Gravel is a rally racing game akin to games like Dirt Rally and Sega Rally Championship that is mainly an arcade racer with a few sim elements added to it to flesh out the gameplay of the game. The title of the game makes it seem like a spin-off of the game Dirt but it is not, it is actually a completely separate game. Gravel has been developed by Milestone S.r.l. and published by Milestone and Square Enix for PC, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. On the surface, the game looks quite impressive so lets see if this translates into the actual gameplay or if it turns out to be just another half-assed attempt at an arcade rally racer.
In terms of graphics the game has a lot to offer. The scenery is beautiful, the car textures are surprisingly good and the overall visual presentation and feel nails the arcade aesthetic of the game. It is more realistic than semi realistic but isn’t as life-like as any of the best racing sims out there like Gran Turismo or Forza. The lighting is fantastic and really shines in every stage, more-so during the evening races with the sun setting. I feel like it nailed that and I loved driving during those races.
A feature that has been predominantly featured in the trailers and posts about the game pre-release was the inclusion of track deformation. It is present and it is really neat when the snow or dirt is less in the inner corners of a turn after 4 or 5 laps of a race and you notice it build up to the side. This also effects your control keeping you on your toes while also cosmetically clinging onto your car and giving it a look that makes it feel like it actually drove through sand or mud or dirt. The one glaring issue with the graphics I found was that the underside of cars were really low poly with no real effort being put into it. But then again, you won’t be seeing the underside of your car a lot unless you are pulling off death-defying stunts that are actually just horrendous crashes.
The adrenaline rush of fast-paced and dangerous driving has been absolutely nailed by the devs. It is exhilarating, especially if you play with the cam set to the hood cam. The tracks set in the back country or forests do a great job to give players the feeling of uncertainty and danger while you rip through the track in speeds faster than 100 km/h. The game is surprisingly balanced in terms of gameplay. The vehicle handling feels like a good mix between arcade-y and sim and strikes a pretty good balance in my opinion. Audio is good with a decent soundtrack and the cars sounds really well, making it seem natural.
The story mode is good and has a challenging progression which feels rewarding and really tests your mettle, especially with the assists off and on higher difficulties. This plays in well with the tuning options that allows you to fine tune your car to get that advantage over your opponents in the races.
Gravel is a great rally racer that really punches above its weight and offers a lot to both fans of sim racing and arcade racers. The game is fun all around but is not better than Dirt or Sega Rally however that does not mean that it’s a bad game. I really recommend this game for fans of the racing genre, especially if you enjoy rally racing.