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Reviews PC

Art of Rally Review

Style over substance? This game wields the two effortlessly

Out tomorrow, here’s an Art of Rally review for the PC via Steam, from the creator of Absolute Drift.

August and September have delivered some incredible driving titles that it’s got to the stage where it’s comparable to a rock concert; where a support band blow the crowd away, and you say “I’d hate to be the one that has to come on after that performance”.

Art of Rally, from Funselektor (Twitter), looked like an interesting title – it’s a rally game, so already a bonus, but it was heavily stylised, covers the Golden Age of Rallying and from a developer who already had success with Absolute Drift.

Art of Rally Review – PC via Steam

While I was excited to play the game, as with most titles, there weren’t too many expectations. Besides, the hype hasn’t been huge and when you’re potentially competing with the likes of WRC 9 or Hotshot Racing, being able to stand out is challenging.

Art of Rally is a coffee table book of rallying. It’s one of those mediums that knows its subject, passionate, and a master of using white space. On the contrary, it doesn’t have that pomposity you might associate with the art world – this is very much a title for gamers, it just so happens that it’s quite the modern masterpiece.

If you can think of a car from the illustrious days of rally driving, it’s most likely there, captured in its immortal glory with the same engine sounds as its real-life counterpart. This game isn’t about realism, so if you’re looking for a style that will blow you away, check out WRC 9.

Art of Rally - Sakura
Sakura. Source: PR

With the presentation here, it reminded me of an arty Super Skidmarks when comparing the car models. They’re pretty basic, but elegant at the same time, and taking out the various vehicles with unofficial names almost immediately replicates what they’re based on.

Can’t Handle It

That said, expecting to get in a Mini and tear up the tracks isn’t as easy as it sounds. Art of Rally is between arcade and semi-simulator. Many are likely to disagree with that, but it has the simplicity of the arcade, but to really master it and be able to set enviable times, you need to be able to apply the acceleration at the right time, take corners effortlessly and know how your car handles inside out.

While the presentation had me drooling, my initial experience wasn’t on par when it came to the controls as it took a bit of time to get used to. The game does state that you need to persevere. It’s not that it’s ridiculously hard, but you do need to be an almost perfect driver.

There are plenty of options such as four difficulty levels and a damage indicator, meaning you can punch above your weight while you learn the ropes, but it’s recommended to keep to the default. That said, lowering the damage and driving while entirely on fire was brilliant!

The tracks are varied, and you can drive on practice courses, Finland, Japan – everywhere imaginable in the sport, and while they don’t have the realistic aesthetics as others in the genre, it’s almost like a sight-seeing tour – more so when you park up to take a photo.

Art of Rally features one of the best photo modes where you can capture the action on the fly. While the timer stops and you’re not in motion, getting sidetracked soon takes you out of the game and you’ll find that this is quite the distraction. The depths of field option is very much indulgent.

Game Modes and Viewpoints

But we’re here to set the best times, and there’s plenty on offer in the game to hone your skills. The modes include:

  • Career
  • Time attack
  • Custom rally
  • Online events
  • Free roam

If it weren’t for the fact that there’s a pile of games sitting on my SD cards and hard drives, I’d be playing Art of Rally more.

Art of Rally - Beemer
The almighty Beemer. Source: PR

My biggest criticism would be the handling. But that’s down to the game mechanics and the onus on the player. It can be quite deceiving as Art of Rally looks so simple in its design, you’d think that you could glide around the corners without consequences and perhaps use a nitro boost.

Fortunately, there aren’t any nitros in the game, but you can glide around the corners effortlessly with practice, and it’s not a big ask. My reservations were with the handling as mentioned earlier – expecting the Mini to be a good entry-level car.

However, by the time I got to the Subaru Impreza clone, the car handled like a dream, and it reinforced old memories of Colin McRae footage, and besides driving better, it was a lot of fun too.

Now, as I delve a bit deeper, I do recall something I didn’t like, and that’s the camera angles. They’re all very good and complement the presentation very well, but when it comes to gameplay, I’ve always been a first-person driver, and this isn’t an option.

If the game were to get updates, that would be my immediate request. Like mentioned in other reviews, switching to a first-person view improves my driving, and I’m sure there must be others who feel the same way. Nevertheless, it’s a preference thing, and when you get the hang of the angles, you can get accustomed to the viewpoint.

The Perfect Disclaimer

So, how do we determine the perfect game when perfect doesn’t exist? As a retro gamer (read old), I grew up reading magazines when they were affordable and provided the latest news in the gaming world.

A review score back then really did tip the scales as these were written by qualified journalists who we assumed were experts at games and instilled a sense of trust in their judgement. 

Despite their knowledge and expertise, even the top games were just shy of getting a perfect score for some trivial reason, or more likely; their editors requested that they don’t hand out too many top scores as it encourages the developers to try harder. 

Art of Rally - Sunset
Into the sunset… Source: PR

An entirely made up opinion with no evidence, may I add.

Famitsu magazine is notorious for handing out a few top scores each year, and even then, you might disagree with their opinion. Well, this lengthy disclaimer is to justify a perfect score being awarded to Art of Rally.

Without overthinking too much, the handling can take some getting used to, but that’s down to the player. The visuals are stunning, the soundtrack sublime, and the amount of detail involved from the technical specifications of the cars through to getting the sounds of each engine is superb.

Art of Rally has one of the best UI’s I’ve seen in a game and with the added features of a photo mode where you can capture some awe-inspiring ‘poses’ is something else. If you’re a car fan, pulling up in your Lancia next to some sakura and taking a low angled shot with just the right amount of filters produces some fantastic results, and it’s not just the overused vignette you’ll see on Instagram.

Sure, photo modes don’t make the game, and I seldom use these features, but this game is an experience. It’s easily on par with one of my favourite games, Lonely Mountains Downhill with the same nuanced low-poly visuals, and, snobby terminology – mise-en-scène.

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