Milestone isn’t a stranger for racing fans, the Italian developer has some known releases like RIDE, MotoGP and Sébastian Loeb Rally. The last couple of releases have all been simulation experiences and Gravel aims to please the arcade gamers. Is it a hit or miss? Find out in this review if this off-road racer is something for you!
- I will start with the best, the environments. Gravel isn’t anywhere near the visuals from a Forza game but I was highly surprised by the diverse and decent-looking tracks and cars. Beautiful forests with a long coast, claustrophobic caves, the snowy fields from Mont Blanc, Stadiums with lots of crowds, weather effects. With more than 50 tracks Gravel keeps the player motivated to continue the pretty long campaign mode.
- That’s another good thing about Gravel, the campaign mode is told in some kind of fake TV show called Offroad Masters. Featuring some (cheesy) real life characters to give the game some life. You could say that each chapter is an episode from the show, your task is earning three stars with every race so you can unlock other chapters. You’ll face off against “bosses” in a head-to-head race, while fun I found these boss races actually easier than the normal races. (Pretty weird, right?)
- (online) Gravel has some nice online options, the usual stuff and some extraordinary stuff that really catch the arcade feeling. My favorite is actually a small touch that rewards the players and is a great motivation to play the game in the future. Anyway, I’m talking about the weekly challenges, you are forced to meet some criteria within a week, as a reward you get some sweet in-game currency. (for new cars and liveries)
- The car selection has some surprisingly great choices, even Porsche can be found among them. Together with the big selection of tracks it will keep you happy for many hours. You will see me driving with my Lancer Evolution for the coming weeks, reaching the criteria for the weekly challenges.
- I’m not entirely sure what it is, but Gravel just remains fun and doesn’t get repetitive. Unlike some other racers I never had a moment when I thought “bleh.. five laps on this track”. The presentation and gameplay are Milestone’s best achievement yet, I really hope they will continue to work on this Gravel IP. Racing games can be found enough, but a real arcade racer is a dying genre. (I know Codemasters is working on Onrush and I’m aware of a little game called Forza Horizon)
- Special note about the Smash-Up game mode, I know it isn’t anywhere near original but I really loved to play this. High speed racing combined with using split second reflexes is just a great combination. To explain it a little, you drive around on a track like you normally would but in Smash-Up they added some light boxes. You have to hit the green light and avoid the red. You could drive as a pussy (and not make the three stars) or play it like you should and go full speed and trust your instinct and reflexes.
- Controls or rather the handling is a what mixed bag. You can change a few settings but the main issue comes from the unrealistic physics. It happened more than once that my car turned into a spaceship, flying in the air after a collision winning a Gold medal for somersaults at the Olympics. I know that Gravel is a off-road arcade racer but a little bit more consistency would have been nice. Luckily the rewind-function is available, reducing the frustration from this kind of stuff.
- The announcer does a good job building some hype and enthusiasm, it kinda reminded me about Burnout Paradise. Would have loved it if he had a few lines while driving too, with a big jump or something. Other sounds are pretty basic though. Car sounds lack punch and especially the rain and water sounds could have been a lot better. No bad word can be said about the music though, featuring some rock songs without lyrics.
- Running on Unreal Engine 4 the pretty nice looking visuals have a toll though, performance isn’t really that great. Playing on Xbox One X the frame rate was all over the place, some tracks run perfect while others, like the forest themed races have some serious frame rate issues. One specific track from Alaska even has a 3-4 seconds freeze when you drive too fast at a long straight line. (Milestone will be patching the game, so hopefully this addresses some of my negative views)
- (Shown on the screenshot) This glitch bastard happened quite a few times while playing Gravel. After choosing and loading a track the car doesn’t load and my avatar sits in an invisible car. Making it worse, the game completely freezes and you can’t play anymore. Forcing you to restart the game. That’s not all though, cars disappear in plain sight, cars fall through tracks (you do spawn again), textures fail to load from trees or rocks. It is a big shame that these kind of bugs happen, because it ruins the overall experience.
Gravel [Score: 7,7] Gravel is much better than I previously anticipated, it is a fun off-road racer with a few performance issues. The amount of content is big and diverse, the visuals look decent and gameplay remains fun for hours.