The past few years have given us a bunch of incredible racing games. We’ve had great simulations like F1 2020 and entertaining cart racers like Crash Team Racing: Nitro-Fueled, to name but a few. However, in trying to blend the realistic elements of a driving sim with more arcade-style mechanics, Speed 3: Grand Prix fails to reach the heights of either type of racing game. Although it comes up with some interesting mechanics, they are so poorly implemented that they’re almost pointless. And, with little variation in content, Speed 3 fails to hold your attention at all. What could’ve been an innovative game that blends styles instead comes off as a mediocre racing game at best.
Story – It’s tournament time
Speed 3 doesn’t feature a traditional career mode for players to work through. Instead, there are four tiers of tournaments: Rookie, Pro, Epic, and Legendary. Each consists of racing six different tracks; all you need to do to win is have the most points at the end. However, for the game’s main mode, these tournaments feature very little content, and there aren’t many differences between tiers. The six tracks you race on stay the same at every tier – you even race them in the same order. Perhaps the only big difference is the addition of qualifying in the Pro, Epic and Legendary tiers, adding a bit of time to each round of racing. However, all this involves is an extra few laps of the same track before each main race. Essentially, you just end up racing each circuit twice, making the later levels a chore rather than a tougher test.
Between races, there’s no content to enjoy: the game gives you a look at the leaderboard, with your name amongst those of the generic racers you’re up against. Even winning isn’t particularly exciting. The game doesn’t have some sort of celebratory cutscene or animation for you; instead, you simply exit to the main menu, where you can try the next tier. It’s not really fair to even call this a “story” mode. It’s just a sequence of races, with no reward for winning, that personally failed to hold my attention after reaching the Pro level.
Gameplay – Bumps without bonuses
The aim for Speed 3‘s gameplay is clear from the start; you can even see it on the cover. Developers Lion Castle Entertainment has tried to bring the destruction of arcade racers to the F1-style genre, with each race in the game featuring dozens of explosions. However, what seems like an interesting gameplay concept is utilised poorly. Each participant has a health bar over their car, and collisions with the course or other racers reduce this health. However, there’s very little point in trying to get rid of a foe’s health. Most of the time, trying to take down competitors will cause you both to crash; by the time you respawn on the track, multiple cars will have passed you by. Even when you pull off an excellent takedown by spinning someone out without taking damage, you aren’t given any reward. With no incentive to destroy other racers, players are better off just avoiding other cars, making the key point of the gameplay futile.
The game’s actual driving controls are pretty good throughout. Although handling is a bit too tight to be realistic, it’s not particularly noticeable (we’re not talking Mario Kart turning here). Each car can build up a good amount of speed on straights, and the game does a good job of making you feel fast when you accelerate down a longer section of any track. Braking is implemented nicely as well; like more realistic racing games, you can’t hold down the accelerator if you want to make it round some of the tighter corners. It’s a shame that the overall driving feels great, as focusing on this alone could’ve led to better gameplay.
Twos and time trials
There’s a couple of other game modes to play, which add a little more variety over the standard tournaments. Time trials take advantage of the solid driving controls to offer some of the game’s best bits. Being able to select any of the tracks to go for a personal best on is a plus; and, not having to worry about dodging other cars makes this a much more racing-focused mode to play. Removing the game’s lunatic AI drivers from the equation helps it deliver a more simulation-based experience, and toning the AIs down everywhere may have helped to capture this feeling in the tournament as well.
The third available game mode is split-screen racing for two players. Having tried this out, adding another human player makes the constant destruction of each race a bit more entertaining; it’s far more fun to take down a friend than to destroy a generic racer. This couch multiplayer shows why an online multiplayer mode could’ve hugely benefitted the game. Blowing other cars up, often at the cost of your own, is much more entertaining when another person is on the other end of the collision, making this split-screen mode the best exhibition of the gameplay’s primary feature.
Graphics and Audio – Terrific track design
If there’s one place in which this game is great, it’s the visuals and soundtrack. Out of all six tracks, five of them are just beautiful to drive around – the only exception being the NASCAR-style “Speedway” track. The Japanese track is a treat to whirl around, weaving across city streets amongst neon lights, and the European forest tracks are pretty as well. And each race is accompanied by a bumping soundtrack that gets the adrenaline going. Well, that is, apart from the American track, which has music that sounds like some sort of weird caricature of redneck music. Apart from that stumble, the rest of the music is really solid. Altogether, the combination of impressive visuals and good music makes each race at least tolerable, despite the fairly poor gameplay.
Speed 3: Grand Prix was reviewed on PS4.