Tired of playing nice on the race track? Stop worrying about scratching the paint and start thinking instead about how to pummel your opponent’s vehicle into submission. Drive hard and die last with Wreckfest, available now for Xbox One and PlayStation 4.
Platform: Xbox One, PlayStation 4
Reviewed on: Xbox One
Developer: Bugbear Entertainment
Publisher: THQ Nordic
Modes: Single player, Multiplayer
ESRB Rating: T (Teen)
In the real world of racing, vehicular contact is serious business. Even the slightest nudge can cause thousands of dollars in damage. Collisions of a greater degree of severity can ruin a car, stop a race, and worse yet end in tragedy.
As video game racing sims get better and better at emulating the reality of physics, the effects of contact racing similarly affects the player experience. In today’s most popular racing sims success is truly tethered to a racer’s ability—just like the real world—to avoid unnecessary collisions with other cars, especially coming out of pole position. In competitive multiplayer the concept of “griefing” other players by purposefully racing fast and loose in this manner is broadly considered an epidemic.
But what if a game didn’t punish racers, but rather actually encouraged the rowdiest behavior imaginable? Enter Wreckfest, a cathartic take on the racing genre that embraces the madcap mayhem of all-out destruction on the track. In Wreckfest players aren’t just free race as aggressively and calamitously as possible—they are rewarded for it too.
The concept of causing damage to your opponents in Wreckfest is the core of the game. From standard races where racers must weigh the benefits of surging ahead against the equally potent strategy of running them right of the track to full on destruction derby events, Wreckfest is truly a racing game for those who want to smash their way to the finish line. There are no graceful turns or passing etiquette in sight here.
Smash it up
From the outset Wreckfest almost looks like any other friendly racing game. Pulling out of pole position in a standard event however, the life bars directly above each car hint at the true nature of the race to come. You can be fast, or you can crash.
Each vehicle features a limited amount of durability. This is measured both by the life bar as well as a more detailed hub report that identifies just how damaged specific components are. Wrecking your competition throughout the course of the race can hinder their performance and ultimately lead to an easy victory.
Keep an eye on your own damage report however. Doling out the hits may hurt your opponents, but it will always have an effect on your vehicle as well. The trick is to attack methodically, choosing the best moments to deal the most damage while taking the least, and avoiding exposure or contact with areas on your ride that are losing integrity.
You’ll have to pay attention to the track as well. Debris from damaged vehicles or environmental obstacles will end up on the course, and they don’t simply disappear. An errant tire or lost fender can slow you down or hurt your car. Basically, the more wreckage and destruction over the course of a race, the more chaos that ensues.
Embrace the mayhem and reap the rewards
Of course it’s possible in a standard race to simply surge ahead and take first place as the clear frontrunner. In fact, if you have any racing sim skill whatsoever you’ll probably have no issue doing so—especially early on. So why would you bother getting into it with the competition (outside of a sheer desire for carnage) if you can just hold 1st place?
The answer lies in the XP and upgrade system. Like most racing games, you can earn and upgrade multiple cars for your livery. Upgrades don’t just improve your speed and handling however, in Wreckfest you’ll be improving your armor and durability as well.
The challenges and rewards in Wreckfest are tied to its destructive nature. You’ll earn more XP/credits and complete more challenges by causing a ruckus—and more XP and currency means quicker upgrades and better cars. This is important because to compete and succeed in more difficult circuits down the road, you’ll need new and well-upgraded vehicles.
Thankfully this won’t be pretty
Wreckfest doesn’t have the extreme polish of a big budget AAA top-tier racing sim—but neither should it be expected. The game is made by a smaller studio in Bugbear Entertainment, and frankly it looks very impressive for the level of development it received. Being that it is priced rather economically as well, Wreckfest is a great looking title.
That said, what really matters is that Wreckfest succeeds where it counts, with its awesomely entertaining destruction physics. Racing is fun, but destruction derbies are where the real hype is for me. The game truly nails the feeling of satisfaction in a good mash-up of twisting metal.
Inevitably I don’t even care if Wreckfest has the miniscule details of a huge budget racer where every glint in the rear view mirror is rendered with the utmost accuracy. I don’t want to enjoy my pretty car, I want to enjoy the act of spreading it (and everyone else’s) across the track in an ugly heap!
If the game suffers at all it’s primarily from a lack of variety however. Career mode comprises only a few variations of the standard race or derby, and by the end of the campaign they can get a bit stale. The game does mix things up with a few fun oddball vehicles (like lawnmowers), and there are multiplayer modes and custom events as well. Nonetheless a bit of variation in career gameplay could have made a great game even better.
Wreckfest is all-out mayhem with cathartic collisions and irreverent fun
Wreckfest is definitely flying under the radar as an amazing racing experience. There’s nothing wrong with authenticity in racing, but sometimes it just feels good to race fast and hard like every vehicle were a souped-up bumper car. The game nails its destruction physics and satisfies an entirely different style of racing.
If Wreckfest receives a sequel I can see it making an even bigger splash. I’d love to see what this team could do by expanding on the solid foundation they’ve created. All it really needs is a bit more variety to really challenge some of today’s top racing titles. As it stands, for the price it’s a novel and fantastic racer that shouldn’t be passed on by racing fans.
+ Awesome destruction physics
+ Demolition derby mayhem
+ Great value
– Repetitive career events
OVERALL ASSESSMENT OF WRECKFEST
Lasting Appeal/Replayability: 4/5
Overall Rating 4.1/5 (83%)
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Wrechfest looks a lot of fun. It reminds me a bit of Burnout. I’m definitely looking to try the game out. Thanks for the review, Dave!
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