When gamers nominate games that could be considered art, it tends to be a particular pool of titles including the likes of Gone Home, What Remains of Edith Finch and Firewatch. It has rarely, if ever, been a driving game. Does this change with art of rally?
art of rally is a top-down driving game that acts as a love letter to the golden age of rallying, featuring car designs from the ’60s to the ’90s. There aren’t any licensed vehicles here, but the shapes and liveries can make many of these cars instantly recognisable to anyone with even a passing interest in rally driving. Cars are split into various groups that span the decades from Group 2 to Group A, including the notorious Group B cars that made rally driving a death trap for a few years.
This chronology of rallying forms the basis for career mode where you start in the late ’60s and play right through to the mid ’90s. These are condensed seasons with many ‘years’ only consisting of three or four stages. As well as getting to experience the progression of rally cars through the years, you can also unlock new cars and liveries.
This version of art of rally which has arrived on Xbox also includes the new Kenya area with new cars, tracks and a new free roam area.
When first loading up art of rally, you can immediately appreciate the overall style of it. There is a minimalist approach to the menus. art of rally cares as much about how it appears as it does actually playing the game.
But when out on the track you can appreciate just how much work has gone into the actual rally aspect of art of rally as well. Cars handle as you would expect – and if they don’t there are a host of options available to configure things the way you want – and the road surfaces act as they should. Snow is treacherous, gravel can be tamed, and tarmac still remains your best bet. The speed drop-off you receive when venturing off the track is a bit on the harsh side in terms of punishment, but more fool you for trying to inject too much oversteer.
Damage is also a key factor on how your car performs but – along with AI difficulty – can be made easier or harder at the start of each new year and rally.
Career mode may be the biggest mode, but there are several others open to you. Time Attack mode and Custom Rally are pretty self-explanatory in terms of what to expect, and there are also Online Events and Free Roam modes.
Free Roam has six maps for you to explore, though only one is open to you from the beginning; the others need to be unlocked. To do this, you must find a certain collectible on the map. As well as cassette tapes to find, there are five vista points you must stop at and take a picture. There is usually a car hidden as well with a livery to unlock but if you want to move on to the next free roam area, you need to find the R-A-L-L-Y letters. These can be off the beaten track slightly or require you to get some air off a jump in order to reach them. If these sound familiar to Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater S-K-A-T-E letters, then that’s because they are essentially the same thing.
When first loading up Free Roam, you are met with a Buddha-like figure who suggests to you that this is the “art of rally” and this underlines the wry sense of humour found throughout. Some of the advertising names, the hashtags on the underside of cars and even the reasons given for slow times from drivers; there is this vein of dry humour running throughout art of rally that helps alleviate the serious tone elsewhere.
The online portion of art of rally is split into daily and weekly events. A daily event is one track with a global leaderboard and a weekly event is a few events grouped into a single rally. After some initial teething issues, these are now working better as in you can actually access them.
Online events aren’t the only issues however. On Xbox Series X the game will only work when the console has been rebooted before launching the game and even then it isn’t guaranteed that your default console language will be the one it starts with.
Perhaps most criminal though is the bad asset and shadow pop-in that happens all too frequently when driving in certain locations. For a game with a major selling point on its aesthetics – and still on a Series X – assets that pop-in is a major disappointment. The draw distance isn’t fantastic either which exacerbates the problem further.
Fundamentally, art of rally on Xbox is a more than competent rally game that proves you don’t need a fully licensed game to make an interesting arcade racer. Initially players will be sold on the unique and gorgeous art style, but it is here where the issues reside. The design suffers as a result of porting the game to Xbox consoles with problems we shouldn’t be seeing on this new flagship console.
Witness the art of rally for £19.74 on Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S