New Game Review

Review – Gravel (PS4)

Keep rollin' rollin' rollin' rollin'

Milestone’s second racing title from 2018, Gravel is their attempt to bring back the fun and glory of arcade rally games from the past. The game ignores guidelines set by more serious racers like Gran Turismo Sport or Forza Motorsport 7 in favor of simpler and more accessible gameplay. After the disappointment that was their previous title released this year, Monster Energy Supercross, I was a bit skeptical towards Gravel, but it ended up being an enjoyable title. Not amazing, not fantastic, just a good arcade racer.

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Cruis’n

Gravel starts off just like Monster Energy Supercross. After inputing your name, you’re automatically thrown into a race with little to no explanation about what’s going on. Thankfully, whereas the bike-based game aimed towards overly complicated simulation controls, Gravel aims for simplicity, with arcade-friendly controls and not exactly the most accurate driving physics you’ll ever find. Think of the Need for Speed games, that’s the kind of handling you’ll find here.

Finish the initial race, and that’s when the game actually begins. You’ll be forced to watch an extremely cringeworthy FMV featuring real people dressed as fictional racers doing everything from pretending their hats are boomerangs to playing air guitar for some reason. Those are the game’s bosses, each one being specialized in one type of race, be it stadium races, checkpoint rally, cross country, and many more. After this embarassing exposition-heavy intro, the career mode will finally begin.

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Let’s get dirty

Differently from Supercross, there’s no money to be collected here, nor a ton of customization. In true Forza Horizon fashion, you can earn points by doing in-game stunts. And such points, as well as the points earned by finishing races, are used in order to level up. Each time you level up, you get a new car, a new paintjob for an existing car, and a new track to be raced on in Free Race mode. That’s the game’s progression system and career mode in a nutshell: grind points to get new cars, grind points in order to get new liveries. There’s no actual customization here besides those extra liveries: there’s no way to paint a car the way you like it, nor any way to customize your driver. I get it, it’s an arcade game and those elements shouldn’t be its focus, but even arcade-centered games from twenty years ago, like the glorious Nintendo 64 classic Top Gear Rally, had actual customization options. It feels weird to see a game in 2018 being so bareboned in this aspect. Pick a race, pick a car, run a handful of events, that’s the best way to play this game.

Technically speaking, Gravel excels in some areas, though it lacks in other aspects. The game’s soundtrack, just like its motorbike counterpart, is comprised of instrumental rock tracks. Those tracks were the saving grace in that disappointment of a Switch game, and they are still good here. The sound effects, be it the engine sounds or crashing sound effects, are equally good. The game’s graphics are a mixed bag: while the tracks are gorgeous, the game suffers from somewhat simplistic textures and lighting. It also runs at 30 frames per second instead of the recommended 60 for a racing game, with occasional framerate dips, most of them happening during stadium races, when there’s a lot more action onscreen.

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I have no idea how I did this

Gravel is far from being the most revolutionary or entertaining racing title I’ve ever played, but in this day and age filled with either racing simulators, open world games, or cartoony kart titles, it’s nice to see a game going back to the core principles of arcade racing. It’s easy to pick up, easy to play, doesn’t care about being too realistic, and is just a quick and fun experience. Sure, its customization options and progression system are annoying as heck, and the game can be seen as a full-priced version of one of the gameplay types offered in titles like Forza Horizon. But I won’t deny I had fun with Gravel. It’s a modern age arcade racer, and a decent one at that.

Graphics: 6.0

The tracks are gorgeous and the car models are decent, but the game doesn’t feature great lighting effects. The framerate isn’t ideal either.

Gameplay: 7.5

An arcade-styled gameplay and control scheme, not trying to be overly realistic. It can be unresponsive at times, but it’s decent in general.

Sound: 8.0

A very good rock soundtrack coupled with satisfactory sound effects and engine noises. The game’s best aspect.

Fun Factor: 7.0

The core gameplay is fun and the game manages to provide an arcade-like feel, but the limited customization and progression system are truly annoying.

Final Verdict: 7.0

Also available on: Xbox One, PC

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About Leo Faria

Founder and mastermind behind Way Too Many Games, hailing from the southern swag that is São Paulo, a Sega widower who considers the Dreamcast to be the greatest console ever released, the greatest Guitar Hero and Tetris player you’ll ever meet. My favorite games include Perfect Dark, Banjo-Tooie, the Guitar Hero series, Bioshock Infinite and Star Wars Rogue Squadron II. I also own an Ouya. Never turned it on.

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