It’s about time we dragged Speedyboi Ben out of the closet and push him back into his racing suit because we’ve got another racing game for him to slide into… Gravel is an arcade style racing game that aims to fill a hole that has been around for a pretty long time. How does it do?

I think the first thing I need to define is what I have come to expect from an arcade style racing game. To start, good graphics, but not so good to the point where everything looks hyper realistic; these games are designed to be light-hearted and fun, and seeing a model that reflects that means that subconsciously, I would have more fun with it. One of the other things I expect from an arcade game is that it won’t be very realistic with various track layouts or the environments that they are made within. Tracks that contain crossovers that promote crashing. And finally I expect the handling to be implemented in a way that feels precise, but not super accurate. If that sounds a little confusing, I’ll break it down for you a little.

Gravel was released on the 26th of February for the PS4, Xbox One and the PC after being developed by Milestone S.r.l. and Published by Milestone and Square Enix. Having a look at game made by Milestone, it’s easy to see that they know what they are doing within the world of racing as they have developed games from the Superbike and MotoGP racing series to the World Rally Championship. With all these names under their belt, they’ve had plenty of practice and know what makes a racing game fun.

“While the engine is not normally used for racing games, it has been built very well”

Being built upon the Unreal Engine, which has been around since 1998 and has been the core of many games including the original Deus Ex, various Tom Clancy games, the Deadpool game, Mirrors Edge, and Mortal Combat, Gravel thankfully adopts this engine extremely well; apart from a few weird and random barrier glitches that I’ll get into later. The problem with the Unreal Engine is not the fact that it can be used to build any type of game under the sun, but with its age – I am aware that it is on its fourth generation but continually adding features to an engine can clog it up and slow itself down.

One of the after-effects of using an engine that has been out a long time is that the graphic performance can take a hit. I know earlier I said that I expect an arcade game to have graphics that are almost cartoon like, but quite frankly, the game looked just a bit dated. I’m not talking about the cars, the artists put plenty of detail into the cars to make them realistic enough. But the world design. The overall feel of the tracks feels dated, I don’t feel like I’m playing a racing game from 2018 but a racing game from 2012, but It’s not the end of the world that the game’s design is not all there, because it means that more effort has been put where it counts… In the game play.

“This is quite possibly the best feeling racing game I have played in a long time.”

I think that with the nickname of SpeedyBoi, it’s fair to say that I have played a fair amount and enjoy racing games a lot, this gives me a good idea of the styles of racing that I enjoy the most. This is quite possibly the best feeling racing game I have played in a long time. This beats out the Dirt series with 4 and Rally. This beats the newest Need For Speed game (that I still haven’t finished and am not likely to either). This also overcomes Project cars on its high pedestal for the amount of fun that I’ve had. And for me, it’s all about the way that the cars handle in the arcade style. I need to be able to feel that every car can be thrown into a perfect slide to get around a hairpin and that it will kiss the apex perfectly each time. But each car needs to feel different. For example, I expect that a Trophy Truck (A Ute with a HUGE fuck off engine in the front and some huge tires on the back to keep the weight down) to feel heavy and cumbersome, but still be able to move like stink whenever I plant the accelerator. This game has that. This game is one of the best arcade racers I have played in a very long time.

And finally. The last thing I come to expect from an arcade racing game is a series of track layouts that may not be entirely believable. Like a figure of 8 where the track crosses its self without a jump, just cars ploughing into each other, and not because it’s a demolition derby. This game has that feel, of being just stupid enough without being over the top. This is what makes the game feel fun. Charging down a sand-dune, up another one and launching off a ramp into a jump that takes 5 seconds to land from. It’s the thrill of being able to do something that you would never want to do in real life as it would kill you. Call it a life saver.

So to finish this all up, I’m going to say one final time that this is possibly my favourite game of 2018 so far. It holds high esteem in my book. It may have a few problems but I highly recommend playing this game. I’m giving it an 8.5/10.

I’m not quite done yet. While my review may be over I have a story to tell. One of the features of the game is a weekly challenge where the game gives you a map and you need to complete it within a time limit. I spent two hours, after a long day at work trying to get the top time, as at that point, no one had completed it. And then I did it. I completed that challenge, I was the first person ever to complete it. But the game glitched. I shouted fuck to the high heavens as I stare in disbelief that the game had uploaded the time of a previous run to the server. I knuckle down and try to correct it by breaking the time again. Over the next four hours I completed the challenge twice more, and the game failed to upload the new beaten time. Each time a do I run I make a slight change to try and carry my speed better, crash through a barrier to get onto the shortcut at a different angle, instead of getting faster I ended up getting plagued by the game deciding I needed to do triple front flips. Crushed I decide to turn into bed and come back to it another day. So while I may have technically been the first on the leader board to complete the challenge, it was not so. Instead I have a little video of all the crashes and flips I performed instead. Enjoy.

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