This may have been mentioned once or twice on this website before, but just in case no one has said anything, 2017 is filled with a ton of great news for fans of racing games. Some will be out in 2017 (or have already come out) while others might not see a release until 2018. Each of these games tries to offer something unique to make it stand out from the pack. Wreckfest is a competitive destruction and mayhem, Project Cars 2 has a zillion coats of polish and a realistic weather system and The Crew 2 offers freedom to travel by land, sea and air in an open world environment. A lot of these racing games feature off road events as a side activity to increase the variety. Gravel decides to make off road the focal point, creating a holistic off road experience in a single game.
Gravel is similar to a lot of other racing games in its basic concept but deviates enough to distinguish itself. Like many other titles, Gravel will have players travel to exotic locations around the world to compete in various events and do so in a variety of high performance vehicles. A dynamic time of day and weather system will be included as these will factor into the in game physics, plus the physics will take the type of vehicle and terrain into account. The difference is none of these courses will be on sleek, shiny asphalt. Gravel all off road, and traveling around the world the courses will include dirt road tracks, snow covered mountains, forests and sand covered dunes.
At its core Gravel is still arcade style racing action, and the build that we got to preview had four different disciplines in which to compete. Wild Rush was combative races in wild locations, like racing through woods trying to push your opponents into trees to achieve dominance. Cross Country features open maps, where the player advances to the finish line by crossing checkpoints though the path they choose to get there is up to them. Speed Cross is a more traditional race with real tracks, but like other modes victory through any means and full contact with other races may be necessary. Lastly there is Stadium Circuit, which is basically a stunt arena with impressive jumps.
The story mode is presented through a television event called Offroad Masters on the Gravel Channel. The TV crew will follow the player as they rise to fame, fortune and glory by progressing through numerous challenges of increasing difficulty across all disciplines. The goal is to reach the Final League and beat the previous champion, thus being crowned the Offroad Master. The narrative is straight forward and provides a context for the events but really Gravel is about arcade style action and fun which the demo indicated it can deliver.
Gravel features stunning visuals thanks to the use of the Unreal Engine 4. From the environments to vehicles down to the lighting and particle effects, in an age where racing games are becoming graphical powerhouses, Gravel can keep pace with the competition. The limited access the demo provided showed that each mode had its own feel to it and handling the vehicles was smooth enough to make this title accessible, making it great for having spur of the moment matches with friends. With so many racing games on the horizon, Gravel is shaping up to look like it may be worth the attention from fans of the genre, particularly ones that aren’t afraid of a little dirt.