Review – Art of Rally

I love rally games, but I have to admit that they are a tough sell to casual racing fans. For as much fun as watching a rally race on TV can be, it’s hard to make a game like this feel accessible towards newcomers, given the sport’s fast-paced and dangerous nature. Both Dirt and WRC have constantly tried to implement new features in order to make casuals less intimidated with their brutal gameplay, but they are still far from being considering “pick up and play” experiences. There’s a solution to that problem now. Hailing from the indie scene, a low-poly game might actually be the missing link we’ve been waiting for. Honestly, it’s one of the best rally titles I have ever played. I present you with Art of Rally. Fitting title, by the way.

Art of Rally

Yeah, this just happened from out of nowhere.

Art of Rally is not only an alternative towards the more simulation-heavy rally racers out there. It also fills in a niche left behind by the lack of decent top-down racers released over the years (the less I have to remind myself of that terrible Micro Machines reboot, the better). It’s a mix of many different racing worlds: top-down, simulation, indie, and arcade. Most importantly, it’s a love letter to car enthusiasts such as myself. It might not have the humongous roster from Forza, but I can’t help but feel happy with how the game’s career mode has been designed.

This career mode was meant for people like you and me. It’s not just your typical “select a team, start from the bottom and work your way to the top” kind of mode. This is almost like an automotive history lesson. Each set of races is meant to resemble a year in racing history, meaning that you will start off playing with the OLDEST cars available in the game, a Mini Cooper and an old Escort. Beat the first cup and you’ll get a classic Alpine A110. Keep beating more cups and you’ll eventually acquire cars from other decades and categories. None of them are licensed, but they’re easily recognizable. The Lancia Delta, Ford RS200, Renault 5 Turbo, they’re all here. No need to earn in-game currency in order to unlock them: all you need to do is progress through the career mode and your garage will steadily grow.

Art of Rally

I’ve been using Art of Rally’s photo mode as much as I’ve been using Ghost of Tsushima’s

Besides your standard rally racing, Art of Rally also features a fantastic free roaming mode that actually features things to do. They are huge maps filled with collectables, such as the letters R-A-L-L-Y, and some sightseeing icons. It’s not a lot, but it provides some additional lasting value to an already meaty package. These items are usually well-hidden, or can only be accessed by jumping via a specific angle, meaning that there’s also some puzzle solving involved in here. The folks at Funselektor definitely didn’t need to add this extra mode and Art of Rally would have already been an excellent game in its own right. They did it anyway, and I love them for that.

Of course, the most important thing in a racing game is its gameplay. Tthankfully, Art of Rally knocks it out of the park with its unique mixture of top-down perspectives with a “simulation-but-not-really” control scheme. The unique field of view makes it easier for you to assess the road in front of you, making things a bit easier for newcomers to handle. The physics aren’t as realistic as say, WRC, but it doesn’t mean that won’t have to properly brake and drift in order to do a perfect sharp turn. As previously mentioned, it’s the best of both worlds. The best thing Art of Rally‘s gameplay is that it’s so simple to learn, yet hard to master, that you don’t need a tutorial in order to figure it out. You’ll pick the game up and start playing it from the get-go and will naturally improve the more you stick with it.

Art of Rally

So minimalistic, yet so gorgeous.

Art of Rally‘s gameplay is great, but its presentation is where it really, truly shines. It’s a visual delight, mixing low-poly car models and environments with some high-quality lighting and post-processing effects in order to create what I can only describe as the most realistic “playing with Micro Machines” simulator out there. It feels like you’re playing with toys out there in your backyard, with the sun shining over your miniatures. The only negative regarding the game’s visuals is that it suffers a bit from an abundance of noticeable pop-ins, but besides this issue, it’s just beautiful. I love it.

Not only are the graphics excellent, but boy, this soundtrack is something else. It’s a collection of amazing synthwave tunes that are heavily inspired by Barry Leitch’s work on the classic Top Gear games on SNES… but better. Yep, I said it. I think that Art of Rally‘s soundtrack actually surpasses its main source of inspiration by a mile. For a game starring miniature vehicles, it also nails it when it comes to featuring realistic engine sounds as well. There are instances in which these engines are way too loud, thus making it hard for me to listen to the amazing soundtrack, but that’s just a small gripe on an otherwise near-perfect sound department.

Art of Rally

Such a beautiful track. Too bad I crashed 3 seconds after I took this screenshot.

Pardon the cliché, but Art of Rally is exactly that. It’s art. Not only is it one hell of an entertaining racing game, but it’s also a visual delight, a musical masterpiece, and a love letter to cars and racing in general. The developers took inspiration from lots of different gaming and non-gaming sources in order to create something unique and truly memorable. In a strange year devoid of big racing titles like Forza, Art of Rally might actually be one of the best titles of the genre release over the last few months. If you’re a racing fan, don’t even think twice. This game was meant for people like you and me.

 

Graphics: 8.5

The minimalistic graphics, combined with some high-quality post-processing effects, are delightful to look at, as if you were playing with real-life Micro Machines. The game suffers a bit from an abundance of pop-ins, though.

Gameplay: 9.0

Despite the minimalistic feel, Art of Rally‘s controls are weighty and responsive. It’s a perfect mix between arcade controls and sim physics, without pandering too much towards any of these styles.

Sound: 9.5

The game’s synthwave soundtrack is absolutely fantastic, and the car engines sound more realistic than most racing simulators out there. There is a bit of a mixing issue between the music and sound effects, but that’s just a small gripe.

Fun Factor: 9.0

Art of Rally is a love letter to racing, a game catered towards petrolheads. Its controls are slick, its presentation is amazing, and it’s chock-full of tracks, cars and competitions, as well as a lovely exploration mode. Simply put, it’s art.

Final Verdict: 9.0

Art of Rally is available now on PC.

Reviewed on PC.

A copy of Art of Rally was provided by the publisher.