STAFF REVIEW of art of rally (Xbox One)

Wednesday, September 1, 2021.
by Josh Morgan

art of rally Box art art of rally is a sim style racing game made and published by Absolute Drift developer Funselektor Labs Inc. It’s not your traditional racer, it focuses on being more artistic than realistic, and that’s a good thing. So, get in the car, buckle your safety belt, enter in your blood type... wait, what? Yeah, you read that right, for some reason this game asks you your blood type when you start the game and it’s never answered why. I am assuming my information has been submitted to a vampire database and I will be getting a knock on my door late one night.

As you start the game for the first time you aren’t put into a race right away, instead you start in an open area and are free to roam the countryside taking in all the scenery. You’ll notice as you drive down the streets that the low polygon style makes the cars look like toys and the environments look like a model train set. This works perfectly with the locked third person camera that flies above the car like a drone. Since the camera is locked high above the car, that means you can easily spot turns and obstacles ahead of you and there is no need for an on-screen map. At first, I thought this was a flaw, as I am used to constantly referencing the mini map of racing games to prepare for future turns. Without a mini map to reference, I found myself taking in the beautiful landscape and at times it seemed like I was out for a Sunday drive rather than in a race. It’s a great change from the standard racing template.

Don’t let the low polygon count graphics fool you though, there is a lot of detail that Funselektor put into art of rally. The stars of the show are the cars and the roads, and that is where all the attention to detail has been focused. The cars themselves remind me of Micro Machines if you are old enough to remember those. There’s not a lot of detail to the models of the cars, but there's enough to recognize they are modeled after popular rally cars in history. They get wet from the rain and the snow, get dirty when traveling on dirt roads and show some damage as you bounce off trees and rocks. Eventually if you bounce off enough of those trees and rocks you will see your car start to smoke and then catch fire.

During your travels in the story mode you’ll be taken to Norway, Germany, France, Japan and a few other locations, and each one brings with it different weather conditions. The weather, as expected, has an effect on the roads you are driving, and this changes how your tires react to the road. It’s science. Puddles splash and snow fluffs up as you drive over them, and if you are too heavy on the gas in these locations, you’ll find yourself in the ditch, or up against a tree or rock. Each course not only has the weather you can modify, but also the time of day. Choose a morning race to see the sun shining bright through the trees, casting realistic sun rays across the screen. Choose a night race and you’ll barely be able to see the trees in the distance, and the only things bright enough are what is illuminated by your headlight beams. In the distance you’ll see your headlight glow and dance between the trees as they fade into darkness.

The soundtrack of art of rally is mostly electronic and reminds me a lot of Daft Punk. It’s a good type of music to just kick back and relax with, so to pair it with a racing game is an odd choice. Usually when you think of music to race you think of fast beats and faster guitar riffs, but art of rally really pulls off the pairing and after a while I was able to drop the usual tense feeling while playing and just sit back and enjoy the ride. The engines of the cars are different enough from each other that you can tell, but they aren’t pushing for realism here either. You can tell the difference between an 80-horsepower and a 400-horsepower car and I think that is all that is needed. One thing that I noticed while playing was since there is no co-pilot calling out your turns like in other sim rally games, I was able to just focus on the car sounds and listen to the soundtrack which is another welcome departure from traditional racing games.

At the start of its 15 hour campaign you just appear in an open area free to roam and get the feel of the game. This was a neat way to start the game off, usually you are put right into a race and are forced to win before you can move on proving you can beat the AI and advance your career. art of rally really embraces its chill atmosphere and the first thing you do is just drive and go where you please. The free roam areas are based on the countries they represent and come with the grassy hills, snowy mountains and rainy marshes they are known for. Each country has a list of collectibles that you can find simply by driving on every road in the area. VHS tapes, letters spelling R-A-L-L-Y, photo spots litter the land and finding them all will score you an achievement for your troubles.

During the story you will progress through 50 years of a faux history of rally and as you finish events you will unlock fakes of the popular cars used during that time. You’ll start off with low horsepower rear wheel drive cars and by the end of the history lesson you will be driving supercharged 500+ horsepower all-wheel drive beasts. You only have to finish the races to progress to the next event, and it’s nice to play a game not focused on winning races or constantly repeating races to finish faster than a set time. During races you won’t know your place until the end when your time is compared to other times for that event. So, you never have a sense of urgency to win and it’s a nice change from the constant stress of standard racing games and having to restart the race when you take a bad turn, or someone passes you at the end.

art of rally is a relaxing experience and I think it’s one that both veterans and newbies of the racing genre can enjoy. There is a lot to accomplish with the 10–15 hour story, the collectibles in the free roam areas, and the daily and weekly challenges so it will keep you coming back even though there isn’t any multiplayer. It’s ease of play and progression makes it a joy to play and feels more like a Sunday drive than it does a cookie cutter racing game that focuses on times and placement. Slip on some headphones, sit back on your couch and just go drive for a little while, you’re going to love it.

**art of rally was provided by the publisher and reviewed on an Xbox Series X**

Overall: 8.0 / 10
Gameplay: 8.0 / 10
Visuals: 8.0 / 10
Sound: 8.0 / 10


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