Wreckfest Review: The Spirit of Destruction Derby Lives On

Wreckfest is back with a fine next-gen port, going that extra mile with some wonderfully chaotic gameplay.

Six months into the PS5’s launch, we’ve already got competing destruction derbies. After February’s PlayStation Plus line-up was bolstered by Sony’s Destruction All-Stars, a game we held mixed opinions on, THQ Nordic now headline May’s selection, reviving Wreckfest with developers Bugbear on next-gen.

Launched two years ago on PS4, and even further back in PC Early Access, this chaotic racer smashes onto PS5, fine-tuned with expanded multiplayer and several under-the-hood improvements. Unquestionably, it’s the definitive edition of the game, and if All-Stars didn’t fill your destructive needs, Wreckfest could certainly plug that gap.

Wreckfest Review: The Spirit of Destruction Derby Lives On

Wreckfest’s premise revolves around lining up and crashing into 23 other racers, earning points for damage caused. For solo play, there's a hefty career mode split between five championships, from “regional juniors” to “world masters." Filled with multiple events, each stage earns you career points that unlock the next championship, and there’s plenty of variety so you won’t always need top marks.

Each event also offers bonus objectives, awarding points for achieving set targets. Usually, those are simple tasks like “wreck three cars” or “deal the most damage," motivating you to get creative while smashing other vehicles. There's also the traditional “first to the finish line” banger racing but ultimately, this is a racing game without much racing.

Destruction derbies are the main attraction, and you’ll compete within a time limit to wreck opponents. For more comical flavor, that occasionally involves driving joke vehicles like sofa cars, lawnmowers, and combine harvesters, which turns the action utterly absurd and completely hilarious, especially if you’re playing with friends.

Combat mechanics are simple; you’ll drive into opponents at speed to reduce their health. Whether it’s a cheeky tap, a straight T-Bone, or a final hit on a battered vehicle to get the kill, points are awarded dependent on how lethal your maneuver is, determining your leaderboard position.

Once you’re the last car standing, or the time limit runs out, the event ends. While Wreckfest isn’t a unique concept, the premise is better executed than competitors like All-Stars, making it an incredibly satisfying experience.

Of course, you aren’t immune to damage, and continual whacks reduce your speed, affecting key components like suspension and your vehicle's gearbox. You can swap between difficulty settings to minimize this, though Wreckfest offers an EXP multiplier based on difficulty, rewarding those who choose a harder option. EXP is based on finishing position, total score, and hitting bonus targets; should you level up, this earns you new vehicle parts like improved cooling systems.

You can add those parts in the garage, customizing existing vehicles or purchasing new ones. There are a few cosmetic choices on hand but more crucially, you can install upgrades here to improve acceleration, top speed, cornering, strength, and vehicle armor. If you’d rather fine-tune your existing setup, you can adjust suspension, gear ratio, differential, and brake balance. For those who like tinkering, you’ve got some solid options here, and the system ultimately adds a lot to Bugbear’s winning formula.

So what’s new in this version of Wreckfest? Turns out, quite a lot. Multiplayer’s been expanded to support 24 players online, creating even more chaotic matches. Unfortunately, this doesn’t offer much outside of your typical Destruction Derby, and though you can use your alternate vehicles, single-player remains the big draw.

Besides that, though Wreckfest is significantly improved, running at 4K resolution with 60fps, featuring greatly reduced (but still noticeable) loading times, and utilizing haptic feedback.

Improvements aren’t just technical, either. Wreckfest goes the extra mile with a solid visual touch-up, implementing dynamic dirt, improved textures, and better environmental lighting. It wasn’t the prettiest game before, but it definitely has a more pleasant visual aesthetic now. Sadly, I can’t say the same for the soundtrack, which gives a bizarre mix of rock music, screamo, and EDM.

Finally, previous PS4 owners don’t have a free upgrade path, but unlike some games, such as the recently-released PS5 version of Judgment, the PS5 version is available at a discount, providing you didn’t already claim it on PlayStation Plus (it leaves the service as a complimentary game on May 31). 

Wreckfest Review — The Bottom Line

Pros

  • Solid career mode
  • Core gameplay is highly addictive
  • Great vehicle customization
  • Smooth performance
  • Enhanced visuals at 4K resolution

Cons

  • Still has noticeable loading times
  • Multiplayer won’t hold your interest for long
  • No free upgrade for PS4 owners

Ultimately, if you’re looking to have fun smashing up cars, Wreckfest is an entertaining choice. Sure, this isn’t built from the ground-up for PS5 like Destruction All-Stars, but it executes that core premise a lot better.

It isn’t perfect, with some shortcomings with multiplayer, the odd loading times, and a surprisingly cheesy soundtrack, though ultimately, Bugbear’s done a fine job enhancing it for next-gen technology. As such, it comes recommended.

[Note: The PlayStation Plus version of Wreckfest was used for this review.]

Our Rating
8
Wreckfest is back with a fine next-gen port, going that extra mile with some wonderfully chaotic gameplay.
Reviewed On: PlayStation 5
Published Jul. 1st 2021

Cached - article_comments_article_68962
Related
More Wreckfest Content