Games: Gravel offers no frills four-wheeled fun on PS4 & Xbox

Neil McGreevy

Gravel (PS4/Xbox)

By: Milestone

FROM aquarium sediment to how Belfast folk beg for mercy, Gravel the game is, sadly, not about common-or-garden aggregate – though plenty of shale will be shot from your tyres in this filthy four-wheeled fiesta.

Not just gravel, mind, but mud, snow and sand as you sink your rubber deep into Mother Earth on a whistlestop tour of all things off-road.

Bolting through dung in a four-wheeled pick-up, Gravel's mud-caked wheel-on-wheel action will stir your inner Colt Seavers with arcade-friendly handling that harks back to the insane drifting days of Super Off Road, offering blessed relief for petrolheads tired of po-faced sims or multicultural punks feeling the need for speed.

With several decades' worth of legendary vehicles to unlock and simplistic handling, Gravel is no Gran Turismo or Forza, preferring knockabout arcade thrills and doling out stars for in-race antics. Wrapped in a cheesy TV show format, the single-player offering is its Off-Road Masters, where your rookie competes in a series of events ranging from cross country and speed cross to stadium circuits.

All manner of races are available – lap races, time attacks, smash-ups and eliminations, while some episodes featuring showdowns against real-life superstars.

Aside from its campaign, players can tackle free play, time attack, online multiplayer and weekly challenges as they gun for a place on the global leaderboards.

If Gravel's controls are basic, they do the job, with insane drifting around hairpins handled with ease and a variety of tweakables to fine-tune your jalopy. The real star of the show, though, is the locations, with a groaning track list offering variety out the wazoo.

From darting across the sand dunes of Namibia, navigating the snowy peaks of Alaska or roaring through a dirt track in LA as fireworks explode around you, Gravel's travelogue visuals ensure you'll never get bored.

With a budget dwarfed by Microsoft and Sony's marquee racers, Gravel is light on the trimmings, and most of its rides feel the same. It still manages to look the part, though, with the Unreal engine shining particularly on PS4 Pro. Those looking for aural pleasure, however, must make do with throbbing generic rawk and a monotone narrator who sounds like he's been hitting the Valium.

While Codemasters have Dirt for their off-road antics and motocross fans enjoy Mud, the latest substrate-titled game sacrifices anally retentive realism at the altar of fun, offering down 'n' dirty arcade thrills that takes racing off the beaten track.

Time to hit the ol' dirt road...

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