What is it?
An off-road racer that presents itself as a TV show with 15 episodic sets of races taking place across four disciplines: Wild Rush, Cross Country, Speed Rush and Stadium Circuits.
At the end of each set of five episodes you will face the master of each discipline, before entering the season finale and racing against the Finale League master. In total there are 46 cars to choose from and an additional 2 through purchasable DLC.
Is it any good?
I’ve had blast whilst playing Gravel. I’m not a big fan of racing games that aim for 100% authenticity and Gravel doesn’t take itself too seriously. It’s an arcade racer and pulling off sweet drifts as you navigate the tight bends of a mountain is relatively easy and feels awesome. Those looking to dig into the details can even customise the handling of each car, but I stuck to default settings with ease. I also appreciate Gravel’s bite-sized gameplay and episodic structure, as it hits the sweet spot for when I’m in need of an adrenaline fix and I can jump in for a five minute session with little fuss. It might not be boasting the budget of Gran Turismo or Forza, but it bundles together a fun collection of races across a variety of courses that are both challenging and gorgeous. Driving in the snow or rain looks fantastic and it’s all powered by Unreal Engine 4.
Aside from Gravel’s ‘Off-Road Masters’ story there’s a handful of other modes tucked in as well, including: weekly challenges, free race and multiplayer. The campaign focuses on more than traditional lap-based races and includes checkpoint, time attack, elimination and smash-up objectives.
In checkpoint you’ll need to dash to the end of any given course against a number of opponents, making sure you head through marked gates along the way. The time attack mode doesn’t feature any other racers, but will set you a number of laps to achieve the fastest time possible. The better you do during each lap, the higher your position in the queue; aim for first place before the final lap. In elimination, a recurring countdown will appear and each time it reaches zero the person in last place will be eliminated – this continues until only first place is left standing. Lastly, smash-up sets you the task of completing a lap and hitting rows of square tiles along the way. Similar to the mystery boxes in Mario Kart, these tiles flash up as you’re approaching them. Make sure you hit a green tick to maintain your speed, otherwise hitting a red X will slow you down.
Of all the modes, smash-up was one of my favourite but also the hardest to reach first place. In every mode except smash-up, you can utilise a rewind feature to spring back from a crash or missed checkpoint. There is no limit on how many times you can perform this, however doing so will cancel any bonus you’re building at that exact moment. Drifting, gaining air or maintaining a high speed earns you points to place towards levelling up.
Anything bad to report?
I wish its multiplayer was a bit more fleshed out and that, when entering a quick match, you were given more detail about the time it will take to get other players to join. On occasion it has been a bit of a wait to find people to join.
Should you buy it?
If you’re looking for a fun, snappy racing game that’s both easy to pick up and looks pretty, you can’t go wrong with Gravel. If you’re hoping for the next Forza Motorsport, go and drive elsewhere.