Editor: Diane Hutchinson Editor@girlgamersuk.com

Gravel

Posted by GG Goblin On March - 19 - 2018

Hey! Where’s the road gone?

 
Italian developers Milestone know a thing or two about racing games, being behind games in the MotoGP, MXGP, RIDE and even WRC series. It seems that they also must know some stuff about road surfaces, because their latest game happens to be an off road racer that immediately declares itself to be much more lumpy than dirt – welcome to Gravel.

 
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Gravel is an off road racer that takes a more arcade approach than certain other games. The most difficult thing in a racing game of any sort, is coming up with a way to tie the races together. The days of just moving from one race to another without any real cohesion are gone, but coming up with a theme I would imagine is quite tricky. For Gravel, the developers have gone down the whole TV show route, treating players to cut scenes between races that suggest being part of some TV show filled with personalities that the player will eventually have to compete against. I’ll be honest, I don’t know any of the names from the game, but I am sure some of them are real. Still, the presentation of the show is very bare bones, and does quite quickly become easy to skip to get to the next race. But at least the developers have made an effort, and so I tip my dusty cap to them.

 
The racing is where things do get really interesting. We are talking about different disciplines with different vehicles, and even different race types. One minute the player will be hurtling along a beach in a point to point race, behind the wheel of a rally car. The next minute they will being doing circuits in a packed out stadium with a rather slippery truck. The aim of the game in single player is to become the best of the best, a driver that masters all of these disciplines and out races all comers. I have to say, it is pretty epic.

 
Progress comes from achieving goals in a given race and being awarded stars, up to three per race. These stars unlock new vehicles and liveries, and will lead to the player having to take on the effective bosses. While there are not a huge number of different vehicles in the game, they are all quite satisfying to use, and it is easy to tell the difference in the handling of the different types. The assortment of race types keep things fresh from one event to the next, with checkpoint, elimination and even a race called Smash-Up which involves smashing signs, keeping the player on their toes.

 
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The handling of the vehicles is really good and varied, although it is very arcade-like. The physics in the game are top notch, with different surfaces proving far more tricky to control the vehicle on, and vehicles reacting well to whatever the driver does. The AI can also be very tough, offering a nice challenge without being too tricky for the less hardcore racing gamer.

 
Visually, the game is lovely to look at, although if you are stopping to take in the view, you are doing something wrong. The stadiums feel very atmospheric and enjoyable to race in, while the more wild locations offer up some incredible scenery that sometimes becomes part of the route. Even the vehicles themselves look great, although again there is not really enough of them.

 
The problem is that the single player game is not especially long and, while it does offer a challenge, will not prove insurmountable to most players. Once that is finished, there is very little reason to go back, which leaves the multiplayer mode as the next great hope. Sadly, a lack of interest in multiplayer makes finding a match quite tricky. The only other thing to do really is try out the weekly challenges, which are tough. There is the promise of more content down the line, with a season pass on offer, but I do fear that by then players will have moved on to something else.

 
I do also have one more complaint, and that is the loading times. I can’t help but feel that it is important to move fluidly from one race to the next, building up the tension and excitement. Sadly, in Gravel, the extended loading times mean that the excitement cannot be carried through from one race to the next, but rather fizzles out as the player sits and watches the screen, waiting for the next race to load. It’s not a big deal, but it does burst the bubble somewhat.

 
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While the multiplayer options seem under-populated, the single player game is great. It may not entertain for weeks to come, but for arcade off road racing fans, there is a lot to like here. The game looks great and plays well, just don’t expect it to last long. Whether the name was a dig at the other surface material named racing game or not, I don’t know. But Gravel is a very different type of game, one that marks a good first entry in a new series from developers Milestone.

 

 ★★★★★★★☆☆☆ 



 

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