I got to run through a few different rounds of Gravel at PAX West. Gravel is Milestone S.r.l.'s newest game, and is their first arcade-style racer. You have four separate track types to pick from, a cinematic single player mode, and online multiplayer. Given that its an arcade racer, you just pick a track type, choose your car, select your paint job, and hop on in to a race. The four different race types are mostly track types, but there are some differences for race style. As every racing game includes dynamic weather, so does Gravel. Because Milestone have not met a race type that they can't try to over-engineer.
But if you were worried about having to select your chassis, transmission, or suspension, have no fear. You don't select your parts and custom your vehicle. While each car and truck does handle like it should, you don't have the insanely detailed customization options, because Gravel is Milestone's attempt to be a little less Milestone. And you know what, they do a pretty nice job of it. The game is still in development, so the graphics were a little raw and some aspects could stand to be fixed (there was a lot of lens flare), the build that was playable at PAX was a functional game. There were no major glitches or crashes, no moments where it was absolutely broken, and it was fun.
The cars range from rallycross cars to trophy trucks, and handle accordingly. The full game will feature 70 licensed vehicles, and will include Ford, Toyota, Volkswagen, Huyndai, Mini, and even Abarth vehicles. Your rallycross and trophy truck favorites are here, so the car fanatics don't have a lot to complain about. Sure, it isn't Forza 7's almost 700 vehicles, but that's okay. Honestly, you don't need that much choice, and the options you have are the ones that you want. I'm okay not being able to choose the exact model year Abarth that I have actually physically driven. I'm fine going with the current gen Abarth. Because the point of Gravel isn't the car. It's the race.
And oh boy are the races fun. Even coming in last place on the very hard difficulty was fun, because if you managed to crash your car, the damage was only cosmetic. I finished my first race with both doors swinging open, but was no slower because of it. And as long as my car could drift on those muddy Alaskan backwoods roads, I was happy.
There are only 16 separate tracks in Gravel and there is a single player mode, but the multiplayer is what is going to drive this game, or break it. I'm disappointed that there isn't split-screen multiplayer because that is what you want with an arcade racer. You want to be right next to your friend as you compete. You want that social experience. Online multiplayer just isn't the same. But maybe, maybe, it'll be enough.
Only time, and the full release, will tell.
I actually had a blast playing this, and that's what an arcade racer is supposed to do. Any demo I spend laughing more than anything is a good demo, and Gravel had that in the bag. So my initial snark hearing about Milestone doing a rallycross arcade racer? Yeah I am happily eating those words today.