Milestone has created what they are touting as “the ultimate off-road experience”. Find out if we share the same sentiment in our Gravel review!
|Release Date||February 27, 2018|
*A copy of this game was provided to FYIG by Square Enix for review purposes*
Milestone has a long-standing history of developing simulation racing games. In recent years, they’ve leaned more towards two-wheel racing with their Ride, MXGP, and MotoGP games. I’ve really enjoyed how much effort Milestone puts into those series so I was pretty excited to get my hands on Gravel. Gravel is a bit of a new direction for the storied developer focusing on off-road arcade racing and it’s a game I really had a hard time putting down.
Gravel takes a different approach to similar games in the racing genre by adding a little bit more spice to the different race types. Instead of just racing for a championship in a career mode, Gravel’s campaign puts you in the middle of a reality show against some of the best racers in the world (though not real racers). The show is called “Offroad Masters” and sees you race your way through episodes to a one-on-one battle with an ultimate expert in a specific discipline. It’s very much like the racing equivalent of a boss battle. There are 4 bosses altogether and then a final boss to become the new Offroad Master. It’s a fun idea and it breaks up the monotony that is often seen in racing games.
The campaign mode isn’t the only thing on offer here. You can do free play and time trails on each track whenever you’d like. I couldn’t really try multiplayer because it wasn’t populated before launch. There will be weekly challenges that put you in a specific car to do a time trial. There’s even a new type of mode called Smash-Up, where you crash through symbol-coded boards as you set a time with the red cross symbols slowing you down if you hit them. It’s something we’ve seen in other games, but it works well in Gravel.
I was pretty impressed with the game from a graphical standpoint. The cars look pretty much how I’d expect them to look, but the environments really looked great. Rainy surfaces glisten with the glow of your headlights, your car kicks up sand in the desert as it whips around corners, and mud starts to kick up on your car as you make your way through it. I know what you’re thinking, “This sounds like every other recently released racing game”. Ok, sure. It DOES sound like every other racing game, but the difference is that tracks actual deform as you race through them. I had a bit of difficulty with some particularly bad ruts on the corner of a muddy track which I thought was really cool as annoying as it was.
Milestone did a really good job on the physics in general with Gravel. While it is an arcade game at heart, the physics really blur the line between simulation and arcade. Drifting is a bit more exaggerated than you’d see in a simulation game and the collisions are pretty weak and sometimes unpredictable. I was happy with how the cars felt on the track, though. The handling was felt just right for this type of game and it didn’t take long for me to get accustomed to the feel. The terrain took some getting used to as well with how diverse the handling was with each different element. Snow offered little traction, mud created ruts, water slowed your car down, sand made it easy to glide around corners. It felt realistic and I think that’s a huge accomplishment in an arcade racer. I never felt like I was racing the same race twice. It never felt boring.
The AI has a broad range of really easy to insanely difficult depending on what setting you have them set to. My preference was medium as that seemed to provide enough challenge without being over-bearing. The AI can be pretty aggressive at times if you get too close to their cars and I ended up getting spun out a few times going into a corner when I was close to another car. There’s definitely enough challenge here to keep even the most seasoned racing game players interested.
Accessibility is a big part of Gravel and Milestone really made sure that anyone can have a good time playing the game. They’ve included a rewind feature for casual players (much like the one included in the Forza series) that allows you to try a tough spot on the track again if you mess up. For more seasoned racing game fans, they’ve also included a full tuning suite allowing you to change gear ratios and things of that nature. They’ve also included a damage system that affects the performance of the vehicle which is something racing fans often clamour for with a new racing game.
|Terrain deformation is awesome!||Career mode is innovative using episodes but not expanded upon.|
|Lots of different events|