Developer Bugbear’s Wreckfest comes after some four years in Steam’s early access but now has had a full release (and with it a full release commanding price of around £40 in the UK). At its heart there is a destruction derby game here, but it’s not all arena based shenanigans because there is also quite a serious racer on offer. With all said and done and perhaps cornering the market somewhat as other racers opt for open-world or more popular road racing styles, is Wreckfest worthy of your time and money?
Players can dive into the game in a number of ways somewhat expected of a racing experience. Quick events or bespoke matches, multiplayer and of course an obligatory career mode where you…rise up the ranks. Ok, the format might not offer anything new (and why should it) but the real fun and games comes from simply diving in to the race with 23 opponents and seeing if you can come out the other end unscathed. As mentioned, there are a number of tense arena style “derby” events where it’s last-man-standing or who can dish out the most punishment in a set time. There are also track races which are equally as fun and engaging whereby the game’s destruction physics play a major role in not only how you drive, but how you survive the rubbings racing as you jostle for position or vie to move up the ranks to catch the leader. There is some deliberately aggressive AI here which on occasion will not think twice about knocking you off course into oncoming traffic or even out-of-bounds. It’s pretty neat actually, and even without your input it’s good to see the AI interacting with each other. This makes races feel much more realistic where there are rivalries not only against opponents you’ve annoyed, but seemingly between the other racers. Watching other cars spin-out or smash into barriers is a great feeling as you zoom past sticking up two fingers in the process.
There is some challenge here as well with numerous options to tinker with including the said damage which has to be set to realistic for the most engaging races. Finding a balance with the AI is a must though because you will find some instances where the AI moves in groups and are seemingly impossible to catch up, or they might be too easy giving you a comfortable lead which to be honest in a game of this type feels a bit boring. When it’s just right though then it is as tense and fun to play as any racing game.
Whilst the events options, numerous tracks and circuits, car customizations and shopping might be standard racing game fare here, the physics and destruction engine really stand out as the stars. Battering up your own vehicle and rivals is pretty special and although you can tinker with in-car views and such like, the outside view allows you to see the state of your banger and how it’s holding up. It’s impressive stuff seeing warped metal and exposed parts and as mentioned even more so seeing your opponents get batter and bashed out of the race. The only gripe here is a lack of an endless elimination mode on the circuit races – a ring of death so to speak. These knock out event types are only possible in the arenas which is a shame.
Wreckfest looks, sounds and drives great with its physics and destruction but the track-side detail is also pretty good too. What is most impressive is the game running well at 60 fps in 4K (which doesn’t push a GTX 1080 Ti for example) which means lesser cards should be able to max out the game. Even when there are lots of crashes and cars on-screen the game doesn’t falter. Those four years in early access has obviously paid off then.
In terms of player progression there is an overarching XP system across all modes where parts can be acquired by leveling up. Cash can be earned and then used for upgrades or new vehicles. There isn’t a massive roster of cars here, but enough variety for the type of game on offer. Players can sink enough hours in the career or solo mode before diving in to multiplayer matches which obviously are quite optional.
Bugbear has done a great job getting Wreckfest up to scratch and has succeeded. The initial asking price might come across a little steep for some people, but there is enough content here to keep one entertained. Plus, it makes welcome change having a dedicated racing game that focuses on the destructive elements in a more serious way than just pure arcade thrills. If you like racing, and want a change of pace then Wreckfest is well worth a look. Nice graphics, smooth gameplay, good handling and tons of attitude make this well-recommended for racing enthusiasts.
Score – 8.5/10