Committed to evoking the golden years of Group B rallying, art of rally is the product of indie minimalism being primed through a simple and yet intrinsic design philosophy, rewarding fans of racing games with many hours of challenging gameplay.
In a recent review of Hotshot Racing, I described my personal philosophy about what makes a great racing game, describing the gameplay, soundtrack and progression as key features to an amazing experience.
Compared to the arcade fuelled eccentricity of that game, Funselektor Labs comes from the other side of the spectrum, bringing us a simplistic and crude rally game with a strongly defined vision and passion for the sport.
An uncompromising rally experience
The game is quick to jump you into the core of its gameplay, giving you a reasonable control over the way you want to configure your car and letting you do the rest. On your pursuit for the best time possible you will spend most of your time balancing careful and deliberate breaking with your throttle usage for optimal cornering and less on flattening it out in the straights.
On top of this, you won’t have many chances to go pedal to the metal on Art of Rally, and if you do, odds are you are about to hug a pinewood tree. Its merciless and yet incredibly rewarding, but that’s exactly in tone with its rallying motif.
There is a notable absence of a mini-map or a co-pilot feature to guide you through the rally stages, which the game tries to resolve by putting your camera far away from all the action.
While this works for the majority of the circuits, when tall trees and buildings start cropping into the surrounding scenery, you might find yourself flying into a guard-rail before you notice there was a sharp U-turn just around the corner.
The best of utilitarian design
True to its name, art of rally features a very determined and cohesive art-style that feels as fresh as astonishing. Every menu feels as streamlined as possible. Every piece of text feels like it has a purpose.
In spite of this utility-based approach, the game manages to be extraordinarily pretty, with the cars dashing through backgrounds taken from the four corners of the world: Finnish forests, Italian villas, Japanese touges are just some of the landscapes you will get to visit.
All of this allows the player to take full use of the Photo Mode, which makes it all the more easier to get some incredible photos and to share them with your friends.
Plenty of roads, cars and history
Going through the golden years of rallying, there will be plenty of cars to pick from, each with its own personality and origin. While some are incredibly slow cornering machines, others might feel like rocket propelled bricks.
Working in tandem with this, the game features a damage system, which might seem overzealous at first, but will eventually play in a bigger part as races get tougher and tougher.
Outside of that and the livery you get to choose for your car, you won’t have much in the way of customization or variety. There is plenty of race tracks, but the purpose and the drive of the gameplay is rallying, and as such, you will be only racing against the clock and versus the times set by the AI or by other players if you opt for online play.
The soundtrack fits in the whole motto of the game while not being particularly special. It is not going to get in the way of your precision in the racetrack but it also keeps the excitement levels up in a duet with your engine sounds.
An homage to the golden years of rallying
The career mode of the game will take you through a parallel universe in which the infamous Group B never ceased to exist. You will make your way from the early days of rallying to more modern cars, driving some of the most iconic cars in rally history.
Outside of free roam, where you can search for collectibles while you practice your skills in a non-competitive setting, this is where you will spend most of your time in the game.
There are six groups with multiple seasons to complete just in the career mode, not to mention weekly and daily events for you to compete with other players.
As such, one could take there is a lot of content in this game, with a considerable upgrade as you proceed from Group to Group, as cars get faster and more dangerous. Nevertheless, progress is less determined by a storyline and more dependent on the player raising his own stakes and increasing the difficulty from season to season.
Whats the Conclusion on Art of Rally?
If you are a rally fan, and love the period in history approached by the game, you will have a wonderful time with this game. Art of Rally is truly focused on delivering niche content for a particular audience. Only a true passionate of motorsport would be happy when they clock in an amazing time after taking fully advantage of the tarmac floor to speed through a section, or to master the tricky corners of a dirt road.
It is an uncompromising passion project about rallying and outside of a desire for the classic radio call-outs of a co-pilot or the addition of a mini-map that could free up the camera and bring you closer to the action, I can’t think of many areas where art of rally doesn’t succeed and deliver on its promises.