A Playground For The Deplorable
A legion of lawnmowers being chased around a figure eight by a lumbering combine harvester. A brutal demolition derby with motorized sofas. Driving a school bus in an overlapping circuit race trying to crush a horde of three-wheelers. These are just a few of the ludicrous scenarios I was thrown headfirst into during my time with Wreckfest, the destructive racing game from Bugbear Entertainment that has just recently crashed onto consoles. While striving for copious amounts of realistic vehicular destruction, Wreckfest never takes itself too seriously. This is what makes it the most enjoyable track racer I’ve played this generation, though it’s more adventurous modes are discernibly weaker.
These modes are a great deal of fun in concept, though once you’ve played them once or twice you’ve just about had your fill.
There are two main event types which the rest of the modes are centred on. One is the classic circuit race and the other is something rarer and more in keeping with the game’s calamitous theme: demolition derbies. The derby modes place you in a wide-open arena and pit you against some twenty other vehicles in a deathmatch or a last man standing style ramming battle.
These modes are a great deal of fun in concept, though once you’ve played them once or twice you’ve just about had your fill. There are different arenas to fight in, but they do little to change up the experience, which at its core always boils down to a struggle to try and land the final blow on a weak vehicle before anyone else does.
What is surprising is that the more traditional circuit racing modes are where Wreckfest’s destruction physics really come into their own. Each race starts off the same, on the grid waiting for the lights to turn green. If you’re not quick to get ahead of the pack, however, these races can quickly turn into an abrasive dogpile as cars attempt to use each other as a crude braking system in the corners.
…Wreckfest boasts an impressive level of realism in its destruction of vehicles.
This sort of carnage is what makes Wreckfest stand out amongst its peers. Everyone from enemy AI in the single-player heats to abundantly aggressive opponents in multiplayer events will try to ram you off the road or spin you out. The game finds its forte in that carnage of sabotaging other players that other games in the genre usually frown upon. It even goes so far as to present tracks in a ‘figure eight’ style with uneven terrain that has racers unintentionally T-boning each other as they cross the midpoint.
Bugbear has focused most of its energy in those specific moments of mayhem, as Wreckfest boasts an impressive level of realism in its destruction of vehicles. Cars are bashed and bent out of shape to the point of looking like they’ve just rolled out of a scrapyard crusher. This damage is not only cosmetic – it affects performance as well. Everything from the engine to the gearbox can have its efficiency blunted, and wheels can come flying off leaving your racer limping to the finish line.
It is meticulous in its approach to destruction, but you won’t be worried about scratching the paint on your new ride. None of the vehicles in Wreckfest are souped-up sports cars or flashy hypercars. Everything available to you is a wreck (as the title implies), straight out of the scrapyard and on its last legs, and the sound design brilliantly reflects this. Each car’s engine sounds exactly how you would expect; a rattling little motor that seems like it could conk out at any given moment.
Get too frivolous with your machine over some bumpy terrain and you’ll do more rolls than Daniel Craig in Casino Royale.
The vehicles handle with great ease to match their broken down aesthetic. The worn-out tires don’t grip to surfaces easily, so they are easily nursed to a joyful powerslide around long winding corners. Resultantly, this also means they’re easy to flip. Get too frivolous with your machine over some bumpy terrain and you’ll do more rolls than Daniel Craig in Casino Royale.
I have a lot of respect for Bugbear for trying something unique in a sub-genre where most games offer the same cookie-cutter experience. Wreckfest is a game that draws outside the lines of the conventional track racer, employing its demolition physics into every facet it can, and to great effect. As a circuit racer, it excels in giving driving fans a place to race without having to worry about the rules of the track. As a demolition derby, it fails to rise above its potential as a mildly entertaining wreck smasher. But overall it’s a perfect time-sink for anyone looking to unleash their road rage.
Yes, if you:
- Are a fan of realistic destruction physics
- Want a break from the regular breed of racing game
- Enjoy ramming other drivers off the road and generally being a nuisance
No, if you:
- Prefer clean, realistic racing
- Only want to drive fast and in style
Wreckfest released on June 14th, 2018 on PC and August 27th, 2019 on PS4 (reviewed) and Xbox One at an MSRP of $39.99.