Want to head off a ramp while your bumper is hanging by a thread while oncoming traffic is trying to catch up to you around the loop and smash into at the same time? Wreckfest is the game for you. Bugbear Entertainment has made a chaotic racer/demolition derby game that stands above many other games by doing just about everything right.
If there are hundreds of people in the Great Plains and deserts of America with nothing to do other than drive their various vehicles around in a blender of metal and death, why not make a massive event of smashing things and slingshot races? There is no narrative at all in this game other than people being in wide open spaces fighting for first place.
The first thing to address here like any racing game is how the second to second driving feels and responds. Wreckfest is awesome. All the vehicles, from the tiny lawnmower to school buses, feel unique and great to drive around. Yes, some of the oddballs like the harvesters feel odd and clunky, but it is all in good fun and still registers well with the players inputs. All the cars and things have various top speeds, durability, accelerations and weights. Even between different classes of cars, there are differences in these attributes that make each car feel unique and players can find what feels best for them. The turning is always tight, even on muddy roads and rough grass, the driving is appropriately calibrated and acts very naturally to how one would expect on these various terrains. The driving can also be as complicated or simple as a player wants, with a load of customization on how the car reacts to controller inputs, drifting, and manual or automatic drive, there is a lot to control if you want. All this makes picking up the controller feel wonderfully natural and perfect as you steer your car into oncoming cars and ramming people into walls.
Going hand in hand with the driving mechanic are the tracks. They may not stretch all over the world or hit the most famous tracks, but honestly, who really cares that much? The tracks are all very fun, have unique twists and turns or overlaps that allow for a lot of variety and freshness in the tracks. The tracks range from muddy hillsides and forests to classic oval tracks with sleek pavement. The different terrains all react appropriately with the cars and never feels too slippery or grips oddly as cars rush through turns and straights. The tracks are all greatly designed, especially the destruction races, with various types of intersections or backtracking making for a lot of mayhem as you try to get first while not smashing into oncoming racers. The actual destruction derby tracks are mostly just big squares or rectangles. It would have been nice to have a little more shape variety or obstacles in the arenas, but they function just fine.
The next thing to address is the customization itself. There is about as much as most other high end car games like Gran Turismo and Forza, but the customization is more obviously given to the player and slightly simplified so that newcomers and veteran racers can enjoy making a car fit their personal driving style quickly. Also, having a pretty large number of customizations aesthetically like paint jobs, stickers and colors readily available to make any vehicle more personal is an obvious and very welcomed choice. Also, in this world of loot boxes, it is a nice change of pace that at the end of most activities, players get some part of a car. All other parts and vehicles can be bought in a store with in game currency (which is given fairly generously, so buying a car and loading it up with a bunch of upgrades only takes a day or two of playing instead of dozens of hours).
Wreckfest has three main modes. There is a main campaign which takes players on a series of increasingly difficult races and challenges with a variety of vehicles, win conditions and extra challenges to earn bonuses. Career mode may not be as long or excessively rigorous as some other games, but it for sure will keep players busy and gets very (within reason) difficult. I was pleasantly surprised by the various different uses of vehicles and pitting them against each other in many entertaining situations.
Next is basically a free-play mode, where players can pick just about any track, run a number of different types of races or demolition activities with various adjustments and vehicles. It is fairly standard, but nice to have. Lastly, there is online multiplayer, which is consistently smooth and quiet fast to find matches. A player can hop into just about any any mode they want and find players quickly to beat and destroy.
Beautiful. Gritty. Realistic but never boring. Wreckfest takes the risk of making the game look very real and react to gameplay realistically while the actual gameplay feels a little more arcade-ish. It totally pays off. Watching cars twist and crunch into gnarly, misshapen metal beasts while still having some semblance of reality is difficult to balance, but Bugbear Entertainment keeps all its visuals looking great. The lighting, vehicles, roads, tracks in the dirt and destructible environments feel like a giant love letter to those who love to see things get demolished.
Different engines, various terrains and speeds of crashes allow for a wide variety of sounds. Again, Wreckfest has done its homework and everything sounds crisp, from the revving at the beginning of a race to the ten car pile ups right before the finish line, all the audio sounds as if the player is right there in the car. The music is also great, no big names or killer theme songs, but all the songs give a lot of punch and appropriate flavor to all the activities and menus.
As mentioned before, the career mode has a lot to offer on its own. With a large ladder to climb and special challenges for each activity, there is a lot to do. The free play is nice if you feel like racing a bunch of laps of an oval circuit with lawnmowers or you feel like having a school bus demolition derby. The online play will satisfy players for a longtime, but a ranking system or custom matches would be a warm welcome down the line for sure. This game, like most games now, doesn’t have a split screen mode, which is a little more disappointing because the game has so many “just for fun” types of activities. But overall, this game will keep players coming back for awhile.
What It Could Have Done Better
There are only a handful of minor adjustments that would be nice to the game. First, the camera angle while could be adjusted and easier to adjust in general, it can be difficult to see what is coming ahead at times and that can really throw off the general rhythm of the game. Split screen multiplayer would have been really nice, wrecking friends is always fun. Lastly, the loading times can sometimes be pretty long, but hopefully some updates can help with that.
Wreckfest has been well received on PC for sometime now and for good reason. The port to consoles is great. The outstanding graphics, slick sounds and awesome gameplay make Wreckfest a great buy for any racing fan.