Gravel Review – Offroad Arcade Master

By: Louis Edwards
 

We hit the many tracks in locations around the world in developer Milestone’s offroad racing game Gravel. Should you join in on the dirty fun, or is this title just stuck in the mud?

Read our review to find out.

 

 

Developer Milestone is well known for racing games and has a résumé that includes games from a wide variety of racing genres including the WRC: FIA World Rally Championships, Monster Energy Supercross, MOTO GP, and others. These games can vary between arcade style racers to full on simulators that can test your mettle and your skills. Gravel falls into the arcade offroad category, but that doesn’t mean the game is short on simulator features. More on that later.

Gravel is best played by jumping into the story mode first. This will unlock more vehicles and more locations, and their many variations of tracks, as you race through them. The story follows you, the driver in a reality type TV series, as you take on all comers in four different offroad disciplines:  Stadium Circuit, Wild Rush, Speed Cross, and Cross-Country. Your path consists of Gravel Channel TV Episodes that have different styles of racing in different regions which will earn you stars, which are needed to unlock more episodes, and eventually unlock the five different bosses.

Episodes consist of a set of races that vary from episode to episode, and include several different types of racing utilizing the different classes of vehicles. There are stadium and Speed Cross events which are lap counter races. There are checkpoint races that will have you going across country, racing through checkpoints and trying to get ahead and stay ahead of other drivers. There are time attack events where you’ll race against the clock and try to post the fastest time. There’s also an elimination race where a clock will run down to zero and who ever is in last place is eliminated, after which time the clock resets and starts running down again until either you are eliminated or you are the last racer left.

Lastly, there are my least favorite types of races, the Mash Up. The Mash Up combines the cross country and check point style of racing with a time attack mode but also includes a row of small squares that continuously pop up in front of you. In this row there will be one small square that will have an arrow and other squares that have an X. Hit the arrow and you’ll continue on at full speed. Hit the X and you come to an almost complete stop, slowing you down immensely. You won’t know which square has the arrow until crashing through the previous row, and it works like a slot machine, randomly selecting arrows and Xs. It’s a pain in the ass type of race that requires quick thinking and quick reflexes when you are piloting a 600HP beast of a Hummer or F150, hurtling along at over 120MPH. It’s not that the type of race isn’t fun, it can just be frustrating.

As you complete these races, you’ll be unlocking the tracks for free play, along with unlocking new vehicles and liveries (paint jobs). the vehicles are real world machines, brought to you by manufacturers like Ford, Volkswagen, Porsche, and Hyundai, to name just a few. The vehicles are nicely detailed, with an interior view that makes us wish for a true VR option, and a showroom option for a close up look at the exterior of each vehicle. The different liveries are many and add to the overall quality of the game, giving you many options to unlock and use.

The many different vehicles are varied and fun to drive, each with its own traits and personality. While the F150 might be in the same class as the Hummer, each handle differently and have their own pros and cons. Same goes for the different Porsches and the Hyundai Veloster. All can be in the same class, but each one is better suited for different types of races. Trial and error is the best way to figure out which vehicle works best where, and the real fun is in the finding out. One neat feature, that kind of feels like cheating, is a nifty rewind feature for those times when you may have taken a corner too fast and wiped out or just ran off the track. Hitting the bumper on the controller allows you to back up for 20 seconds or so and maybe take that corner a little slower.

Once you have raced through a track in the story mode, that track becomes available to you in the Free Race mode. There are 16 different locations, with several locations having multiple track layouts, so the variety of tracks should keep you busy for some time to come. As you race you’ll also be earning XP along the way and that contributes to your overall Level. As you level up you’ll unlock more and more vehicles, with unlocks going all the way up to Level 99. Be prepared for a lot of offroad time if you are a completionist.

As we said before, this is an arcade racer but it can be treated more like a sim if you really wanted to amp up the difficulty. You can have the game hold your hand a little bit (or a lot)just by adjusting the options . You can turn traction control on or off, automatic braking on or off, you can have the game assist you with the brakes if you want and you can even turn damage on or off. Once at the track, you can also adjust the vehicle itself by adjusting your suspension, transmission, differential, braking, and alignment, with save slots for your custom set-ups. While the game never quite hits the full sim level, it does go way beyond just being an arcade racer.

Developer Milestone has a pretty good track record when it comes to racing games and Gravel can be added to their long list of quality racers. Not only is it pretty to look at, it’s fun as hell to drive as well.

8


Gravel review code provided by publisher and reviewed on a PS4 Pro. For more information on scoring, please read: What our review scores really mean.

%d bloggers like this: