Art of Rally: A Love Letter To Racing
Updated: Sep 15
"If everything seems under control, you're not going fast enough." - Mario Andretti
There aren't too many indie games that come along showcasing such personality in such a basic package. Art of Rally doesn't reinvent the arcade racing genre, but it certainly perfects it in just the right way. Art of Rally is a love letter to rally racing and its history.
Minimal Art, Maximum Racing, All Style
Low-polygon art styles are nothing new in my opinion, they're the epitome of indie game development. When you strip down a game to basic polygons, you're not hiding behind hi-res graphics, you're allowing your game to speak for itself. It's a bold choice in today's gaming landscape to choose simplicity over flash, pizazz, and glowing RGB lighting. Art of Rally not only showcases a love of rally racing but a love of artistic minimalism. Backed by an 80s style synth-wave soundtrack, the visual aesthetic is enhanced by the music as you careen through each course.
The 80s synth wave soundtrack is the perfect companion to the game's aesthetic.
Simplicity is Artistic
The locations are beautifully simple with the focus being on the landscape and the car. You can race across Finland, Sardinia, Japan, Norway, Germany, and Kenya. Peg people crowd the starting line and are scattered throughout the course, through the towns, and anxiously wait for you to cross the finish line. Each area is filled with stereotypical décor like giraffes in Kenya and tanks in Germany (more on that later). This isn't a game filled with branding and licensed products- instead, the game cleverly uses generic wording like "Righto" instead of Marlboro, or who could forget everyone's favorite giant of industry "OIL" and "PETROL".
The cars are iconic, albeit generic, with no licensed manufacturers. Don't let that discourage you though, each polygon model is easily recognizable to their famous counterparts. Audi, BMW, Fiat, Ford, Datsun, Subaru, Peugeot, etc. The list goes on and on with each group of cars unlocking after the completion of the previous. The game is split into 6 different class groups each containing a myriad of cars available at your disposal. Each group has a few extra cars available to unlock upon completing certain rallies and there are even different liveries available for each car if you forego the limited restarts you're given within each rally event.
The random car names are what add to the charm of the game. Sure, the 97 Subaru Impreza WRC is iconic, but The Fujin (its generic counterpart within the game) is LEGENDARY!
Here's a full list of the cars and their real-world counterparts.
The game doesn't hide behind name brands to do the heavy lifting for its marketing or box appeal. The flat design style and low poly graphics mean the racing physics has to shine otherwise, it's just a fun art project with clever names for the cars like Das Superbaus. It easily delivers on all fronts. You might look at the game with low expectations but it easily over-delivers with its vast library of cars and open-world maps.
Rallyin' The Years
The most beautiful thing about Art of Rally is the journey the career takes you through the rich history of rally racing. Starting off in Group 2 in the 1960s with the birth of rally racing in the hills of Japan, the developers tell a stylized story of the origins of rally racing. Locales like Germany have tanks littered across the map as a reminder of the tumultuous time in Germany's history with Berlin, grounding the game in a sense of reality. It may not be a fully accurate historic telling of rally racing, but moreover, the story your once-legendary rally racer grandfather might tell you as he reminisces about his glory days. Either way, it's a story that I was intrigued to follow and interested in learning how this hobby progressed into a sport.
So what if it's not the most accurate retelling of rally history, I'm not doing a report on it or anything- I'm enjoying the game!
The career is straightforward and laid back. You won't be chasing ghost cars or racing the AI wheel-to-wheel; instead, you'll race from start to finish not knowing what place you're in until you cross the finish line. This can be quite nerve-racking, especially if you make a mistake or heaven forbid, stray too far off-course and incur an automatic track reset along with a +5 second penalty. The physics can be brutal making each mistake all the more detrimental if you crash into a hedge stone or spin out in the rain. You can try and recover and continue the race or you can take the coward's way out and use one of your limited race restarts to try the course again. If you finish the rally with a restart left, you're rewarded with an additional livery for one of the cars. The interesting thing is, if you choose to abandon the series, you won't get the same set of courses the next time you attempt the rally race. The game's mechanics allow for a random location and course for each rally series, each time you play the career- meaning no two players will have the same experience when playing the game.
The simplistic art style carries through to the gameplay, the HUD, and every aspect of the game.
The physics are most impressive within the game. The different car types all play a role in how the car handles, whether it's an AWD or RWD and a myriad of other acronyms to make you sound like a real racer. But it's not just the cars- each track can be played at different times of the day and in different weather adding a whole new level of difficulty to the game. The course textures: tarmac, gravel, dirt, snow, all react differently. All of this might seem standard in the landscape of racing games today but for an indie game, it's ambitious and executed artistically.
The German names crack me up but the French Le 504 and Italian Il Gorilla are also pretty good.
Art of Rally delivers on every aspect gamers expect from a AAA title racing game. A simple career mode would be one thing, but the devs threw in an open-world free roam mode for each of the locations. You can set up your own rally tournaments, perfect each course through time trials, customize the time of day and weather, and even unlock some special vehicles like Das Speedvan.
Tuning Your Car...err, Controls
Art of Rally is a game that rewards you for tinkering with the controls. I'll be honest, I found it difficult to stay on course when I first jumped into the game and I'm no rookie to racing. Slipping and sliding around each turn with touchy brakes and non-responsive steering was not fun. After some tweaking, I was able to hone in the car for my style of driving securing a top 1% spot on the global leaderboard (at least for now). It felt like I was tuning my car as I was going, which was quite satisfying once I finally felt comfortable with the controls. With tons of advanced settings and multiple difficulties, you can easily turn this laidback arcade racer into a punishing sim racing experience. We might not all be Ken Block or Travis Pastrana though, so I'll leave my controls below for anyone struggling to get around the course.
Stability Assist - 100%
Counter-Steer Factor - 100% (may need to increase or decrease depending on your drifting ability)
Anti-lock Braking - 100%
Transmission - Automatic
Steering Sensitivity - 70-80% (depending on the car/group)
Brake Sensitivity - 40%
Camera (This is just my personal preference)
Camera View 1
FOV - 40
Camera Rotation - 50%
Camera Shake - 50%
With A Rebel Yell- MORE, MORE, MORE!
All of this combined results in a stylistic arcade/sim racer oozing with charm from its minimalistic approach to design and gameplay. I can only hope that the developers will create other "art of...." racing games. I would love to see the same thing catered toward Formula 1 fans- "formula of racing" OR maybe even a stock car racing with its unique history stemming from bootlegging alcohol. More of this, please!