- Game: Gravel
- Platforms: Xbox One, PS4 (reviewed), PC
- Publisher: Square Enix
- Developer: Milestone S.r.l.
Review copy supplied by the publisher.
When racing games spring up during a conversation, a few great development teams immediately come to mind – Playground Games, Criterion Games, and Polyphony Digital are just a few examples. One of the more unknown devs in that particular genre of gaming is Milestone S.r.l., who just so happened to release Monster Energy Supercross earlier in 2018. The Italian racing game studio switched their focus from motorcycle dirt racing to automobile competitions on all types of terrain for their latest project, Gravel. This more arcade-focused racer is a bit underwhelming in some areas, but its wealth of content and satisfying off-road feel manages to keep things interesting.
Gravel’s main single-player offering comes in the form of the Off-Road Masters campaign. As a rookie racer, you’re pushed to compete in a series of events that cater to a particular style of racing – Cross Country, Wild Rush, Speed Cross, and Stadium Circuit. Each of those off- and on-road disciplines feature lap races, checkpoint races, time attack challenges, championship circuits, and smash-up and elimination game types. Progressing to the next parts of the campaign is accomplished by clearing objectives and acquiring the stars needed to open them up. As you compete in the lengthy campaign, you’ll also unlock new vehicles and designs as you rack up points thanks to your crazy antics during races. The entirety of the Off-Road Masters experience never grows stale or boring due to its constant rollout of new tracks to race on, one on one challenges with race type masters, and variety of game types to master. The one knock on that main campaign is its cornball presentation. It tries to present itself as an exciting TV show, yet it botches its cool factor by featuring lame cutscenes of master racers and a generic announcer who does nothing to get you hyped about upcoming events.
As soon as you place your chosen ride’s wheels on the track, you’ll get a nice feel for its arcade racer mechanics. Taking tight turns and entering into a seconds-long drifting session works as intended thanks to a solid physics engine. You’ll find yourself trekking through dirt roads, sandy beaches, vast deserts, snow covered forests, and professional race tracks. And each environmental type offers a distinctive feel and attention to detail that racing game fans will appreciate. The A.I. tends to give you a run for your money, so there’s always a great feeling of satisfaction present when you manage to nab the top spot in a tough race. From a purely mechanical standpoint, Gravel’s racing feels pretty solid. But visually, its far from impressive. Most of the tracks lack the finer details seen in stronger looking racers such as Dirt Rally and Forza Horizon. The cars themselves look okay at best, but they also appear a bit off at times. For example, the mud flaps on trucks tend to cover up their wheels and make them appear as if they’re floating along the road. Visual missteps like that one makes Gravel look like a last-gen release, sadly.
Milestone S.r.l.’s off-road racer manages to be a suitable addition to the sub-genre of racing games. It offers a satisfying collection of cars, tracks, and race types, plus its focus on arcade-mode action makes it feel a bit old-school in some regards. The base game does an excellent job of giving racing fans a lot of bang for their buck in the content department. From a visual standpoint, everything from the unimpressive looking tracks to the sometimes odd looking placement of gear on cars brings Gravel down a notch. Plus its over-the-top TV show antics will elicit a few eye-rolls every now and then. However, Gravel’s solid gameplay and strong career mode does enough to keep things mildly enjoyable.
- The Off-Road Masters campaign offers great variety in its races and challenges
- The arcade racer feel provides some solid thrills
- There’s a nice selection of tracks and vehicles
- The visuals are definitely rough around the edges
- The TV show presentation of the campaign is a bit hokey