Racing fans have a lot to choose from when it comes to Xbox Game Pass. Burnout Paradise, various Need for Speeds, F1, DIRT, and more. But racing isn’t usually my cup of tea. Sure, I played a lot of them growing up, both at home and in the arcades, and I still enjoy a good arcade racer from time to time, but they’re never my “go to genre” when I’m looking for something new to play.
While I was browsing the Game Pass offerings, Art of Rally stood out to me in numerous ways. For starters, the zoomed-out perspective seemed unique and the low-poly aesthetic always catches my eye regardless of genre. I was looking for something to play in short bursts to go along with NHL 94 Rewind and decided to give this one a shot.
I hated it. I couldn’t wrap my head around the controls, with my car flying off the track more often than not, and the tracks I chose always seemed to have framerate issues on my regular ol’ Xbox One. After half an hour I closed the game and moved on to something else, but two days ago I decided to give it another shot because I’m a scumbag who loves collecting easy achievements on Xbox. So here we are.
Now I love it. I’ve found a few cars that control to my liking, the game is absolutely beautiful, the soundtrack is full of electro bangers, and, like I mentioned, there are plenty of easy achievements to unlock. Most of them are just for completing career mode tracks, finishing (not winning) races under certain weather conditions or times of day, totaling your vehicle, and finding all of the collectibles in free roam mode. This is where I’ve spent a lot of time recently.
Free roam lets you explore each zone while collecting RALLY letters, cassette tapes, and finding landmarks for photo opportunities. Each free roam zone also has a hidden vehicle to add to your collection. It’s a super chill mode with no timers or fail states and also serves as the best way to get used to Art of Rally’s control scheme.
This is an arcade-adjacent racer, given that there are no sim-style customization options (just livery skins), but I learned pretty quickly that it’s more important to take things slow and focus on staying on the road more than actually “racing.” I also use the term “racing” lightly since you’re never racing against other vehicles – just predetermined top times. You can adjust difficulty settings to make the times incredibly difficult to beat and increase the amount of damage your vehicles take when colliding with objects in the terrain, but it’s always just you on the tracks.
Racing itself comes in three flavors, but they’re all the same. Custom Rally lets you choose a track, the time of day or current weather condition, the number of races, and you’re free to choose from any vehicle you’ve unlocked thus far (there are a lot to choose from the get-go). There’s no reward for “winning” but this mode is helpful for unlocking certain achievements. Career has predetermined races and a limited vehicle selection, but it’s the same tracks you can choose yourself in Custom Rally. Here, though, is where you’ll unlock new vehicle skins by beating the top times. Simply race from point A to B and see where you place on the in-game leaderboard. If you slide off the track too far, you’ll be penalized 5 extra seconds (each time), but there’s a forgiving easy mode that should get you to the end with little trouble if you’re after a more casual, relaxed experience.
The third flavor of racing is the “online” feature, but (again) you don’t actually race against other players. You just choose from a daily event that’s a single race with a leaderboard, and a weekly event that’s usually four races with the same end-goal. There aren’t any rewards for this so I’m not sure what the point is.
Not being a big racing guy, I can confidently say I’ve had (and continue to have) a fun time with Art of Rally. It has a great look, easy achievements, and gave me exactly what I was looking for. The controls took some getting used to, more so than any traditional racing game, but my only other gripe is the lack of content outside of free roam and career. And that’s a very small gripe. Art of Rally is a good time.