Wreckfest is the best demolition derby game ever. This is not your apologetic vodka ginger on a warm summer day. No, this is not the turbulent misery of a Fireball shot. No sir. This not Flatout or Burnout. This is Wreckfest, and it’s your smooth, refined whiskey soda meant to tickle the visceral notes of your palate.
Buried deep beneath the twisted metal and jagged edges of destruction, Wreckfest provides a driving experience that requires some serious user ability. This is not necessarily a game for those looking to simply smash and dash their vehicles aimlessly about. Instead, it’s a polished experience that lends credence to those looking to master the craft of controlled chaos.
The overall feel created by developer Bugbear is sophisticated. Weight distribution in vehicles, as well as the pros and cons of selecting specific vehicle types for different races, feels critical to the success of your experience. That’s not to say there’s a clear and present meta as each vehicle has its own unique specialty. It depends on the type of driver you are. The buses are ramrods and can be used violently, but drive too recklessly and you’ll find yourself toppled over searching for answers. The smaller Japanese vehicles are quick, zippy and provide maneuverability not found in other vehicles, but get hit by a heavier vehicle (such as the aforementioned bus) and you’re in for a world of hurt and frustration.
On the environment side, grip and resistance for each track feel well thought out and varies widely from race to race. Whether you’re slip-sliding on wet mud or slamming your emergency brake through the tight corners of some demanding asphalt, user skill has never felt more important in a demolition derby experience.
Environments as a whole are just beautiful. Gone are the days of car parts and course fragments disappearing after being sliced off their foundations. Instead, your second or third time around a track, you’ll find remnants of your opponents and their misfortunes scattered about your path, begging to force you into an ill-conceived collision. Whether it’s a runaway tire, a cockeyed car hood or some poor soul’s rear bumper, course scrap is prominent and contributes effortlessly to the brutish experience.
On the primal side of things, the “smashability” of vehicles makes for an incredibly realistic driving experience. Collisions and body damage don’t feel pre-programmed as the shapes you can crush your hapless opponents into feels limitless. Whether shearing off a bumper or sandwiching a car into a pocket-sized has-been, Wreckfest allows your skill and creativity to do the talking. Of course, on the flip side of things, one wrong turn and you can find yourself shambling your way to the finish line with a mangled piece of equipment you previously thought was an indestructible weapon. The AI deserves a lot of credit in this installment as opponents are not simply there to race, but actively looking to destroy you as well.
Now, as far as realism goes, Wreckfest isn’t a perfect simulation, but it’s the closest thing we’ve had in some time. There’s certainly a very real sense of validity when it comes to races and derbies in this installment. Wreckfest does a good job of providing a familiar feel to the experience and not overselling the carnage being created. It’s organic and callous all-in-one. It’s hard not to hype up the game’s credibility when I feel like I might need a tetanus shot following each race. It’s white-knuckle fun.
As far as playability and longevity go, Wreckfest leaves a little to be desired. Events are very fun, especially when creating your own custom variables. Unfortunately, it’s hard not to feel as though repetition may cause some staleness in the near future. Online multiplayer is an enjoyable experience, but it too felt hollow, lacking depth at times. Depending on the life of the game, Bugbear could have a true breadwinner on its hands (now on console) if they continue to pump out new events, DLCs, as well as unique multiplayer experiences. That being said, in its current form the game’s lifespan feels a bit short.
Also, for the love of all that is good, please don’t force me to manually repair my car and its upgrades after every race. It’s an arduous feeling that isn’t necessary whatsoever.
Wreckfest’s gameplay is the new gold standard for demolition derby\racing and has set a new bar for games in the future. Vehicles, courses and environments all have top shelf qualities about them, creating an unbelievably fulfilling experience. The anxiety brought forth by Wreckfest can’t help but leaving me smiling and sweating after each race. A couple tune-ups in the garage in terms of play modes and menus, and Bugbear may have a cult classic on its hands that will stand the test of time.