Wreckfest has been in Early Access almost since Early Access became a thing. It was Bugbear Entertainment’s triumphant return to the racing game genre with a game which hoped to reignite the love for games like FlatOut – of which they created, and Psygnosis’ Destruction Derby franchise.
Destruction Derby is a series I hold most fond, back when I was just a wee laddy glued to the screen of my PlayStation. I wasn’t much a fan of the racing, because I was crap at racing games back then, but the Destruction Derby Bowl, now that had me wailing from the rooftops. Hearing the announcer say “your radiators blown” and panicking when I accidentally got trapped against a wall. These are some of the things which made my childhood great.
So in comes Wreckfest, or Next Car Game as it was initially announced. This game was set to be the next big destruction derby game, a series which has been left by the wayside since the last decent FlatOut title, FlatOut: Ultimate Carnage. Games have tried and failed, hell even FlatOut tried to make a comeback and fell flat on its face almost as hard as FlatOut 3. So the heat really was on for Bugbear to come our swinging with Wreckfest.
So it comes as no real surprise that the game spent 1611 days in Early Access. Bugbear wanted to make this game the ultimate destruction derby title, and it shows. Wreckfest is everything you’d expect from a modern-day destruction derby game, from high-end visuals, in-depth driving mechanics, and the absolute carnage you’d find from a game where its sole intention is for players to smash the absolute living bells out of each other.
Admittedly, I swerved Wreckfest while it was in Early Access. To begin with, the game was nothing more than a glorified tech demo, but gradually a game started to unfold out of the wreckage. But even then, I wanted to experience the game at its optimal form, and I’m truly glad I waited because diving just a few minutes into my first game in Wreckfest I was smiling ear-to-ear. Bugbear have done it.
First off, Wreckfest, looks absolutely stunning. From the hammered-out chassis of the bangers you’re racing, to the tyres that are neatly piled, and eventually littered, on the track. The attention to detail in this game is truly exceptional. Things can start to look a little whacky once you’ve taken a couple of shunts from behind, but other than that, the game looks great. Though going from the polygon debris from Destruction Derby to this, you can see why I’m so in awe at this game.
Playing the game on PC too I found that even with a fairly mid-to-high-range PC the game handled beautifully and rarely dropped frames. Even streaming from said PC to our Steam Link the game still looked great. It’s definitely a testament to how much work has gone into Wreckfest.
As for handling, Wreckfest has the feeling of an arcade racer with the ability to become almost sim. The game’s difficulty is determined by how many assists you have on your vehicle. Hard has all assists such as ABS, Traction Control, and Stability all switched off, Normal has them all on Half, and Easy has them on Full. In games such as Forza Motorsport, these options have greater effect on the game than they do in Wreckfest, for example setting the game on Hard, I found controlling the vehicle to be slightly tougher but not as near-impossible as I find it in Forza.
Fortunately the game allows you to set a custom difficulty allowing you to select how much or how little support you want from the game. Naturally I opted for Auto transition with ABS off, and Traction and Stability control on half, this allowed for a fair bit of looseness to the car’s controls, but not enough that I spun out on every corner. Car customisation doesn’t stop there, at least in terms of tweaking performance as players can “tune” their car before each race adjusting things such a suspension and differentials. While I’m not too in the know about those things, it’s nice to see the option there for those who like to really dive-deep into their vehicle customisation.
On the actual customisation front there’s plenty for players who want the best looking banger out there, from hoods, spoilers, and skirts, there are plenty of cosmetic add-ons which can be purchased with in-game currency you earn from racing. There’s also plenty of performance options you can add to your vehicle to so that you get the upper hand on the road, though that’s not necessarily the most important part of Wreckfest.
One thing I found was that sure, points are awarded for winning races, however you earn more by hanging back, being aggressive, and causing carnage. It’s this that makes Wreckfest stand out from other racers as it doesn’t always matter if you come first, especially if you’ve managed to completely obliterate your opponent. Plus there’s nothing sweeter than the sound of bent metal rubbing against each other and the roaring of an engine.
This brings me nicely onto my next point, Wreckfest’s audio is second to none, from the rip roaring of the cars engines, to the sound of broken glass as you T-bone someone in a figure-eight race. Bugbear’s attention to detail has definitely gone into its sound engineering too. Never have I really noticed how satisfying the sound of squeaking metal sounds until I played Wreckfest. In the grand scheme of things these sounds become a part of the overall game, but they’re noticeable enough to make a lasting impression.
Another aspect worth mentioning is the game’s multiplayer. Much like many new smaller releases it suffers the plague of no one actually playing, at least at the times I attempted to play. This means you’re reliant on the game’s campaign to keep you occupied or the game’s custom races, which are really fun, but sometimes you just want to send someone into a fit of rage as you push them into the barrier, something you don’t quite get with AI racers.
Of the few races I did manage to get into, the game handled multiplayer quite well, provided ping stays low. However as this is a game about wrecking while you race, there are plenty of trolls on the game. One race began with a small number of players but gradually more joined as time went on. Then the troll joined. Jumping straight into the combine harvester, this player made it their mission to ruin the game as much as they could.
Servers set up for Wreckfest do try their best to enforce rules, but unfortunately not everyone listens. Plus, with many free-for-all, no rules servers available, you’ll often find people jumping into their fastest car possible to get ahead. It’s not the worst experience, but you do get more pleasure out of the game’s offline modes.
The final good thing about Wreckfest is its Steam Workshop integration and the ability to add mods to the game. This allows for some really interesting customisation options created by the community such as a Mustang skin pack, or other more interesting additions to the game. Provided more players come to the game, I can see Wreckfest becoming a really fantastic long-running video game.
Does it scratch that itch from my childhood? Hell yes it does.