GDC 17: Gravel Preview – Dirt Warrior (PS4)

Going Off-Road Globally

Developer Milestone’s upcoming off-road racing title Gravel isn’t your typical, line-up and go, racing game. The game will have four open world style areas, ranging from the frozen tundras of Alaska, to the searing deserts of Africa, and then down to the Pacific Ocean where you’ll get to play on an Island. Throw in the wild terrain of the Australian Outback, and the ability to change the time and weather thanks to the Unreal Engine 4, and the game has the potential of covering every possible off-road scenario.

While I didn’t get to try out this open world set-up, I was told that you’ll be able to drive around the different maps and have events waiting for you at different points on the map. Multiplayer will have friends joining you on this map and will give you the option of completing co-op events or going head-to-head, depending on what you want to do. All of these different events, whether you are playing alone or with friends, will coincide with one of the four disciplines you can master in the game and these disciplines are:

  • Wild Rush, combative races in wild locations
  • Cross Country, with open maps to explore or to conquer until the last checkpoint
  • Speed Cross, real tracks and races without holding anything back
  • Stadium Circuit, with arenas and spectacular jumps

Sim or Arcade – Your Choice

The developers wanted to create a game that was accessible to everyone, regardless of their driving skill level, so the difficulty settings are there to take the game from a beginner’s arcade level, up to a driving sim. I raced on a track on the Pacific Island, with a medium difficulty, and it felt more sim like than arcade, but to be honest I was using a controller and not a steering wheel. Steering wheel support will be available at launch, they just didn’t have one set-up in their booth. The Ford truck I was in handled well, was really responsive with a quick throttle, but braked terribly. Now that could have been due to an over aggressive driver not being used to a powerful off-road truck on a sandy course, but hey, I’ll blame the truck instead. Driver error? Never.

The build I played on was just an alpha one, but it looked and felt very polished. I had a limited choice of vehicles but the launch release will have more than 50 to choose from, each with an adjustable suspension. The level of detail on the other vehicles and on the track itself was impressive, with sand and mud flying everywhere. Once we got past the quick learning curve of using a controller on an off-road truck, we found our lap times getting quicker and the brakes working better, but sadly the AI had built up too much of a lead for us to get better than 4th place.

Gravel has the potential of being one of the top racing games this year as developer Milestone has done a great job with it so far. I’m really looking forward to seeing and playing more of the game as it nears its summer release.