One of my favorite racing games of all time is Destruction Derby on the original PlayStation, released all the way back in 1995, a game that made its debut shortly after the console itself launched. I spent hundreds of hours smashing and racing every car I could get my hands on and the fun felt never ending. Hell, it was one of the main reasons I purchased the overpriced and largely forgettable PlayStation Classic. Various titles would fill the gap many years later, looking to replicate the car bashing racing with their own unique and twisted flair. One such franchise, Flatout, was another series I was eager to keep playing. Bugbear Entertainment, the developer behind Flatout, is back with Wreckfest, a return to the glory days of Destruction Derby while also feeling like a successor to Flatout itself. While the title can certainly offer a trip down memory lane, its technical problems and last gen visuals hold it back from standing alongside the greats.
Offering a wide range of vehicular Motorsport activities, it’s hard to get bored when you can be racing a motorized couch one moment, or taking part in a destruction derby on the back of a lawnmower the next. The game features several events alongside its standard racing modes that provide that much needed distraction when your need for speed has been more than satiated. Each of the five championship careers contain their own wealth of activities within that need to be completed before you’ll move on to bigger and bashier things. These involve your standard destruction derby gatherings, races with your more traditional outlets, or many of the novelty vehicles that border on the bizarre, like a massive combine harvester or driving a small three wheel vehicle alongside a few dozen large imposing buses. You’ll level up, earn new upgrades and credits, and cash out on a new ride to repeat the loop all over again. The upgrade systems are pretty bare, but you do have the ability to tweak the performance of your car to satisfy the gearheads wanting to get that little extra out of their ride.
As you start up Wreckfest, you’ll have your career mode featuring the five championships, a custom event editor to tailor make fun and engaging challenges, as well as your stock multiplayer offering that lets you cut loose in a variety of online events. Career mode is very meaty and will keep you largely busy for days, if not weeks, whereas most players I think are going to flock to strut their stuff alongside other players, showing off their cars and looking to crack some skulls, and by skulls I mean the integrity of your racing machine. I’ve dabbled into the online modes, and unfortunately, I could never find enough players to have a large scale destruction derby match, usually finding five or six players at most. The career mode can be a bit confusing knowing how to unlock certain events, and even now, I’m still puzzled as to why some events have yet to unlock.
Every activity is about placing first or hoping the metal structure of your vehicle holds out long enough to pull off that last second finish, or you’ve outlasted the dozens of opponents looking to t-bone or flip your car over again and again. Every time you collide into your next rival, pieces will fly off your car, radiator’s will be crushed, engines demolished. At the end of most races, I’m surprised my metal guardian can even move, let alone get me to the top of the leader-boards. We’ve had destruction derby games before, offering all sorts of car crushing systems, but seeing all the red flags pop up of what’s been damaged or destroyed inside my car really added to a sense of enjoyment I never assumed I’d see here. Knowing what’s broken on my car during a crucial hit is strangely fascinating and made the races more intense knowing my car was essentially limping to the finish line.
While pieces will fall off the victims of a good solid crunch, so will chunks of fences and stacks of tires that litter the racing landscape. Smashing through obstacles will keep their debris on the ground for the entire race, leaving you with a sense of destructive progression during an event. It’s a nice visual touch that shouldn’t be understated as some minor thing, it really adds to the atmosphere the game nails, despite not being the prettiest of modern racers. While Wreckfest isn’t a bad looking game, it certainly has that HD remaster look about it. Environments close up look alright, but look a bit further out and the cracks start to show. While never a huge aspect of racing games, the crowd’s are painful to see here with lifeless husks staring at the camera with their dead eyes, often consisting solely of 2D sprites that rotate to face the camera. Combine that with most of them being copy and pasted right next to their counterparts, and you have the makings of a terrifying horror game. Now, all that said, the cars themselves are the star of the show and while they are not high-end photo realistic models ala Forza Horizon, they do have tremendous detail when it comes to taking abuse. Cars show off very convincing damage states and sell their pain rather well. Most games often come off with having that one huge selling point and this is easily it for Wreckfest.
As you race alongside your opponents, both AI or otherwise, you’ll want to smash into them, run them off the road, or into the opposition when you’re crossing an intersecting road filled a flurry of the cars crisscrossing around you. There is a lot of strategy when it comes to damage based racers like pinning the back of the car to spin them out, or sliding into the side of them and pushing them into an oncoming concrete block. This is one aspect of Wreckfest that Bugbear gets so right and pulling off a satisfying crunch into a rival’s car or forcing them into crashing their ride is wildly satisfying, more so than any thrill I’ve felt through the likes of Need for Speed or the Forza Horizon series.
Despite the difficulty setting you choose, the AI can be wildly aggressive or strangely passive the next. I’ve had races where I’ve won by a country mile, and others where It seems that I can’t even come close to finishing in the top three, let alone trying to achieve any of the bonus objectives during a race. It’s easy enough to have a car pin you to the side to spin you out or a single crash to dump you to the rear of the pack. While it’s not an impossible feat to catch back up if still early in the race, there is a wild inconsistency to the AI here that can make several races seems drastically unfair. Trying to smash buses as a small tiny car feels impossible, and since they are already smashing into one another, it can be a nightmare even trying to compete.
Before the game launched, I had the game crash nearly a dozen times, and not in the way the game wants from you. The framerate itself is also fairly choppy, and the load times were incredibly long as well. Thankfully, after a day one patch, the crashes have gone away, and while we saw a change to the menu systems in game, for the better, I still have weird technical glitches like in the picture below where my racer seems to have the venom symbiote, and load times are still a huge problem as they are far too long for a racing game, let alone one with less than impressive visuals. Wreckfest has been a Early Access PC title for a while now and has garnered a vast collection of mods that have really made the game very popular on PC, having a community of fans that just want to add even more fun and polish to the game. Unfortunately, these mods don’t make their way to the Xbox One version, despite games like Fallout and Skyrim welcoming the mod community with open arms. If these mods do make their way to the platform, I’ll gladly jump back in and give Wreckfest another shot.
Featuring a metal rock soundtrack that feels like something I’ve heard in racing games over a decade ago, Wreckfest can often be enjoyable and features some bone-crunching hits alongside a wealth of fun and engaging events. The game itself is decent looking, and feels like a budget game in many respects, but fails to live up to the legacy of destruction racers before it. Again, there is a decent amount of enjoyment to have here, largely in part to the destruction derby modes and the ways in which your car is destroyed and picked apart each time you collide with a fellow racer. But overall, the game is average at best in nearly every way and does very little to stand out in the pack.
A review code of Wreckfest was provided for the purpose of this review.
All screenshots were taken on an Xbox One X.