Gravel PS4 Review

March 22, 2018 by  
Filed under PS4, Reviews & Features, PlayStation

Publisher: Deep Silver  Developer: Milestone Genre: Racing  Players: 1-8  

Age Rating: 3+  Other console/handheld formats: Xbox One

Gravel has been hailed as the return of the arcade racer. The only issue here is that it isn’t exactly the type of arcade racer I expected, as its handling model is more of an arcade/simulation hybrid. In this way the game has proved to be somewhat of a disappointment, as it’s not exactly the type of racing game that was advertised prior to release.

Tracks are largely fictional but are set in real world locations such as Alaska and Namibia. The game also includes a handful of real life Rallycross tracks.

Disappointment aside though, and Gravel is actually a very decent racing game. When it comes to the handling of the vehicles, the game has various assists which can be customised to your liking, although even with all the assists turned to full, the game never feels like, say, Burnout or OutRun in terms of intuitiveness. The handling of the vehicles is still satisfying enough though, with moments of glee to be found when skidding around corners, and the heavier vehicles actually feel weightier when out on the track. The game does suffer from some rather inconsistent contact physics though, and you just never know how your vehicle is going to react following a collision because of this.

There are four different disciplines in Cross Country, Wild Rush, Speed Cross, and Stadium Racing, and these disciplines are also spread across the game’s career mode. There are checkpoint races which have you going from A to B, lap races, time trials, elimination races, and smash challenges that have you racing against the clock and smashing boards to earn more time while making sure to avoid others that result in time penalties when smashed.

The career mode is simplistic in the way that you simply go from one race to another until you face off against a boss in three one-on-one races. Progression doesn’t require you to win or even place in the top three in a race, but you are awarded with one to three stars based on how well you do. The mode isn’t just simplistic, but it also has bad TV style presentation and is rather short as well, and apart from single races and weekly challenges, there’s little else for the single player.

There are some rather nice tracks in Gravel, and as an off-road racer there’s a good variety of terrain. There are muddy, snowy, rainy and sandy tracks spanning the world, and some of them also have some heart pumping jumps, water to splash through, and also allow for consistently high speeds along some of their long straights. There’s definitely excitement to be had, but the game is sadly lacking in something, and this is obvious almost straight from the off.

Yes, Gravel actually feels like it is a little lacking in soul. The handling may be fun enough, but it doesn’t really have much personality. The same can be said about the rather bland visuals; there’s moments of beauty with the weather and the lighting effects, but things largely look rather dated and characterless.

There’s around 50 vehicles in all, which are all motors that can be found in the real world.

Online multiplayer is also currently looking rather empty, and this is a shame as it’s the multiplayer that should be bringing those whom play the game back for more. What I can say though is that the multiplayer sessions that I did have were very smooth, but I want a lot more of them that include a large group of people as opposed to me and another player along with a load of AI opponents making the rest of the numbers up.

As the so called return of the arcade racer, Gravel should have been so much more. For starters, this is more of a hybrid than a pure arcade racer, and it’s also lacking in any real personality and has some rather dodgy physics. There’s still fun to be had in this off road racer thanks to its speedy racing, big jumps, and variation in its different disciplines, but it could have also been so much more.