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Game Info:

Gravel
Developed By: Milestone S.r.l.
Published By: Milestone S.r.l.
Release Date: February 27, 2018
Available On: Windows, PS4, Xbox One
Genre: Arcade Racer
Number of Players: 1+
ESRB Rating: E for Everyone
MSRP: $49.99
(Humble Store Link)

Thank you Milestone S.r.l. for sending us this game to review!

Gravel is clearly Milestone S.r.l.’s attempt to compete with another popular single-word racing franchise, presumably DiRT. While I have not reviewed DiRT 4, (we reviewed Rally, but nothing since) Codemasters has always made solid racers. I did review Milestone’s Sébastien Loeb Rally, and enjoyed it, though the game was not without flaws and quirks. I am happy to say that Gravel resolves virtually all of those issues, and in my opinion is a much better game.

Like most modern racing games, it’s a fully 3D rendered game where you can race from the perspective of above and behind the car, inside the cockpit, on the hood, or in front of the bumper. I found the hood view the best compromise between realism and visibility, though I could easily see how someone might think otherwise.

And it looks great. Some of the levels have incredible detail, and especially the ground where you drive is quite impressive. Only the desert levels looked less than stellar – the texture there is hit or miss, as is some of the foliage like the trees; one time I hit a tree and it looked... not good (and not just for my car). But the tarmac in the rain, or the dirt and mud looks fantastic while you romp through it. The cars look great also, and properly bend and twist as you slowly wreck them, which I always like to see.

Gravel
Highlights:

Strong Points: Great graphics; animations look wonderful; wheel support works great; cars feel nice to drive; excellent video and sound options, including high frame rates and surround sound
Weak Points: Some textures are a bit low resolution; I found a control bug, and I think a ranking bug but I am unsure; no one to play with online when I checked
Moral Warnings: None!

As racing games go, there is the arcade-style extreme, and the simulation-style extreme. I would put this somewhere in the middle. There are options to make the handling more sim-difficult, and others make it much easier. That part reminds me most of Forza, as the options are nearly identical – breaking assists, traction assists, and so on. If you turn them all off, it’s quite challenging, whereas if they are on I found it much easier. There is also AI difficulty, which is very easy to beat on Very Easy (duh) – but a few of the race types are against the clock, and can still be quite difficult.

Most of the racing types are a lot of fun. Some of them have you racing from beginning to end, while others have you race laps. Some are on dirt and grass, with others are on tarmac and *ahem* gravel. Some are against a group of other racers, while others are against a single famous racer, and there are time battles as well. But what I do not like are the Smash-Up races. Here you have checkpoints with boards that flash random symbols and you have to hit the green ones, or suffer a massive slowdown. These are not fun at all, and I have never completed one at anything less than last place. I greatly dislike these levels… thankfully, you can do terribly on these levels and still see everything the game has to offer.

There is a fairly comprehensive career mode, which is most of what I played. I had fun racing through the different locations and unlocking more and more cars to speed around with. There are some cars locked behind DLC; some free, some not. I never paid for the DLC, but I did use a few of the free DLC cars. Though honestly you really don’t need them; every level can be completed just fine without them.

I have a Logitech G27 racing wheel, which is in many ways the most ‘standard’ and well supported wheel you can buy today. Good force feedback, along with a good build, a clutch pedal, and a 6-speed H-shifter. I prefer driving cars with a manual gearbox in real life, so I also do in my games. I chose H-shifter + clutch in the game options (which happens to grant a nice difficulty point bonus also). What surprised me was that I had no indication on how many gears the vehicles had. One Ford truck that I chose only had three! I kept trying to shift past third and it would stay in neutral – which is what a real car would do, but I wasn’t sure if it was my stick not detecting the shift, or what – until I realized what the issue really was. I’m sure you can imagine how frustrating it was to shift into a gear that didn’t exist repeatedly, until I finally just gave up...

Gravel
Score Breakdown:
Higher is better
(10/10 is perfect)

Game Score - 84%
Gameplay - 16/20
Graphics - 9/10
Sound - 9/10
Stability - 4/5
Controls - 4/5

Morality Score - 100%
Violence - 10/10
Language - 10/10
Sexual Content - 10/10
Occult/Supernatural - 10/10
Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

I did test out the game with an Xbox One controller, and it plays extremely well. It feels a lot like a Forza game does, and is tons of fun. It’s also much easier this way, though I still prefer the wheel. One bug I encountered was when I had the wheel plugged in and configured for the H-shifter with clutch, then switched to a controller. There is no button for the clutch, and the game did not register that the control configuration was impossible for the currently selected control scheme – so you simply could never put the car into gear. Oops! Another bug I ran into was I thought I earned first place against the clock but got eighth a few times – but I could have misread my perceived success, too. Every time there were other racers I was competing against, there was no confusion on my victory (or loss).

There is a good amount of content, and the tracks are all well done and never got old for me. I saw sixteen tracks, along with more available with paid DLC. The main DLC that hides tracks is the Ice and Fire pack, which is $9.99 normally. I did not buy this DLC.

There are five main modes: the career mode, which is where I spent most of my time, along with free race, time trial, weekly challenges, and multiplayer. I never was able to find an online race, but I also didn’t wait too long. Free races are what they seem like – you pick a car, track, and race against the AI without any effect on your career. Time trial is simply challenging each track alone and doing so as fast as possible. Weekly challenges are placed there for all players that week by the developers, and there are leaderboards where you can see how you did compared to everyone else.

I haven’t played a good racing game in a little while, and Gravel most definitely scratched that itch. It’s a really solid racing experience, with a decent amount of content. It’s really fun to play, and it’s perfectly clean – there is nothing to stop anyone at any age from enjoying this game. While I can certainly understand waiting for a sale given the current situation online, it’s a solid racer absolutely worth considering for any racing game fans.

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Christ Centered Gamer looks at video games from two view points. We analyze games on a secular level which will break down a game based on its graphics, sound, stability and overall gaming experience. If you’re concerned about the family friendliness of a game, we have a separate moral score which looks at violence, language, sexual content, occult references and other ethical issues.

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