There is no doubt about it, Milestone know exactly what they are doing when it comes to creating racing games. They’ve been creating racing games for years now and have produced some superb results. Gravel is the next in line from them, allowing players to race off-road as you battle to become the best in the world via the Gravel Channel TV, riding against some of the best racers in the world. I’ve spent the last week revving up to this review, and the results seem to be solid, but nothing that will blow you away.
Right from the outset when you first load up Gravel and you give your driver’s details, you are thrown right into a race. You can select and change some of the settings to do with your vehicle and how the AI performs. This includes brake assistance etc, the usual stuff you’d come to expect when it comes to assisting you. The more help you turn down, the more points you’ll end up at the end of the race, obviously depending on how you do that is.
The control scheme is really simple, so simple that Gravel doesn’t require some lengthy tutorial attached to it. Basically R2 and L2 are the buttons you’re going to be spending the most attention to, that’s to accelerate and brake. You can also use the handbrake with the O button, but for the most part, L2 does more than a sufficient job in aiding you when you want to brake. To be fair, the times I did try and use the handbrake to turn quicker, my vehicle would spin out, leaving my AI opponents to leave me in their dust.
The AI is my next point about Gravel, it’s very, very hard. No one wants to put it on easy or very easy because we all have pride right? However, on the standard difficulty they are extremely hard. This is an off-road experience so especially the races with the tight corners you’re going to have to use brute force in some cases in order to get through to first place. The cross country races were the ones that I found most difficult to overcome, as I found first place almost impossible to take over if I didn’t have an almost-perfect race. For me, the AI settings needs to be changed a little bit, to make it more accessible. I have yet to try the harder difficulties but I can only imagine the frustration that they would cause me.
What Gravel does do well is the amount of content that there is. There are 4 race types to choose from, and many vehicles and brands to choose from. Toyota, Ford, Porsche and many others are all there for you to choose from in your race, with there also being quite a few tracks that you can race in. Milestone have definitely done well in getting Gravel packed with licenses etc. Each of the different cars, especially in the four different race types feel different. For example, the clunky monster trucks really feel like they should and when you are racing in a Cross Country track, you can feel the sense of speed behind you.
The main offline offering gives you a chance to take on the Off-Road masters. Here you get a series of episodes culminating in you taking on one one of the 4 best drivers. What was annoying about this was when you completed a race, it wouldn’t automatically go to the next race. You would be taken back to the main screen and you have to navigate once again to the episode that you’re currently on. It’s not a big thing but it can get annoying,
Visually, I enjoyed what Milestone have produced with Gravel. Each tracks are very vibrant and full of life, and the cars are detailed well enough. It’s not standout however, it’s like going to match the likes of Gran Turismo any time soon. I have to mention the awful commentary. Whilst there isn’t commentary in the race (thank god!), the guy who does the voice to set up each race feels too bland and it feels too ‘scripted’.
Gravel isn’t just about offline racing either. The main fun in my opinion is to be had online. Gravel really has some fun online modes for you to experience such as Kingâ€™s Rush and Capture the Flag. I did find it difficult to find matches at some point, but now the game is officially released, hopefully the online servers will be a lot busier than what I found. What is a shame is that Gravel doesn’t have any local multiplayer, which I found quite strange. You can only play single player or online which for a racing game is a little disappointing, especially when you have friends over.