art of rally is rally done artfully
Easy left, easy right.
It's EGX 2019 weekend! Over the next few days we'll be bringing you quickfire impressions of some of the highlights from the show floor here at London's ExCel centre. You'll find them all here - and if there's anything out there you want to bring to our attention let us know!
I don't want to jinx it, but I think we're in something of a golden age for rally games at the moment. Codemasters is flying high with Dirt Rally and its sequel, Kylotonn has entered the fray as a serious contender with WRC 8 and, coming in from leftfield, we have this; art of rally, (the lower case is intentional, in case you think my shift key has stopped working), an isometric off-roader that takes the bones of Neo Geo classics such as Thrash Rally and adds a bit more meat.
You might be familiar with the style from 2015's Absolute Drift, Funselektor's prior work - it's a sort of pastel paperwork aesthetic that gelled brilliantly in the developer's depiction of Japanese car culture first time out, and it serves just as well in this take on classic rally of the 70s, 80s and 90s. It looks like a particularly tasteful piece of poster art for some period classic, and in motion it moves with all the grace of an arcade great.
It's a distinct take on the sport, with some of the restrictions of its development - this is effectively the work of a lone Vancouver dev, rally enthusiast Dune Casu - helping give it its own flavour. There are no co-driver instructions or even corner markers - because, by Casu's own admission, it's too much work when you consider localisation further down the line, and no corner markers is better than having sloppily implemented corner markers - so instead it's about reading the road ahead of you. The overhead view helps, as does a smart camera that subtly pans back as you approach more treacherous turns.
Handling that feels instinctive certainly helps too. This isn't Dirt Rally, even if Codemasters' more exacting simulation has had some influence as there's real substance to how these things feel, freed up by there being a bit less consequence for the player when things go wrong. You can toss them about with abandon, two-wheeling after an over-zealously grabbed apex and pendulously sliding between patches of pine trees. Having some of the most iconic cars of rally represented certainly plays its part, with silhouettes of the Audi Quattro, Metro 6R4 and Fiat 131 - though they're all 'inspired by', of course, they work brilliantly as caricatures of some of rallying's most fearsome beasts.
So art of rally is a driving game with arcade sensibilities, but also one that's serving up a fully-featured rally experience. There are multiple hand-crafted stages from places such as Finland, Japan and Spain, varying weather and time of day (and this thing looks gorgeous at night as bright beams cast multiple shadows from tall trees) all of which have a real impact on the driving experience. It's an exquisitely formed little thing, in short, that's due out next year (PC is the current platform, though of course they're aware people will be pining for a Switch version). Oh, and it's on the show floor this weekend for its first playable public outing.