I grew up playing and loving the destruction derby games on the PlayStation 1 and Sega Saturn. There was something so fresh and different about them. Their main goal wasn’t to create the most realistic driving simulator, but to put fun and destruction at the forefront. Later we would get similar destruction from the Burnout and Flatout games, the latter of which featured more of the old school derby feel. Sadly after the first couple of games, the quality of the Flatout games diminished and so did this kind of game. It almost felt like we would never get special destruction based driving game again.
My prayers were answered with the phenomenal Wreckfest (which is created by the original company who made the first 2 Flatout games). Before buying it I knew nothing about it but was sold by the pictures on the box and the fact that it seemed to feature a picture of a combine harvester running someone over. I was intrigued and the fact it was at a lower price than most AAA titles also helped. I am so happy i took that chance as what we have here is easily one of my top 3 driving games of all time.
For those unfamiliar with any of the previously mentioned games, Wreckfest is a racing game with a large emphasis on destruction. There is a pretty substantial single-player campaign as well as custom events and a pretty good multiplayer. It features your normal racing events while also having arena-based battles (I guess you’d call them battles) and some hilarious special events.
The racing is fast and frenetic with you constantly on the edge of your seat, knowing one crash could be the difference between winning and losing, and crash you shall. The normal racing events are your usual standard races but with the added inclusion of a few bits of destructible scenery and all of the other cars. If parts fall of cars or fall of the scenery they remain on the track for the rest of the race, thus creating new hazards and dangers. This really makes each race feel unique and like anything could happen. In one race I was in the lead, when I suddenly turned around the corner and had to narrowly dodge an upturned car and debris strewn across the track. It really catches you off guard and keeps you further on edge in deep concentration. A few of the tracks feature alternate paths and bits of the track that crossover each other. These sections are beautiful chaos generally with cars colliding at high speed and debris flying everywhere.
The destruction derby events are a joy to play and can be brutal to win. Dumped in an arena with 22 other cars, with the aim to be the last one standing may sound daunting, but… who am I kidding? It is daunting. Think of it like a Twisted Metal or a Carmageddon game minus the weapons with more realistic handling and physics. It’s great fun and really makes you feel like a survivor if you win. It’s not uncommon to finish with wheels missing and a barely functioning car which only wants to go backwards. The difficulty of these events can be frustrating, especially if you get taken out early by someone blindsiding you. But the level of reward you feel when you win is great. When creating custom derbys you can do some very silly things such as being on a ride on lawnmower versus 22 big rig trucks. I can say from experience it doesn’t generally go well for your lawnmower.
The special events are magnificent even if they are brutally hard at times. These feature some sort of wacky twist such as being on a ride-on lawnmower racing against others, while one is a combine harvester trying to run everyone down. Another pits you against school buses in a Reliant Robin (which handles like a rock). These events really add variety and reinforce the fun aspect of the game. All the vehicles you unlock in these events can be used in custom events and online which means an almost Wacky Races selection of cars, trucks and sofas.
When it comes to the actual driving and how it feels, it’s fantastic. The cars feel as they should and each handle as you’d expect. As they get damaged the driving physics also react making it feel much more real. Some vehicles handle slightly oddly such as the harvester which feels heavy but quite floaty when turning. It’s nothing game-breaking but it takes some getting used to. There isn’t any real rubber-banding from what I’ve played which is nice (as it seems all too common these days for games to enforce it as a way of bumping up the difficulty). While the game doesn’t have the sheer wealth of cars that games like Gran Turismo or Forza have, it does feature a good variety each which can be customised both mechanically as well as cosmetically. This means there is some variety when playing online.
While the game is brilliant, there are a couple of little things that frustrate. Firstly the difficulty in some events can be brutal and by the twentieth time of being blindsiding and instantly failing, it can be rather anger-inducing. I’ve only experienced it a few times but it is frustrating. The other is the load times which can be quite long. When I say quite long, I actually mean incredibly long, sometimes up to a minute. It’s not something that bothers me too much as I grew up with the 45 minute load times of the Commodore 64 cassettes, but I do know it could be an issue for some. Loading is slightly better between races in an event but is still noticeably long.
I can’t really fault anything else with the game and honestly think it’s one of the, if not the best racing game to come out in a long long time. It’s a must-have for anyone who either enjoys or is intrigued by destruction derby style games and a highly recommended for everyone else.