A couple of weeks ago, I played Monster Energy Supercross, a game created by Italian developers, Milestone. They’ve recently released another racing game – this time in cars – called Gravel. Milestone have good pedigree in racing games, with most, if not all, of their back catalogue being solely racing games. Some two wheels, and some four wheels. Having enjoyed the Monster Energy Supercross game, I was very keen to see what they were like when putting the off-road action in a four-wheeled format.
What I enjoyed most about Gravel – and this is probably a sin in this day and age – was the single player mode. That’s not to say the online mode was bad, but I loved the single player mode. It was so highly polished that I couldn’t believe it. Instead of having a single car that you take across different events, you’re given the option of various cars – if you’ve unlocked them – to do the events. It’s not just simple races either, there are plenty of different types of event spread across the campaign mode. Cross country, stadium events and, of course the usual races are all thrown into the mix. Also, what surprised me the most, and what I enjoyed the most, was the commentator. He doesn’t speak as you race around, but the pre-race chatter is absolutely spot on and fantastic. It adds a great layer of immersion onto the game, that you’re actually racing in a proper league against actual opponents.
The courses are, of course, a big part of Gravel – of any racing game in fact. Getting them right is the key to releasing a game that players will love. I’ll be honest, and say I’ve not really played too many rally games. I’ve played a lot of Gran Turismo titles, but the races there are usually on gravel and aren’t always the most interesting to look at. With Gravel, however, I found myself crashing a lot because every course was absolutely stunning. The stadium tracks are awesome, with some incredibly fun jumps and stunts to pull off, but the outside tracks, where you’re bashing along a dirt road through a jungle or on a beachfront were gorgeous. Driving at full speed through terrain that is barely recognisable as a road is incredibly thrilling, and partnered with the wonderful vistas you’ll be passing through it’s just something you can’t pass up.
To add to my list of positives about Gravel, they brought over a feature from Monster Energy Supercross – the rewind function. Although I’m a better on four wheels than two, the rewind function really makes a difference to how a race might turn out. Instead of hitting the trees on the side and ending up last, you could rewind and handle the car a little better to maintain first place. Of course, sometimes it’s not always that straight forward as there is a time limit to how much you can rewind. Being hot on your mistakes will definitely help you bring home more trophies.
Although I did mention how good Gravel’s single player mode was, there is a massive downside to it. Which is the longevity of it. There are certain ‘goals’ that you can do in each race, to increase the length of the game, but it’s all pretty straight forward to do, especially if you’re not a terrible driver. This meant that the incredibly well made single player game was over before it even really got started. There is a bit of replayability – you can try to do races with different cars – but the voiceover work remains the same, so it can get a bit grating after a while. It’s disappointing that a £30 game is reduced to depending on DLC to expand the single player mode, or requiring players to play online.
The Final Word
Gravel may be a bit too short, but the online play will keep fans interested long after they’ve finished the incredible campaign. There are some absolutely phenomenal courses to race around, and even in time trial, it’s great fun making your way around all of them. It’s a visually stunning game and there are definitely a lot of plus points to it, that far, far outweigh the negatives.