Out Classed: Car and Driver Presents Grand Tour Racing ’98

Car and Driver Presents: Grand Touring Racing ’98 is a title that was way too long and most have probably already forgotten about. Outside of North America it was simply called Total Drivin’, but we got that impossibly long title due to a sponsorship deal agreed upon by Activision and of course Car and Driver magazine. I am one of the few who remember this game, mainly due to my sheer disappointment.  

I first saw this game on the shelves of Blockbuster video. As a recently devoted reader and subscriber to Car and Driver, the prospect of a game designed by the magazine had me excited. Little did I know that it was just a branding exercise as mentioned above. Regardless, it worked as I went to the counter, put down my five bucks and now had the game for the next seven days; it would only get used for two.

Many Disciplines, Not Much Else

Grand Touring Racing offered different racing disciplines which was unusual for a game at the time. There was rally, off road, GT cars and open wheel cars. The rally cars featured the usual suspects, like the Subaru Impreza, Toyota Celica GT4, and Peugeot 405 Turbo. The off-road class had the Toyota Land Cruiser and Mitsubishi Pajero T3. A few supercars were even included, with the Bugatti EB110, Lotus Esprit and Ferrari F40.

Despite the various racing disciplines, the game lacked everywhere else. Only 22 vehicles in total were included in the game. The total number of courses was set at just six and the only goal for the single player mode was to complete seven difficulty levels on each course. Depth this game did not have

The graphics were also lacking in a few areas. Some cars resembled their real-life counterparts fairly well, like the Ferrari F355 and Lancia Delta, while others, like the Dodge Viper RT/10 looked like a shamble. Seriously, is that a Viper or a weird Integra?

Aside from the odd vehicle designs, the graphics were quite good when it came to the courses and backgrounds. The actual gameplay was rather fluid for the time and smooth. It was a somewhat difficult game, mostly due to the computer AI drivers that got frustratingly fast on the later levels. The controls were mostly arcade-like as were the courses which could include jumps allowing the cars to do barrel rolls.

A Victim of Timing

What really put the nail in the coffin for this game, and games like it, was the introduction of Gran Turismo just three months after its release. Gran Turismo far exceeded Grand Touring Racing in terms of vehicle and course content, graphics, gameplay, and depth of single player mode. No longer could a racing game be cobbled together based on a singular idea or gimmick.

The week I rented Grand Touring Racing was the same week I was given a copy of Gran Turismo. As mentioned, Grand Touring Racing was return early to Blockbuster, barely even played.

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