Wreckfest isn’t a new title, it’s been around 3 years already, and has gained quite a cult following on PC, Xbox One and PS4… so why are we reviewing it now? ‘Cos it’s had a next gen upgrade of course! Coming at us with improved visuals, framerates and loading times, it’s the best the game has looked on console and the extra horsepower is something the racer-cum-smasher can really make use of. It’s also a great introduction to the game if it’s one that has passed you by… like it did with me. The main questions I had for it though were if it manages to bring variety to the Demolition Derby stylings, and would smacking opponents of the track be anywhere near as satisfying as Burnout: Takedown? The answer is a resounding YES!
Action in Wreckfest is built around the career and multiplayer, with the former letting you loose across 5 championships that showcase all sorts of vehicles; and the latter enabling strangers and friends to mangle metal online. It’s the career that kept the majority of my attention because it has a nice level of progression that feels rewarding and satisfying, whilst bringing a decent demand of skill required with it. Starting at grass roots and actually mowing the grass with racing lawnmowers, all Wreckfest wants you to do is smash things up. You vs up to 24 opponents, tonnes of metal strapped to powerful engines, and enclosed dirt arenas – it’s pretty clear what needs to be done, and it’s last man standing wins. That’s fun, yet it can’t keep you occupied forever, so just as well that’s only the first event that you’re thrown into. Soon comes a real focus on proper lap racing championships as well as heat based destruction events, with the one off total annihilation rounds being showcase challenges. Do well and there’s rewards and XP showered that unlock parts, vehicles and the ability to upgrade; and most importantly, the next rung on the ladder.
From Rookie to Champion, there are multiple series to take part in, and each is made up of a selection of events that test your ability to drive in each discipline. Most common are straight up races around dirt and tarmac tracks. Made to feel like they’re set in Farm Country, Anywheresville, they’re surprisingly competent, distinct and technical tracks to navigate, especially when the cars have most of their power pumped through the rear wheels. Never much more than a few minutes per race, they’re pretty addictive too, and as you progress through the ranks race series become more prevalent, and with more stages too. Banger races are similar events, only with no-so-subtle changes in the tracks that force collisions and are heat based for qualifying through to the final. Think figure of eights with straight crossovers and the back half of the grid getting eliminated. These are chaotic rounds designed to test staying in one piece whilst keeping a pace advantage, and will turn out some of the most spectacular moments in the game. Then there are the signature events that want everyone just to ram each other into little bits. Nice.
Wreckfest is probably best known for the destruction, and the latest gen version really does do the game justice in the one off challenges. Seeing combine harvesters ram each other, or buses squash European hatchbacks is probably what sticks in the mind, though I’d argue that the game physics and detail in the engine are shown off more in the banger races. In the arenas you are ripping vehicles to shreds and crumpling every body panel, it’s just that in the races there’s a lot more speed and that means more impressive crashes, multiple cars, and bits of metal flying everywhere. Engines are on fire, doors are swinging open, and tyre barriers and debris litter the track – all without impacting performance. There’s little screen tear and absolutely no slowdown whatsoever, and it keeps ticking along in 4K at 60 fps. There’s improved lighting and shadows, dynamic dirt and increased trackside detail, so it feels more alive and looks even better than it did before. Watching replays and hitting pause to use the free camera to examine a pile up shows off just how much is going on at any one time.
A plus point for the PlayStation owners is the DualSense implementation. It’s something special. You might not think it at first because the right trigger doesn’t have the adaptive resistance that the likes of DiRT 5 or MotoGP 21 have, and you might even think your pad is broken because the left one does push back. It’s not. Bugbear have opted use it slightly differently, and the resistance only comes into play when you damage your engine, meaning as the car is harder to drive on screen, there’s more work needed on the pad to make it do what you want. It’s a brilliantly subtle touch that probably should have been shouted about early in the game. Wreckfest puts the tactile feedback to use beautifully with the gear changes felt through the right trigger, wheel lockups under braking through the left, and the steady thunk and bump of the engine engaging and road surfaces dealt with by the haptics. That’s not to mention the all important crashing and banging that gets punctuated by the vibration and a lovely complimentary smashing noise from the inbuilt speaker. There’s such a sweet feeling when you tap a rival and hear them spin off with a crunch as they hit the concrete barrier. It’s so well packaged from that point of view that it elevates the gaming experience.
Rounding off the controls is the handling model, and it’s sublime. With a decent array of options to fine tune how you want to control the cars, it’s easy enough to get them drifting, sliding and jumping around. Despite everything that’s happening with 23 other racers gunning for you, it’s rare to feel out of control. Sure, they slip on gravel and grip on tarmac, so there’s that predictability, but getting out of shape is easy to recover and with all the barging around it’ll be something you do often. The AI in Wreckfest is aggressive (and can be finetuned too) and it feels like there’s some slight rubberbanding going on, yet it’s never unfair. If it does begin to feel like you’re losing out then head to the garage and upgrade the racing elements or add some armour to withstand a bit more punishment. That’s what the cash is there for, so don’t leave it sitting in the bank. Vehicles are given out as you rank up too, and when you win a challenge you’ll likely earn a specific vehicle as well. Events need specific vehicle classes though, so it’s not like you can use your bus to muller the competition in the superlight van races.
There’s a decent amount of content in Wreckfest – and that’s before you get to the two existing season passes; with a championship that takes quite a bit of time to work through, endless hours of fun with friends, and races that are never the same twice because of the nature of battering the competition. Layer on optional objectives to complete and it’ll have you playing for some time. The icing on the cake is the next gen features that really make the game shine, and I can’t enthuse about the DualSense enough – if you’re lucky enough to have a choice of platform, really consider the PS5 for this alone. You might not learn the intricacies of weight transfers and braking points, but you will have a lot of fun breaking your rivals and speeding past their burning chassis.
A PS5 review copy of Wreckfest was provided by Bugbear Entertainment’s PR team, and the game is available now on PS5 and Series X|S as well as the original being on PS4, Xbox One and PC.