Gravel is mostly an off-road rally racer type of game, with a number of different types of races, and all presented under the banner of a sports TV channel, ‘Gravel Channel Live’, as a Murray Walker-alike talks you through it, although he can also be muted… and he quickly was, on my game. There’s music in the menu and in-game, but I switched these off as I record gaming footage and don’t want copyright notices getting in the way… as well as not really needing their tunes.
Complete a series of races under the Off-Road Masters show, or run a ‘free race’, i.e. out of competition, and as well as a time attack mode, where you have to beat your previous times. There’s also Weekly Challenges, with a best time to beat, but personally, I just stuck with the traditional racing. Even though there was also the option to rewind a lap, or a portion of it, while still playing it, I didn’t even think about that soon after first encountering it. It’s not that I thought about it as some sort of gimmick, but… I just didn’t think about it, since I was having too much fun playing this the usual way you’d approach such a title.
Race options include setting the time of day, weather, AI difficulty and lots of other stuff, but I just left it all on the default settings. The same with the camera viewpoint, in-game. You can also set the front and rear suspension, plus adjust transmissions and differentials, brakes and alignment, but if you’re like me and just want the arcade fun, you can head straight into that, too.
Gain extra points for skidding under control, high-speed and jumps, and when it comes to attaining stars in order to progress ahead to move levels, you can score three stars for coming at least third out of eight cars, 2 for 5th place, and 1 of them for just finishing the race. Which do you think I received the most? 😉
The graphics are fast and furious (ahem), in 1080p and with no slowdown whatsoever (unlike the aforementioned Supercross game), and it does everything you’d expect from a title like this without disappointing. For the audio, it’s cars racing round a track – don’t expect any great shakes, there, but there’s no sound break-up or any problems.
Gameplay is also exactly what I’d be looking for in this game – there’s a learning curve to be had with the different vehicles, and the only reason that I’ll be crashing into the wall at the side of a track is because I’m driving like Billy Bellend. One driver who’d attest to that is the one I crashed into in the stock car race, since as you’ll see, I flipped him about like a feather, yet he still landed right on all four tyres… and carried on driving!! I hope he’s not ringing Claims Direct with a whiplash injury!!
Playing this, I had flashbacks to V Rally on the original Playstation, back in 1997 – in terms of the huge amount of fun I enjoyed from it, as the cars flip about at speed. Of course, Gravel has the updated graphics you’d expect, so don’t panic, thinking that I’m saying it plays like a 21-year-old game(!)
Thankfully, Gravel doesn’t tell you about upcoming left and right turns, long before they happen (a big annoyance about V Rally), and I was equally terrible at that game, too, but it was similarly awesome to play.
This also managed to set off the fan in the PS4 due to overheating!
Multiplayer has Quick Match, Create Match and Leaderboards, although for me, it’s all about the single player.
For those wanting DLC, the season pass will include 5 DLCs – released between launch and June – that contain 12 new vehicles, 10 check point tracks, 4 Wild Rush circuits and 2 new Off-Road career events, plus some additional content for free, such as the Acciona and Bowler Bulldog cars. Personally, I’d like to take my Fiat Punto out onto these tracks and see how long it lasts 😉
One especially good thing about this is that each race only lasts a few minutes, so if you’ve got a spare hour to kill, then it will be well-spent with Gravel. I’m just surprised that there’s no Nintendo Switch version, since a car racer on the go would be the perfect choice.
Don’t panic when each track loads 1%… 2%…. because the rest loads quite quickly. Plus, since I liked to retry some tracks 2 or 3 times after failing the first time, you can get straight back into it, without the game having to reload it back in.
There’s a lot of fun to be had, here, but I’d say that like Monster Energy Supercross (also from Milestone), which did the same sort of thing for bikes, this game is worth the full price if you’re into tweaking every last nut and bolt – so to speak – of the game’s mechanics, whereas if you’re just into basic arcade fun racing, then it won’t feel wholly new to you, and I’d wait until the price drops before checking this out, but it’s worth playing whichever your preference. That said, with 4 races per ‘episode’ of the season to go through and accumulate points, there’s 15 episodes in the season, plus additional ‘special episodes’ with specific drivers, as well as the season finale, so even in arcade mode, you will still get plenty of value for money if you do pay top whack.
- Developer: Milestone
- Publisher: Koch International
- Players: Single player, online multiplayer
Reviewer of movies, videogames and music since 1994. Aortic valve operation survivor from the same year. Running DVDfever.co.uk since 2000. Nobel Peace Prize winner 2021.