Title: Art of Rally | Developer: Funselektor Labs | Publisher: Funselektor Labs | Initial Release: 23rd September 2020
Some of the best creations come from people with a real passion for their work and, if one thing is clear, it is that founder of Funselektor Labs, Dune Casu, has a deep love of driving sideways. The creator of Absolute Drift, 2015's ode to sliding with a Japanese aesthetic, is back with the studio's follow-up game, titled Art of Rally.
An evolution of the Absolute Drift driving physics, Art of Rally is a more involving rally racer that, as the name suggests, blends the skills of rally driving with a very distinct art direction. The highly-stylised visuals remain but the minimalist environments of its predecessor have developed into richer and more beautiful locations that set the scene for a tour of the "Golden Age of Rallying", when more open regulations and the need to create homologation specials made the cars and teams much more memorable.
an indulgent nostalgia trip for any fan of the sport
The several varied locales with different road surfaces, weather conditions and times of day are perfect backdrops to take the simplified, yet instantly recognisable cars out for a spin. Covering everything from 60's classics like the Mini Cooper S, the insane Group B cars of the 80's, and Colin McRae's championship winning Subaru Impreza 555, this is an indulgent nostalgia trip for any fan of the sport. All the more exciting then, that Art of Rally features photo mode support right from the start, so let's take a look at what is in store for the virtual motoring photographer.
Key Photo Mode Features:
Unlimited range of camera movement
Distinct stylised visuals
Tucked away in the pause menu is a well-featured set of camera tools that benefit from limitless movement along easy to handle horizontal and vertical axes, as well as full 360° pan, tilt and roll. The default keyboard controls may be somewhat unwieldy, at least they are for me, but full controller support makes both playing the game and using the photo mode an altogether more enjoyable and intuitive experience.
One quirk of design here, is that you are required to switch between separate modes and UI overlays for camera movement and effects. With each one being inoperable from the other, this does create a slightly uncomfortable need to switch back and forth while working on a shot, something that most other photo modes manage to avoid. It may require a rethink of one or two of the controller button bindings to overcome this minor problem, but I think it would be a worthwhile improvement to allow for more fluid use of the tools.
hurtle past amusingly bold, block-like spectators and benignly familiar advertisement boards
The available effects don't disappoint though, and are certainly worth investigating for anyone looking to create some rally art. With effective depth of field control via variable aperture and focus settings, auto focus to keep you locked onto the car and several basic processing options to tune the look of your shot, there is no shortage of settings to play with. In particular the Exposure, Contrast, Saturation and Colour Temperature adjustments, each with straightforward 0-100% scales, all combine well to give images some bright and vivid pop, or a soft and muted appearance that remains in keeping with the feel of the game.
As well as the above, other camera options bring along some added imperfections, such as vignette darkening, increased bloom on bright highlights, and even a little dirt on the camera lens, that go some way to adding a sense of authenticity to shots from an otherwise visually-stylised game. It is the game's inherent style that remains dominant here though, and while the available effects offer useful adjustments, they serve more to compliment the already beautiful art style rather than trying to deviate much from it. A little more daring variation would perhaps open up some interesting creative interpretations from virtual photographers.
Maybe some of the most important features in the visual arsenal of Art of Rally, are ones that don't actually appear in the photo mode at all. As will be familiar to regular PC gamers, the graphics options allow you to define the quality of various elements as well as the extent of certain lighting effects. Even if these are scaled down by the game to enable smoother gameplay, you can manually crank them up or boost the resolution before entering the photo mode to get more detailed shots, at the cost of frame rate. More useful still, is the full replay mode that is made available at the end of each stage. While you can enter the camera mode at any time during a race, using the replay instead, you can not only enter the same photo mode while free from the demands of driving, but you are also able to fast-forward and rewind the car's movement on track from within the photo mode itself. This makes a huge difference to timing shots and essentially means that there is no excuse for missing the moment, whether sliding a classic 911 or braking hard in the dark...
With no console release confirmed just yet, Art of Rally is due to release on 23rd September on Steam. When it does, the opportunity to capture some of rallying's most iconic cars and liveries in almost caricature-style as they hurtle past amusingly bold, block-like spectators and benignly familiar advertisement boards, is surely one not to be missed.
Thanks for reading and let me know whether you intend to be getting track side on Twitter or in the comments.
[ Art of Rally previewed on PC during the closed beta period; release features may be subject to change ]
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