Just a few weeks after Netflix released the Black Mirror episode Bandersnatch – Charlie Brooker’s slick, game-literate hybrid of high-end drama and choose-your-own-adventure – its great rival in streaming video, Amazon, is here with a very different vision of the intersection of video games and television.
It’s The Grand Tour Game, an episodic, casual racing game spun off from the expensive antics of three elderly boors. It’s not very good – at all – but as an expression of how Amazon views video games, it is quite interesting.
You are surely familiar with The Grand Tour, which is just about to start its third season on Amazon Prime Video. After the BBC felt compelled to let Top Gear star Jeremy Clarkson go for being an unignorably terrible person more times than the broadcasting institution could brush off, he took his producer Andy Wilman, co-presenters James May and Richard Hammond and most of Top Gear’s hugely successful format with him to Amazon. That format consists of glossy stunts and travelogues, oafish banter and occasional bouts of motor journalism, dressed with an unpalatable dash of reactionary laddism and xenophobia. If you can stomach the presenters – a big if – then the exotic cars and dramatic landscapes do look lush in Amazon’s 4K streams, and the passably entertaining action is popular with petrolheads and children.