In the competitive racing market, Gravel is looking to make a name for itself as the new king of rally racing. From the Milan-based studio, Milestone is known for licensed games and focusing on simulation bike racing. Gravel, much like the Ride, is the developer’s own interpretation of racing and more so the creative freedom it takes with the genre.
So with Gravel’s impending release on February 27, what does it have to offer and why? I encouraged myself to answer these burning questions during a preview event at the Square Enix offices this past January. First off, this rally racer is a departure from the realistic simulation and more of a casual take which I enjoyed. Jumping into races is easy, as the player can select a preferred race style (Wild Rush, Cross Country, Speed Cross, and Stadium Circuit), a car, and then you’re on the track in a matter of minutes. Of course, there is the option to toggle on the AI difficulty, physics, and customize the play for better rewards.
I preferred the wider races like Cross Country a lot more than the narrow confines of Speed Cross and Stadium Circuit. Driving on the island across various terrain like sands on the beach, to the dirt uphill terrain was fun, especially as I narrowly came in first place. Only at Medium difficulty though. Weather, time of day, and environments certainly plays a factor during the race which makes adjusting to not only the racers but the track a crucial component in crossing that finish line.
After getting a handle on the racing, I was briefed on Gravel’s story mode, which focuses on racing first than a overarching story. There are five Offroad Masters, or bosses, that you’ll face throughout the story and obtaining a prerequisite number of stars for each will unlock them. The head honcho, Sean Walker, was presented to me as the final boss and at first glance, looked menacing. Maybe it was the beard. Either way, the feeling of going one on one in these boss races intrigues me and I look forward to leaving behind these offroad masters in my rearview mirror.
Of course, I can’t ignore the various gameplay options that is at the core of Milestone’s games. With the ability to rewind, I felt like I was able to pivot from a critical mistake and stay competitive in a race without feeling like I fell too far behind. There’s also the option, should you so choose, to play around with the replay feature and snap photos at any point during the race. As an avid believer that all video games should have photo mode, Gravel’s inclusion of this feature is very much welcomed. Who wouldn’t love their photos in noir or a distinguished sepia? Ultimately, it’s the little things like these that flesh out Gravel’s community features as it seeks to build its fanbase especially when talking multiplayer.
While I didn’t have the chance to try out the online multiplayer, I was afforded with some knowledge that speaks to the lighter side of Gravel. In a odd choice for its genre, Capture the Flag and King of the Hill will be available at launch. It took me a while to wrap my head around a more realistic racing game including this but it appears that these modes will be fun and enjoyable for those looking for Rocket League or Twisted Metal alternatives.
The staying power of Gravel will be one to gauge for sure and Milestone has already doubled down with Porsche cars pre-order unlocks, season pass and a mix of free, paid DLC content that’s geared to extend its shelf life beyond the February 27 release. With an array of racing games out on the marketplace, Gravel is certainly one to keep an eye out for.