Gravel: Hands On Impressions: PAX West

From Milestone comes a new off-road racing game, Gravel. Gareth, Gen and I were able to get some hands on time with the game set to release early next year. Here’s our first impressions.

One of the first things that struck me is the developer’s description of the game being an arcade type racer that anyone can jump right into. I’ve heard this claim many times before, but few games lived up to it. Gravel didn’t disappoint. So it’s arcade, and not sim. What does this mean exactly, well one of the biggest things is that you will see the damage, but you won’t feel it. The damage to your vehicle won’t affect its ability to perform, which is, to say, a very good thing for Gen and Gareth.

There are four types of races, or disciplines if you will. Cross Country, Wild Rush, Speed Cross, and Stadium Circuit:

Cross Country offers you huge areas with different layouts, which are perfect for competing in checkpoint races. I got to play the Alaska race, my mind is tormenting with the memory of its name, and it was fun. I tore through the level leaving my competition in the dust with a Volkswagen Touareg.

Wild Rush brings you the wildest locations where you can compete in lap races through unique environments with natural obstacles. Race down the slopes of a mount, on paradise islands, or, like I did, through an excavation site. This level was my favorite to play as I went with an unconventional route of using a Mini Cooper for this rugged terrain,

Speed Cross gives you races set in some of the most beautiful tracks in the world. Real-world tracks from Europe to America. These course give you the ability to rack up some serious skill points.

Stadium Circuit gives you courses set in stadiums across the globe. Some are fictitious, but others, like the LA Colosseum and the Gator Bowl, are based on actual venues. Gareth stepped up to the plate on this driving a Hyundai Veloster. Gen also tried this race, and did better than Gareth, might I add. Finally I jumped in and put them both to shame.

I’ve mentioned a few cars, and we also got to try out a few others such as a Ford Raptor and a Toyota Celica. There are over 70 cars from 19 licensed manufacturers in the game. That is a serious out of the gate lineup. All cars are rally style, and all handle differently. Even the terrain just feels different as you are racing through the tracks. And you will always be matched against other racers with similar vehicles. And again, another difference between sim and arcade, there’s no focus on modifying the vehicle. At most you can change color schemes, so there’s no worrying about how much horsepower that exhaust is going to add. I know some arcade racers offer these options, but the game bears the heart of a true arcade racer in this aspect.

There will be many different single player race modes, including a career mode where you have to defeat the “bad guy” racers, and there are a few online multiplayer modes as well. Our hands on consisted of the single player experience, but even with the unpolished product (with “work in progress” in big bold letters across the top of the screen), it felt very finished. The cars handled differently not only from each other, but the terrain had an effect on the vehicle. Trucks were big and lumbering, while the coupes were small and zippy. And the graphics were good. I’m excited to see how they utilize Unreal Engine 4, and I definitely can’t wait to see what the game looks like complete.

Look for Gravel on Xbox One, Playstation 4, and PC (Steam) sometime in Early 201