Engines roar around me as I flash past the banner that marks the last lap of the race. I’m somewhere in the middle of the pack, and I know a spot in the top three will evade me unless I manage to pull off a miracle. I’m not worried, though — my sights are set on something other than the trophy. We approach a sharp turn and the 1973 Pontiac Firebird known as “Roadslayer” takes it too quickly. His broadside bears the scars of his deliberate crash with me, a crash that sent me spiraling to the back half of the rankings. I gun my engine, speeding forward until I slam directly into his back-right wheel well.
Notifications queue excitedly on my screen, announcing the points I earned with my bloodthirsty revenge. “Shunted — 20 points! Crash out — 100 points! You hit your rival — 200 points!” I pull back onto the track and continue the race, leaving the smoking wreckage of my opponent in the dirt behind me.
- What is it? A combative racing game with lots of smashing.
- Game Modes: Career Mode, Custom Events, Online Multiplayer
- Reviewed On: PS4
- Platforms: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC
- Developer: Bugbear Entertainment
- Publisher: THQ Nordic
- Release: June 14, 2018 (PC), August 27, 2019 (PS4, Xbox One)
- Price: $39.99
- Business Model: Game Sales
Unleash Your Inner Wrecking Ball
I’d like to note that I love racing games despite being devastatingly terrible at them. I’m the player that starts every race with high hopes. These hopes are then mercilessly dashed upon realizing that the only threat I pose on the racetrack is my tendency to crash into everything that comes within ten feet of my car. Wreckfest is a racing game made for players like me. It offers an experience that’s equal parts racing and demolition.
Wreckfest is full of deceptively refreshing twists like this, building up your expectations with objectively standard events and customizations only to dash them with the charming silliness of the next event in line.
Wreckfest simultaneously rewarding players for pulling ahead of the pack and for causing as much general destruction as they can in their current placing. Each event awards points differently, so keep an eye on the specific goals to ensure you’re making the most of each challenge!
Not Your Average Racing Game
The first thing I noticed about Wreckfest is that it doesn’t take itself too seriously. Every aspect of the game’s aesthetic design from the vehicle detail to the organization of the events in Career Mode suggests that it’s a typical, run-of-the-mill racing game. There’s even a disclaimer in the opening graphic claiming that Bugbear Entertainment doesn’t condone reckless driving.
It then pulls a delightful twist by making the first single-player event a demolition derby for riding lawnmowers. Wreckfest is full of deceptively refreshing twists like this, building up your expectations with objectively standard events and customizations only to dash them with the charming silliness of the next event in line.
Wreckfest is fun, but more importantly, it’s engaging. This element isn’t something that I can say about most games where the core gameplay loop is “press button to drive fast.” The game encourages you to meet its goals by level-locking more desirable vehicles and events while all the while giving off a welcoming vibe of harmless fun.
You’ll Pay for the Whole Seat, but You’ll Only Need the Edge
The two major event types in Wreckfest are races and demolition derbies, both of which are relatively self-explanatory. Races encourage players to do whatever it takes to finish first; demolition derbies hinge on the player’s ability to cause as much damage as possible or be the last man standing on a field of mechanical ruin.
As it turns out, wrecking during the non-demolition events proves to be where I had the most fun. Since Wreckfest welcomes hip-checking competition in its races, there’s plenty of opportunities to claw your way to the top by methodically (or randomly) taking out your opponents. The further back you are in the standings, the more willing players and AIs are eager to play dirty to get enough points to advance to the next round. The game encourages this further with its rival-tracking system, which marks players that have recently done significant damage to you and rewards extra points for getting them back.
A mildly annoying side-effect to the wreckage side of things is that your vehicle retains any damage it takes. Though this is crucial to your ability to permanently wreck opponents (and I commend the realism), I had a hard time at the beginning of the race with crashing. As a byproduct, I was stuck with a car that didn’t respond well to my controls for the remainder of the event.
Wreckfest offers standard unlockables that allow you to upgrade and customize your vehicle. These unlockables are generally more accessible as you proceed in the game and earn points, though you can get bonus unlocks for placing high in certain events. Upgrading and customizing vehicles works as standard from there — players can enter their garage to equip their unlocked pieces and apply custom paint jobs. Each new event offers opportunities to fine-tune different features like steering and brakes to better fit the goals and terrain.
Ever the perfectionist, I tried my best to reach the maximum number of points and stars on each event, but this proved early on to be a pointless time sink. Loading events can take a frustratingly long time, and you don’t necessarily need to complete every event to reach the level’s championships.
I spent the majority of my time exploring the game’s selection of vehicles inspired by classic cars (namely a Millennial-pink 1968 Mustang with flame decals), but the game offers several off-the-wall options with which to cause motorized mass destruction, including semi-trucks, public buses, and outhouses.
High Ground View
Let’s take a look at Wreckfest‘s three available game modes: Career, Custom Events, and Online Multiplayer.
Career Mode lets players jump into the game immediately, setting them up with a series of different levels, each with their point-based milestone requirements. Players can unlock later levels and proceed in their careers by playing the events at their current level and scoring enough points to reach the championship.
Ever the perfectionist, I tried my best to reach the maximum number of points and stars on each event, but this proved early on to be a pointless time sink. Loading events can take a frustratingly long time, and you don’t necessarily need to complete every event to reach the level’s championships. With this in mind, waiting through multiple loading screens just to repeat an event isn’t entirely worth it. Instead, find your preferred playstyle and look for events that cater to it, working your way up with wins and destructive take-downs until you unlock the next level.
Wreckfest’s Custom Events allow solo players to create (surprise!) custom events with specialized settings and opponents. The events are undoubtedly fun, but options are somewhat limited and don’t allow for the same range of creativity that seems promised by the rest of the game.
On a separate note, I must admit that it’s not quite as fun to create custom levels with the knowledge that they must be enjoyed alone. My hope is that couch co-op becomes available soon so that friends and I can spend time creating and playing events together.
I’ve always loved the friendly competition involved in racing games. I firmly believe that they’re best enjoyed when played with a friend that’s okay with becoming your mortal enemy for the span of a race or two, and Wreckfest’s online multiplayer delivers.
Online mode breaks up the monotony of playing solely against AIs by introducing fellow humans into the mix. The game cleverly avoids longer queue times by throwing in just enough AI drivers to fill a session until more players join. Events are quick, fun, and insert a pleasant spark of competition into the game.
Game title: Wreckfest
Game description: Wreckfest is a racing game that adds a demolition derby twist, using realistic physics and detailed vehicle upgrades to provide a fast-paced, action-packed gaming experience.
Career Mode - 7/10
Custom Events - 5/10
Online Multiplayer - 7/10
Wreckfest provides silly, harmless fun that caters to a competitive racing spirit and an affection for proper, old-fashioned mass destruction. The game offers a fun and competitive racing experience that encourages players to get creative, daring, and destructive in their efforts to reach the top of the rankings.
- New spin on traditional racing games
- Multiple event types through Career Mode
- Fun for multiple play styles
- Extensive load times
- No couch co-op
- Custom events somewhat lacking