Well, this is unexpected. Best known for its licensed motorsport game series like MotoGP and MXGP, Italian studio Milestone has announced a new off-road arcade racing IP for PS4, PS4 Pro, Xbox One and PC – and it’s called Gravel, not to be confused with Mud or DiRT of course.
Gravel seems to have a similar spirit to Forza Horizon with tracks set in 18 exotic locations, with a bit of Sega Rally, DiRT 2 and MotorStorm: Pacific Rift thrown in for good measure. Four disciplines feature in the main career which has over 200 events: Wild Rush centers on combative races in wild locations, Cross Country has checkpoint-based open maps to explore, Speed Cross is based on real tracks and Stadium Circuit focuses on arenas and spectacular jumps. More online and offline gameplay modes will be announced in the next few weeks.
Unlike Forza Horizon which is set around a driving festival, Gravel is based around the “Gravel Channel” which hosts the “Offroad Masters” format, an annual television program that will “accompany the player on their way to fame and glory.“ Challenges and events will be available for each racing discipline in the run up to the Final League, where you’ll challenge the champion from the previous series to be crowned the “Offroad Master.”
Over 50 vehicles will feature in Gravel from the ‘70s up to the present day across four classes: Cross Circuit, Cross Country, Trophy Trucks and Extreme Racing. The extensive damage modelling also sounds promising: scratches and dents dynamically appear with every collision, and dirt will accumulate in real time depending on the surface. A video shown at a preview event depicted an off-roader deforming in real-time whilst being pummeled by rocks.
Gravel will also take advantage of Milestone’s new Unreal Engine 4 graphics engine that will also power MXGP 3, with more realistic lighting and particle effects than previous Milestone games. Sound has also been overhauled – engines now sound delightfully aggressive compared to Sebastien Loeb Rally EVO.
Of course, this isn’t the first time Milestone has branched out with new IPs. Last year saw the release of Sebastien Loeb Rally EVO, and its motorcycle simulation series Ride continues to thrive. Focusing on new IPs allows the developers more creative freedom, as Gravel’s Head of Game Design Irvin Zonca explains. “Gravel is the most extreme off-road challenge. It celebrates off-road racing by taking the player to exotic locations around the world with some of the most exciting vehicles ever created.”
“Thanks to the Unreal Engine 4, Milestone could finally unleash its creativity by tackling the arcade-genre with the most ambitious off-road racing game ever created. Bearing in mind the concepts of “fun”, “competition”, “speed” and “adrenaline”, we had the chance to think big by putting into the same game the best elements that we could create: photorealistic graphics, dynamic time of day and weather system, accessible physics that can be enjoyed by everybody, breath-taking locations where the player can race at full speed rushing through forests, snowy mountains, dunes and deserts. We love the way Gravel is shaping up and we believe that the players will be amazed by how funny and fresh this game will be", says Irvin Zonca Head of Game Design Milestone.
Gravel is slated for release this summer. While it may not have the most inspiring game title (who knows, maybe it will stick eventually), Gravel looks like a potentially promising throwback to old-school, lighthearted arcade racers that's sorely needed right now as the racing genre is becoming increasingly saturated with serious simulations. You can look forward to some exclusive Gravel gameplay on the channel soon.