September 23, 2020
Funselektor Labs Inc.
Funselektor Labs Inc.
Let me start with a big, sweeping statement: art of rally is one of the prettiest racing games I’ve ever seen. Considering racing games in general tend to go with a more realistic art-style like Gran Turismo or Forza, it’s always refreshing to see a different take on what a racing game looks like. Rally games in particular tend to focus on that realism; taking serious corners, listening to pace notes through the headset to know what turns are coming next and seeing the dirt hit the wheels of your vehicle. Instead, art of rally is more like an art-deco poster come to life, with beautiful painting-like colours and a unique top-down view lets you completely focus on the stages by seeing upcoming road features. It’s gorgeous and stylish, but don’t think that this is a case of style over substance – art of rally manages to confidently tackle both at once.
Canadian developer Funselektor Labs absolutely love their rally, and it shows throughout the entire game. The game takes you through rally history from 1967 to 1996, with one season each year, encompassing a variety of vehicles across 60 rally stages in Finland, Sardinia, Norway, Japan and Germany. It’s quite a linear experience that keeps you moving from race to race, and the nature of rally means you’ll always be the only car on the track, but that doesn’t stop the driving itself from feeling smooth and engaging. Impressively, while art of rally has such a pure and pretty visual style that might trick you into thinking the racing wont’ be serious, that is far from the truth. The range of cars from rally history (each with its own cheeky blurb) all feel genuinely different, and I was pleasantly surprised how much I still had to adapt my speed, braking and cornering to tackle the range of different courses.
“…calculating the physics of a large bank of historical cars became an enticing challenge on its own.”
There’s a real weightiness to each car that isn’t lost in the top-down camera angle, and the fact that I didn’t have corners barked at me like in other rally games meant I was more attuned to the visual cues the game provided, being able to see the road ahead and begin to calculate the physics of a large bank of historical cars became an enticing challenge on its own.
The whole production just feels super slick in a minimalist kind of way, backed by the OST of 51 original Synthwave tracks from Tatreal, that always kept the rhythm going and kept me on track, whether I was trying to achieve a fast time or just hunting around the open road mode for collectibles, a nice palate-cleanser between races.
This is all before we dive into the visual DNA in art of rally, definitely one of the most captivatingly stylish racers I’ve played in a very long time. Whether it’s the cherry blossom covered sprawling hills of Japan or the stone-lined forest trails of Germany, each location has a distinct visual style that looks pulled out of an art gallery, almost carefully painted on with each delicate stroke. Cars themselves also look fantastic, iconic cartoon-ish renditions of the real-life vehicles they represent. The ambience and the personality-filled, well-written nods to racing history and these cute-but-cool vehicles you’re driving all tie together perfectly with the atmosphere. There’s also a great photo mode that allows for some awesome shots, but I can’t describe it nearly as well I can show it, via @ChrisInSession who worked on the in-game photography that you see throughout art of rally. Check out some of their work below.
The only criticism with art of rally is that, unlike other racers in the rally format, it doesn’t feel particularly challenging unless you really ramp up the difficulty. In a game like Dirt for example, there is an intensity that makes it a little daunting as you hit checkpoints on the track and adjust for even the tiniest error so that you can shave off those vital seconds from the clock. It makes it incredibly satisfying to do well. art of rally is more about enjoying the journey, like a relaxed trip on the countryside. Damaging your car is incredibly forgiving, and there were several times I crashed off course, thinking that I might not be successful because of it, and still won against my competitors with plenty of time to spare. This isn’t a bad thing if you’re looking for a more chill rally experience, but racing fans (who will inevitably be the ones this catches the attention of) might find it a little lacking in the competition department.
- Absolutely beautiful aesthetic
- Rally driving still feels really good
- Completely accessible and enjoyable for everybody
- Synthwave soundtrack is a delight
- Very simplistic in terms of progression
- Not much of a challenge for serious race fans
art of rally is a fantastic racing game that looks unique and impressive while maintaining a core understanding of the gameplay that makes rally games so successful, with their focus on speed and point-to-point precision driving. In fact, its style manages to remove a lot of the barriers that more casual racing fans likely have when it comes to rally games, by making it less of a serious simulation with penalties and difficulty spikes, but instead focusing on cruising confidently around a gorgeous landscape with Synthwave beats guiding you on a journey through rally history. There is a real passion for the motorsport that shines through in every little detail, helping art of rally stand out in a crowded genre and achieve something truly special.