Racing rally in the early years of the sport, in the late 1960s, was incredibly dangerous. In particular, the Group B vehicles, which were approved for rally races between 1982 and 1986, left a bitter aftertaste. Well-trained rally drivers with bolides with up to 600 hp sped along the routes. The audience was not yet housed behind secured barriers, creating dangerous situations that were sometimes fatal.
For example, three people died during a race in March 1986 after a racing driver had to avoid a group of spectators on the track and raced into a crowd.
That heralded the end of the vehicle class popular among rally fans. But what if group B had never been abolished? This is exactly where Art of Rally from developer Funselektor Labs Inc. comes in. The PC game has been available for download from Steam, Epic Games Store and GOG since the end of September and, despite the exciting premise, unfortunately turns out to be a disappointment.
If it says rally, it doesn't necessarily mean rally
Source: PC Games
The first irritations start with the start of the game. In addition to the language and nationality, we also have to specify a blood type. What we need this for has not been revealed to us. However, that's not the only point where we are left with question marks. We get a brief explanation of the basic story through a meditating Buddha stone figure (no joke). While, as just mentioned, the Group B vehicles were banned in reality because they were far too dangerous, in Art of Rally we are in a parallel universe in which the vehicles have been continuously developed. This allowed vehicles in Group S that were never used in reality. The stone figure tells us that our goal is to become rally champions. The Buddha disappears after the explanation, leaving us confused. What does a Buddha figure have to do with rally racing? The developers could have saved themselves this extremely strange representation of the story as well as the indication of the blood group.
After the brief introduction, we first land on a map, where we familiarize ourselves with the controls. While we can control our vehicles with the keyboard, in our opinion it is advisable to use a gamepad or ideally a steering wheel instead. With the keyboard, we found the maneuvering of our companions relatively imprecise. Furthermore, we should be a little sensitive when steering and accelerating, as the vehicles tend to pirouettes quickly. We control the PS monsters from a bird's eye view, there is no cockpit view.
Anyone expecting realistic gameplay à la Dirt Rally 2.0 will be disappointed. Art of Rally is an arcade racing game and has less to do with rally than you would think. For example, we do not receive any instructions as to when and where to turn. The routes are given and marked out, so we don't need the co-driver. A map is not shown to us in the HUD, we only see a bar on the left side that shows us the progress of the race.
Source: PC Games
As far as the graphic style is concerned, the arcade racer is well designed. While other games want to score with realistic-looking environments and tracks, Art of Rally is artistic and colorful. The different weather conditions are particularly nice to look at. When the sun falls on the track and blinds us, you almost feel the warm, orange glow on your skin. However, the game has no advantages in the area of licenses: Art of Rally has no licensed vehicles and tracks. That doesn't harm the fun of the game, but it's a shame for die-hard rally fans. But the arcade racer is convincing in terms of sound. In addition to the engine noises from our PS monsters, we hear pleasant electro-pop music.
Career mode very monotonous
Source: PC Games
A total of five different game modes await us. In career mode, we fight our way through the different vehicle classes year after year. We start 1967 with Group 2 vehicles. A season always consists of at least one rally, which includes between three and five stages. In order to unlock the next vehicle class, we simply have to complete all seasons of the respective class. It is not necessary for us to finish well, which is still not particularly difficult in Art of Rally. Because it is almost impossible to deliver an extremely bad performance and take the last place. While we need 13 minutes for a rally with a lot of driving errors at the most difficult level and thus still occupy a podium place, the last placed AI opponent needs 43 (!) Minutes.
Our vehicle suffers damage if we drive into trees, stones, etc. or if we roll over. The damage also affects our driving behavior. However, we cannot tell from our body how long our vehicle will last. But if black smoke or even flames rise from the engine compartment, you should drive a little more carefully. In the event of a total loss, we cannot finish the race and, in the worst case, we have to repeat the entire season. But that almost never happens because we have a certain number of attempts to master the routes.
Source: PC Games
A nice detail are the crowds that line the edges of the routes and sometimes stand in the way. In keeping with the relaxed nature of the racing game, we don't have to worry about accidentally causing a massacre: If we get too close, the NPCs jump out of the way. We are very happy that the developers did not orientate themselves completely to reality!
Unfortunately, driving does not provide long-term motivating, and the career mode is very monotonous. Although we are racing along in the Norwegian snow, on the hot ground of Sardinia and on German country roads (with tanks on the side of the road, of course), the game does not offer that much variety. We can activate new vehicles and paintwork, but unfortunately the technology of our racing rolls cannot be modified.
Freedom can be extremely boring
Source: PC Games
In addition to the career mode, Art of Rally offers time trials, Online events, custom rallies and free travel. Only in the time trials we can freely choose one of the numerous routes, in the custom rallies we can only select the country in which we want to drive.
The free ride enables almost limitless driving on small open maps. But this mode is not particularly varied either. At first we are only allowed to jet around in Finland, to unlock more cards we have to collect certain items. Unfortunately, the map can only be called up via the menu, where the collectibles are, is not shown to us. The free mode is ideal for lingering and taking in the pretty graphics. It is doubtful whether that will convince all racing game fans.
What is left of the arcade racer? In any case, not too much rally fun. The driving may be entertaining for an hour, but then it quickly becomes monotonous. A little more variety would have been good for the game. In return, the great look stands out positively and invites you to relax in the free mode.
Art of Rally has many vehicles, unfortunately there are no licensed PS monsters among them. (Source: PC Games)
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