Review: Gravel (PS4)

Review: Gravel (PS4)

Platforms:

  • PlayStation 4
  • Xbox One
  • PC

Platform/Hardware Used:

  • Blu-ray Disc
  • PS4 Pro
  • HDTV

Extras:

  • DualShock 4 Required (1)
  • Move None
  • Wheel Support Yes
Flag_of_the_United_States.svg
Title: Gravel
Format: Blu-ray Disc / PSN (12.5 GB)
Release Date: February 27, 2018
Publisher: Square Enix
Developer: Milestone
Original MSRP: $49.99 (US), €69.99 (EU), £44.99 (UK)
ESRB Rating: E
PEGI: 3
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
PS Nation Review Policy

According to Google the meaning of Gravel is either a loose aggregation of small water-worn or pounded stones, aggregations of crystals formed in the urinary tract, or [to] make (someone) angry or annoyed.

Gameplay:
Gravel is easy. Yes, you heard it here first, easy. It’s easy to mess up and never be able to recover, easy to clip a wall and spin out, very easy to drift. In fact, it’s so easy I was doing it on every turn.

Okay, so I might have exaggerated the above paragraph for dramatic effect. But, I do have trouble on some of the stadium courses in certain vehicles. It sometimes feels like I’m driving on glass.

Off-Road Masters is the name of the campaign and Milestone went for the episodic feel where each part consists of a few types of races. There are the usuals here: Lap, Cross-Country, Checkpoint, Elimination, Time Attack, and a Championship. Nothing out of the ordinary with those.

There’s also a frustrating Smash-Up mode that litters the track with rows of bright signs. The goal is to get to the finish as quickly as possible by going through the randomly lit green arrow signage. However, hitting the red crosses slows you down and missing the entire row teleports you back.

Now I can generally hit every green arrow but even a slight graze or getting too close to a red slows the car. It also seems like the other racer’s times are quite tough to beat, almost as if they don’t have to contend with the silly signs.

An introductory video, complete with a person stood in front of the camera doing a few poses and longing looks into the lens, starts off the ‘Special Episodes’. The first features Scott Parker, who returns to the racing scene following a successful career in writing, music, and basket weaving. Okay, I may have made one of those up.

I was expecting some exciting commentary during the head-to-head races but alas it’s just another boring opponent with their own custom livery. They didn’t even seem to have their own style or distinctive racing line.

Expect the usual AI difficulty levels, everything from Very Easy all the way up to Very Hard. Turning on and off other things increases or decreases the total bonus point multiplier. This means switching off Braking and Stability Help gives a two-percent addition but having the transmission set to Semi-automatic gives no extra.

Points increase the driver level, which unlocks new cars and liveries. However, as each vehicle feels very similar to all the rest of its class, unlocking anything becomes a dull triviality.

The physics are definitely leaning toward the arcade side of things, especially when it comes to collisions. On one such occasion, I rammed into the back of an opponent and, impossibly, lifted the car up and over my own. On another occasion, I attempted a PIT (Pursuit Intervention Technique) maneuver and the other car didn’t budge an inch. Later on, I was gently clipped by another car and sent into a one hundred-eighty degree spin.

Gravel supports steering wheels so I got my Thrustmaster T150 out and dusted it off. After a few races and a small adjustment to the Steering Linearity in the Wheel Settings, I was having fun. I felt every knock and sideswipe thanks to the force-feedback and even controlled the vehicles better in the stadiums.

I spoke too soon because when I switched vehicle types things got messy again and I was crashing and spinning out all of the time. The most fun I had in this game was in the crazy off-road checkpoint races down mountains and across idyllic beaches. Sadly, there are only a few of these among the many boring and tedious stadium courses.

Visuals:
Gravel excels in the aforementioned off-road races with large winding tracks and even a few set pieces that, when driven through, sadly result in no dramatic obstacles or new routes. It made me sad every time I got near one because a part of me expected a MotorStorm or Split/Second style moment, but alas, it was not to be.

The DualShock 4 light bar flashes and changes color as if it was the engine and rev counter lights. This means you’ll see a crazy flickering red and orange light as the car begins to redline and changes gear. It’s not really a bad thing but if I’m playing in a dark room it can be distracting.

I was happy to see the inclusion of a Free Camera mode in the pause menu allowing for some nice images with a few filter effects. Now that I mention effects, the water effects are poor. To be precise, when I drive through some water there is no splash or wake and on-screen water droplets are more like an overlay from a PS3 game.

Audio:
“Hi folks, welcome back to the Gravel channel.” This is the kind of thing you’ll hear in between races and there aren’t enough lines of dialog to stop it from becoming annoying really quickly. The music is okay but there’s nothing that’s catchy or sticks in my mind. I definitely wouldn’t wait for the soundtrack.

Online/Multiplayer:
This game has online multiplayer but I couldn’t find anyone to play with, which is worrying so soon after release. I was hoping for some local split-screen fun but there is nothing of the sort.

Conclusion:
Gravel started off great, with a couple of excellent off-road tracks, but then some breakable scaffolding holding up what should surely be a spectacular route changing set piece of destruction turned out to be nothing. Which is how the rest of this game turned out, a big let-down.

Some of the tracks are good and when playing with a force feedback wheel and can be very enjoyable but the rest of the game feels awkward and frustrating. It feels like two different games mashed together and the control style of the first doesn’t work with the other.

The boring A.I. cars clump together in the tedious stadium tracks like snot on a scruffy kid’s unwashed collar. It’s worth checking out but I doubt many would even bother persevering through the uninspired campaign.

Milestone picked the perfect name as it’s a little rough and uneven and most importantly, annoys the hell out of me. I desperately wanted the fun off-road experience with some awesome memorable and distinctive vehicles but only got a taste of that.

Score:
6.5

* All screenshots used in this review were taken directly from the game using the Share functionality on the PlayStation 4.

Flag_of_the_United_States.svg

Flag_of_Canada.svg

 

Written by Chazz Harrington

Chazz Harrington

You can find me on everything: PSN, Twitter, Wii U, Origin, Steam, etc using my universal ID: ChazzH69

If you send a friend request please add ‘PS Nation’ in the subject area.

Twitter Digg Delicious Stumbleupon Technorati Facebook