Grand Prix Rock 'N Racing on the Xbox One console can be viewed as the sequel to Off Road Rock 'N Racing DX released last year on the Nintendo Wii U and Xbox One. However, as the name suggests, developer Enjoy Up Games have traded in the messy business of dirt racing for the more clean-cut circuit action this time around.
Grand Prix Rock 'N Racing kicks off proceedings with a very enthusiastic announcer who shouts the game's name. With a typical arcade styled introduction such as this you'd be forgiven for thinking the game is a pure arcade “point and squirt” racer. This is not the case however, as the developer has incorporated a somewhat realistic handling model making this game stand out from the crowd of similar top-down racers.
The retro-inspired racer contains three modes: Championship, Time Trial and Multiplayer. The multiplayer portion enables up to 4 racers to battle it out in local co-op split screen mode. The absence of an online multiplayer mode is a little disappointing, but is perhaps fairly common with small independent developed racers such as this and so is largely forgiven. The local multiplayer and time trial modes grant you access to all ten tracks found within Grand Prix Rock 'N Racing, the latter tasks you to complete not one lap as you might expect, but instead three with your total time recorded and added to the online leaderboards for those all-important bragging rights.
Back of the grid
As expected, the main focus of the title lays within the Championship mode which can be tackled either on your own or with a friend in local split screen. Here you compete against 19 other racers in a ten race championship with points between 1-20 dished out depending upon your finishing position. You start the Championship season at the USA, sitting on the grid in 20th place. Early season optimism soon turns to anguish once the race begins and your car reveals its appalling acceleration off the line.
Indeed, large portions of the first season will most likely be spent battling it out with racers towards the back of the pack, save for the odd respectable finish here and there. This isn't just because you start off with a slow car either, because Grand Prix Rock 'N Racing has a surprisingly steep learning curve. Learning how the car handles and to squeeze maximum performance out of it requires time and patience - lots of patience. Such are the frustrations early on that I can easily imagine a lot of players will not have the patience to actually complete a season. In short, this game can be very frustrating when starting out.
Races are typically three - four laps in length and last about three - four minutes at a time. Being near the back of the pack presents ample challenge as overtaking AI cars can be a tricky business. Often you'll find you will be making contact with other drivers which can send you spinning and flying through the air. Worse still, you may find yourself collected by a pile up of cars ahead of you which are sometimes almost impossible to avoid.
Fortunately you earn upgrade tokens when finishing races. These upgrade tokens, which are essential for success, can be spent upgrading the following aspects of your car: speed, acceleration (spelled "aceletation" in game), brakes, turbo and tyres. You'll start the Championship mode with just 1 point in each of the aforementioned areas which can all be maxed out to 10. Seeing your car's performance and finishing positions improve is especially satisfying as the game really does start you off from the rock bottom.
The racer does not feature any qualifying, so for the best possible start you need to hit the accelerator as soon as you hear the word “go”. Your mini-map is then essential for tackling upcoming turns which are best taken by scrubbing your speed off in time and then barely using the throttle, depending on how substantial your car's upgrades are, before planting the accelerator on the exit. To aid you along, you have access to a handy turbo boost which is slowly filled under braking and can be used at any time.
Most of the ten tracks found in Grand Prix Rock 'N Racing are very loosely based on their real-world Grand Prix counterparts, but don't go expecting particularly recognisable versions of Monza or Silverstone as you'll be disappointed. Trackside details such as grand stands and crowds are incredibly basic, as are the cars with their block-like appearances. Granted, you could argue that this is exactly what the developers intended - you cannot deny that the game has a certain retro charm.
Drop the mic...please
As one might imagine, rock and roll music can be heard blaring out during races, but it's strangely absent in the menus. In total there are only three or four audio tracks which repeat too often. The in-game “commentator” will no doubt get on your nerves pretty early on too, with his overenthusiastic cries of “this race is on fire!”, “oh this is great, super, excellent!” and “this is just amazing!”. The phrases would be annoying enough if said sparingly, but they are repeated all too frequently. You can opt to turn down the sound of the commentator, but in doing so you'll also turn down the car sounds (which are surprisingly decent) so you're pretty much stuck with him.
If you can persist with Grand Prix Rock 'N Racing through the frustrating times and keep racking up those all important upgrade tokens you will eventaully be rewarded with a powerful car that should see you winning races. After the10 race season is over you can start afresh carrying over your car's plentiful upgrades. However as your car's performance evolves, so too does its handling characteristics. Your car becomes much twitchier and harder to drive so you need to learn very quickly not to overuse the accelerator - otherwise you will probably be visiting those trusty barriers all too often.
Once you've got the hang of the vehicle handling and have a decently upgraded car you will start to have fun with the game. Winning races moves you up the championship standings which then grants you a higher grid slot for the next race making it even easier to win than the previous race. So Grand Prix Rock 'N Racing, which is initially a very challenging title, turns into one that becomes relatively easy once you've fully upgraded your car and mastered its handling. It goes from one extreme to the other.
Overall, Grand Prix Rock 'N Racing starts off extremely slowly: you need to grind your way through the first season trying your best not to tear your hair out along the way. However, if you can stick with the game through these initially frustrating times, you will extract some fun from the title. It's just a shame that you really have to dig deep and exercise great levels of patience to eventually find an experience which is actually quite fun.