrave is the founder and editor-in-chief of GameSpew.com.