I’ve talked about art of rally quite a lot since seeing it at EGX last year, and I was expecting good things. I wasn’t prepared for just how good this indie rally game was going to be. It’s great fun, and deserves to stand alone as a brilliant game, not just as a brilliant racing game.
Creator Dune Casu (known via his company Funselektor Labs) describes art of rally as a “stylized experience inspired by the golden era of rally”. Yes, this is a racing game, but it’s got a feel of something more than that. For instance the opening to the career mode sees a giant Buddha impart words of wisdom to your car:
Before you get to the main menu to choose your game mode though, you enter a free roam experience around some wonderful Finnish roads. Being able to explore a massive expanse was a pleasure that I wasn’t expecting. You can travel around the roads that form the free roam area, or just drive off into the forest without worrying about your car being automatically reset to the track.
It’s not just the freedom of exploration that is so welcome, it’s the collectibles that are dotted around that push free roam from a casual aside to a serious bit of business. There are various viewpoints to stop at and admire the view from and (in Tony Hawk’s style) giant R-A-L-L-Y letters for you to collect. When you find the letters, some are easy to acquire but others need a bit more planning of how to jump and reach them.
Even better, free roam isn’t limited to Finland. Once you find a R-A-L-L-Y letters there, you unlock a free roam playground in Sardinia, then onto Japan, Sweden and Germany. Free roam itself is enough to keep you entertained for hours.
Stepping foot into career is where your journey through the era of rallying takes place. Career mode is split into rally generations from the 1960s Group 2 era (think of Mini’s), to the 1980s Group B monsters (an Audi Quattro anyone) up to the 90s and Group A with the almighty Subaru Imprezza. Dune has a soft spot for the Group B hellraisers, and has created a Group S of machines crafted by Dune which are inspired by the excess of Group B.
To unlock the full range of vehicles (including vans and other special guests), you will need to progress through the full career mode. But there are enough cars unlocked from the off for you to take to time trials or your own custom championship. It’s just that by working through career mode, you appreciate the journey that rallying has taken over the years.
art of rally doesn’t have any official licences for the cars that formed the World Rally Championship, but his re-creations, custom liveries and narrative to each car more than put official licences out of your mind. In fact, when you’re out on the track you won’t care too much about the appearance of your car. Dune has embodied the feeling of the locations so well that when you aren’t focused on the road itself, your eyes are drawn to the blossom trees of Japan or the Panzers of Germany.
It is these locations and the incidental moments of realising that you’re driving over a frozen Swedish lake, past a camp site sitting in the shadow of an ice-berg that will doubtless make you pause, open the photo editor and smile. I can’t get over how pretty this game is. Including ‘art’ in the name of a game has never felt so apt.
On a personal note, I’m left the tiniest bit disappointed that there isn’t a representation of Rally GB here, but when the driving itself is so good (and it really is), the style of the game so beautiful and the personality that it imbues….this is something everyone should take a moment to enjoy.
The Verdict – Red Mist
Platforms Available/Reviewed – PC (from 23rd September)
Review based on code supplied by PR. For more on our scoring policy, please read this post.