Gravel really attempts to do something distinct and different within the racing genre. It doesn't take itself too seriously but still aims to present a fairly realistic situation. It's a more arcade type racing game that has players experiencing the muddy side of the event with a pile of content. The main chunk of Gravel is working through the campaign that's set up like a special sporting show. You work through standard races attempting to earn stars to unlock additional events and eventually compete in a showcase. In these special showcases you go head to head against a premium racer for further glory. This works well and there's a lot of content present there.
You're also not particularly forced to play anything with additional races always being unlocked and a plethora of various game types to drive in. The main goals in the somewhat story aspect is to place high and earn the most stars you can, you don't have to place first yet it's encouraged. You can also just do a free race if that's your sort of thing in case you don't want to be marked within the campaign situation. This is then further rounded out with a time trials areas to compete against others for the best time on tracks and then there's multiplayer. The online component is fine offering quick matchmaking against others while filling in missing spots with bots and some more private options as well.
Everything in Gravel handles well with the cars being a treat to drive. There's a large quantity of them with various livery options to unlock as you progress. There are many events to compete in whether that's direct against others or time based. I do however wish for the time situations that they would give you a goal, I'd complete a run thinking I did well and instead have placed eighth. There needs to be a base line to work against for those. The AI was competent with multiple options to tweak how aggressive they are and the realism within the world. If you do mess up, the game has a well implemented rewind feature that's similar to Forza.
The environments were great, the enhancements on Xbox One X were wonderful and for the most part I was always stunned by the look. They aimed for a mix of realism and yet still that somewhat stylized arcade look. I will however mention that I was a bit disappointed by some technical problems. On many maps grass and objects would load as you drove making it seem very fake. That sort of problem kills immersion and on this premium console that shouldn't be present. The tracks were very distinct in Gravel with a wide range of layouts and they were very creative with their use of spaces.
There's a lot do in Gravel and it's a lot of fun to play. I was happy with the wealth of content available in the campaign area and it was great to see additional side modes round out the entire experience. This is matched by solid multiplayer options to compete against others. The game looked fantastic for the most part being highly detailed, yet I was deeply disappointed by the loading of some objects as you went by them.
The tracks were very well done being distinct and more creative than anything I've seen in comparable racers. The whole mud first styled worked well and it was great to get into the grime of the many locations present. They also handled the weather well with there being all sorts of conditions whether that was snow, rain or even the night. Gravel is a great racing game that's packed with to the brim with things to do. It's also a lot of fun to play.
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Gravel Review on Xbox One X
Review Code Provided by Square Enix