If, like me, you’re old enough to remember having a massive amount of fun playing Destruction Derby on the original PlayStation, you’re going to love Wreckfest.
Released on PC last year and now available on PS4 and Xbox One, Wreckfest is a destruction derby-themed racer by FlatOut developer Bugbear. And put the recent FlatOut games which have been of questionable quality out of your mind. Bugbear developed the great ones such as FlatOut 2 and Ultimate Carnage. That should give you an indication as to what to expect from Wreckfest.
Wreckfest isn’t a sim. You’re not going to have one big crash and find out that you can no longer continue because your front wheels have come off. But it’s also not an all-out arcade racer. There’s no boost button or mounted weapons or anything like that. It strikes a great balance between feeling fairly realistic but also just being fun. You feel like you can have a good race, but also engage in plenty of tussles with your competitors. And some events are based entirely around causing vehicular destruction.
In Wreckfest‘s single player campaign you’ll make your way through five championships. Each one has a variety of events to complete, and you’ll need to complete a good chunk of them to earn the points required to proceed. Each event also has at least one bonus objective for you to complete, although you’re not required to do so. They’re just there to add yet more challenge to the game for completionists. And there’s nothing wrong with that.
Events come in multiple varieties. Some are single races where coming first is your main priority. Often they are presented in a tournament format with three heats. Many events consist of multiple races, essentially championships within a championship. And every so often you’ll come across a destruction derby event, in which your goal is to usually wreck a specific number of your competitors’ vehicles.
Occasionally Wreckfest does like to have a little fun with its own format, though. While you’ll be using your own vehicles for most events, which you’ll have won or purchased and then lovingly upgraded and customised, sometimes you’re placed behind the wheel of something unexpected or absurd. Destruction derby events are a bit different when you’re behind the wheel of a Lawnmower or a Combine Harvester, for example, while racing a couch with wheels is more tricky than you’d expect.
But honestly, I prefer Wreckfest when it’s not trying to be gimmicky. As wacky as it is racing a monstrosity that is two vehicles stacked on top of each other, or causing havoc with a motorhome, taking part in events with standard vehicles that you’ve tuned to your liking is more mechanically sound and simply more fun. At its core, Wreckfest is a solid racing game, and its more out-there events are somewhat of a distraction from that.
Winning events and completing challenges in Wreckfest relies on your skill as a driver, and also your ability to tune your vehicles to meet their purpose. For events in which you just need to come first, for example, there’s a real benefit to stripping off all that heavy armour. But you’ll need to avoid getting battered by the competition. On the other hand, you might want to put as much armour on your vehicle as you can for destruction derby events, essentially turning your vehicle into a wrecking ball. It’s all a balancing act between speed and strength.
With all the events and optional objectives to complete in Wreckfest‘s campaign, you could easily spend a good ten or twenty hours having fun driving like a maniac. To unlock all of the vehicles and upgrades that the game has to offer though, players might also want to indulge in custom and online events. Destruction derby and race events can be created with ease, utilising Wreckfest‘s 20-odd vehicles and huge number of tracks spread over more than 20 locations. And bots can even be added into online events to fill in the gaps when the servers aren’t too busy.
Only a couple of issues detract from the fun that Wreckfest provides. For a game that’s all about earning experience and money to unlock and purchase new vehicles and upgrades, it’s irritating that you can’t select “restart” at the end of an event and claim your rewards. If you want your reward for finishing second in a race, for example, but also want to have another go so you can claim first place, you have to agree to continue, sit through a loading screen that takes you back to a menu, select to take part in the event again, then sit through yet another load screen. Hitting the restart option pretty much throws you back into the event instantly, but you don’t get the experience and money you’ve just earned.
Linking back into the previous issue, Wreckfest‘s loading times are a bit on the long side as well. It’s not too much of an issue when taking part in meatier events, but having to sit through lengthy load screens between short races can be a bit of a bore.
Such issues really shouldn’t put you off Wreckfest on console, though. Games like this just don’t come around often enough these days. It’s a racer that delicately straddles the line between realism and absurdity, with authentic but enjoyable physics and a whole lot of content. Its cars aren’t licensed, but that allows them to be crumpled, crushed and systematically broken apart before your very eyes. It’s fun playing games like Forza Motorsport and Horizon, but Wreckfest offers something that they just can’t: carnage. And that’s enough to make it a must-have.
Wreckfest is available on PS4, Xbox One and PC. We reviewed the Xbox One version.
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