The racing genre has generally been ruled by a few series, Forza, Gran Turismo and Need For Speed, with many titles trying to challenge for the crown and become successful in a market already ruled by massive names. Milestone seek to go for a niche audience, focusing more on the off-road experience. Gravel is the fruit of their labour, but does it perform well or get left in the dust?
At its core, an off-road racer should feel fast, a little wild and in general, fun. Gravel certainly gives it a fair go in all three aspects, succeeding in the wild ride and fun but missing the mark in speed. Races feel gritty and somewhat real thanks to the terrains, camera angles and how they move. Some races take place on the road and be it drifting on the tarmac, the mud tracks or the snowy trails, it puts you in the action as you feel each bump, bend and jump. Accompanying that to produce greater immersion is the responsive camera that goes on the ride with you and water that when you rush through, splashes the screen and obscures your vision.
This all doesn’t come without downsides however. Picture this, you are embarking on a peaceful Sunday drive whilst competing with other vehicles, when out of nowhere, the car hits an invisible pebble and flips several times before crashing into the guardrail, causing mass panic and allowing your opponents to overtake. This happened numerous times during my playthrough and even though I laughed, profusely might I add, this generally resulted in a loss.
Simulating speed can be a real task for titles of the genre to deliver on and it really is a shame that many aren’t up to the challenge, such is the case with Gravel. I certainly feel a sense of momentum when coming out of the starting line, but aside from that I just don’t feel the adrenaline and rush.
You can pick up and play with ease, but expect a learning curve, particularly with figuring out the physics and how the game has been designed in general. I found curves to be a bit of a chore to overcome because taking them at any sort of speed will either see you steer off course or spin out of control. Definitely for the more vehicle savvy or even racing game enthusiasts out there.
Off-Road Masters is the campaign mode to work your way through, competing through a number of leagues and overcoming your opponents. It’s basic and lacks any real depth, just race and win, whilst occasionally going head-to-head with some big names in the sport. Un-inspiring and yet I found myself enjoying the simplicity of wanting to be the best. Weekly Challenges are a great inclusion that assist in longevity and alleviate the staleness that can come through prolonged playing.
It’s a good looking game that doesn’t push the boundaries in visual fidelity. The levels look fine, cars look better, and the effects help in adding a layer of quality that distract from some of the jagged lines and poor crowd design that is limited in variety with gestures being repeated too close to each other. Light effects are a nice touch that work well in producing a nice vista.
Milestone has delivered a competent off-road racer but unfortunately it stops there. I feel it doesn’t go above and beyond in any key aspects. Nothing inspires me to keep on playing even though I enjoyed my time in the campaign. It also limits it’s accessibility by forcing players to come in with either some experience in the genre or endure the learning period.
OVERALL: 6.8/10 – AVERAGE
Reviewed by Rhys Baldwin.
(Disclaimer: CONQUEST received a review copy of Gravel, however this does not in any way affect the scoring of a game or our thoughts on the game itself. We believe in total honesty and being transparent with you.)