Wreckfest has finally brought its crazy, demolition racing action to consoles, allowing you to live out your bogan-hillbilly dreams of thrashing cars recklessly around ridiculous dirt tracks from the comfort of your couch. Bugbear Entertainment have been able to dive back into their FlatOut roots and create an arcade racing experience that stands up on its own.
Simply put, Wreckfest is a car destruction simulator with racing elements, with a career mode at its heart comprised of five different championships. Diving into the first Championship, the very first event you’ll see is a lawnmower demolition derby. Yeah, you read that right, an event where your goal is to crash into and wreck your opponents (who are also riding tricked-out lawnmowers) in a closed arena. This definitely sets the overall tone for the kind of experience that you’ll have playing this game. You’ll run through a variety of races, demolition derbies and showcase events. Races are either single, one-off events or a series of races that see you competing for the highest overall score after the series.
If you want to take a break from the Championship mode, there are also custom races. Here, you have full access to all of the tracks in the game, so it’s a great way to practice your driving lines on tough tracks, or just have some mindless fun racing on some of the more novel tracks. Most events will also see you trying to complete additional challenges that net you extra experience for unlocking more cars and upgrades. One glaring omission from the available modes is a local multiplayer option. Much like most modern racing titles, BugBear have only included an online multiplayer option, which is fine. I can’t help but feel that for a game of this style though, having intense demolition derby fights with up to four friends locally would make for great games night material.
Wreckfest includes an acceptable range of customization options. They may not be as ultra-detailed as, say, Assetto Corsa with sliders to tune every part of your car down to the dot, but you get enough (both tuning and cosmetic) that you can put that personal flair on your vehicles without being overwhelmed with options. With over twenty different vehicles of all different shapes and sizes available either for purchase with in game credits or via completing certain events, there are cars to suit most styles of driving. Whether you want to focus on taking out rival cars to secure your victory or duck and weave through the carnage and break out in front of the pack and cruise safely to the checkered flag, you can pick and choose your vehicle on an event-by-event basis to give yourself the best chance to win. Along with different styles of vehicles, you also have the option to purchase and install upgrades that allow you to boost the performance of your ride. You’ll start off with lower, C-Class vehicles that can be upgraded to boost their performance and make them useful in different events, or alternatively you can use your hard-earned credits to purchase improved rides.
The cars available all feel pretty satisfying to drive. You’ll start with a pretty stock-standard car, but as you progress you’ll get the chance to try vehicles of all different types and sizes that feel reasonably different from each other. Obviously, the larger trucks are better for taking heavy hits during races or demo derbys, but you’ll have to deal with a decrease in manoeuvrability and speed. It seems obvious, but Wreckfest does a great job of setting different flavours of vehicle apart, reinforcing the game’s desire to really simulate the act of crashing into all kinds of shit. Racing against AI is another factor in the challenge of gameplay. Each vehicle has a mind of its own and there are times where they will go out of their way to try and run you off the road or even spin you out. This keeps each race fresh as you need to predict how your opponents will react as you quickly find out that they don’t just stick to the racing line.
Along with using upgrades to modify your driving experience, you can also tweak other settings with your vehicle to suit your own driving style. You may also find yourself tuning the cars for specific races depending on the type of race or surface that you’ll be competing on. If you’re in a demolition derby, for example, you might want to shorten your gears to help pick up your speed over a shorter distance. Finding that perfect balance in tuning is super satisfying as it really lets you attack each event the way you want, even going as far as trying to translate your playstyle from other racing titles. Personally, I found that applying a rear brake balance makes sliding around corners a lot of fun. It’s nice to be able to tweak things your way from the go, taking some frustration out of the learning curve while you’re busy trying not to get T-boned in a junction.
With a title like Wreckfest you’d expect that wrecking vehicles would be a leading feature, and you would absolutely be correct. There will be times where you’ll have to make the decision to either duck and weave your way through oncoming cars or go at them head first, throwing caution to the wind just to see what kind of carnage you can create (and even capture using the game’s photo mode). It’s also worth pointing out the pretty-decent music. There’s a good collection of fun rock as well as some banging electronic drum and bass tracks that really help to punctuate the frantic on-screen action.
Overall, Wreckfest really hits the nail on the head as a casual arcade driving (and wrecking) experience. It doesn’t put too much focus on any one feature, instead giving all of the important ones enough love that you’ll have a straight-up fun time trying to wrangle a motorised couch around crazy arenas.
Disclaimer: While playing Wreckfest on console for review, I did experience a handful of softlocks that required the game to rebooted, as well as some visual glitches with menu text. A day one patch is promised that is said to fix some overly long loading times and other known issues, but it’s unknown if it will fix the bugs I experienced during my time with the game.
Reviewed on PlayStation 4 // Review code supplied by publisher