Review: Wreckfest

When you want to have fun, you can play it safe. If you want to have fun, you need to get dirty, grind metal, and raise a little hell. Wreckfest from Bugbear Entertainment and THQ Nordic has crashed onto consoles after a year on PC platforms. Garnering a name for itself, the trademark racing and destructibility have made its way to the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. With the gaming world currently devoid of any hardcore racing video games, Wreckfest comes in to do a bang-up job, providing a large abundance of thrills and excitement, right from the start.

Wreckfest originally launched in 2018 on the PC, described as a hybrid between various racing games, most especially FlatOut, Destruction Derby, and a cult classic PC racing game, Street Rod. While there are other racing games on the market with similar traits,   Wreckfest distinguished itself with the creation of a new game engine that would allow for advanced car physics and dynamic modeling, including location-specific damage when colliding with other vehicles or objects. Wreckfest went through a year of Steam early-access and various updates. Afterward, Wreckfest was released on Steam to critical and commercial acclaim. Now, Wreckfest has made its way to the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. Where most PC ports tend to be lackluster and underwhelming, the port of Wreckfest to consoles excels to becoming one of the best racing experiences available today.

The premise of Wreckfest is simple. Players races across a variety of events ranging from destruction derby to tournaments to no-holds-barred races where players race dirty across various courses. Players take to the wheel of various cars and trucks, each vehicle with a specific attribute in regards to strength, speed, and protection. A lighter car will win events but be light on protection, meaning that other cars can cause great damage. A heavier car may be slower, but can survive much longer and cause a great deal of damage at high speeds. Lighter cars have a lower center of gravity, handling turns with ease and resisting the possibility of tipping over. Larger vehicles have a higher center of gravity and are more vulnerable to tipping over.  Understanding the physics of Wreckfest is important, as properly applying force to a certain part of a car can cause spin-outs and flips. Throughout the many events of Wreckfest, players can increase their rank and gain credit. Increasing rank allows access to more vehicles and upgrades.  Players can customize their vehicles, from the internal parts, such as the engine, to the outside paint job. The customization extends further before each race, where players can adjust and tweak their car’s performance, form the suspension to the brakes. With dozens of events to partake in, the core of Wreckfest is the gameplay, which the game excels.

Wreckfest features an incredibly polished and thought-out gameplay system, creating a racing experience that features a sharp amount of details and a heavy sense of gravity and impact. Each vehicle handles incredibly different from the next, which includes how they take damage. Additionally, each car will handle differently, depending on the surface of the road.  Dirt and tarmac require specific methods of turning and braking. Wreckfest does a fantastic job of making sure that the player certainly sees and feels the difference in each vehicle. The biggest draw for Wreckfest is the focus on vehicular mayhem, and the game delivers on this concept. Each shunt, nudge, impact, and crash feels genuine, with a tremendous amount of energy and force. Most remarkable is the fact that each impact is location-specific, meaning that the model of the vehicle distorts and changes, depending on the impact. Impacts can range from a head-on collision with a vehicle shunting the sides and causing hard rear-endings. It’s a profound impact and damage system that is far more than superficial. Each form of damage will affect the vehicle, including the vehicle’s performance. Damaging the engine will naturally affect the engine’s performance. Damaging the wheels will cause handling problems and even snap off entirely. In Wreckfest, causing damage is important to win, but it may come at a price if the driver is reckless. At the same time, causing damage and getting wrecked is at the core of the fun in Wreckfest. 

Ultimately, Wreckfest is absolutely a  joy to play. Cars roar to life and the crunch of metal can be felt and heard.  Entire victories are determined through a combination of good driving and fighting the crowd. Each course provides something new to enjoy, from fully-realized arenas to winding dirt paths and wide-open fields. Wreckfest is about crunching metal and having a great time doing it, especially during the destruction derby events. With live players, Wreckfest is even more of a joy to play, with players actively engaged with destroying and obliterating each other. Wreckfest focuses on gameplay and fun and that makes the overall experience all the better for it.

The only setback to Wreckfest is the lack of a strong soundtrack. I grew up playing other racing games, such as ATV: Offroad Fury and Need For Speed, and most games of the genre featured a strong licensed soundtrack. Wreckfest features a licensed soundtrack, but it ultimately sounds like background noise during gameplay. While decent, a better soundtrack would have been far more notable, though royalties are far more expensive today than they were in the year 2002. For PS4 owners, they may use their built0-in Spotify account to play music and adjust the levels for the music to blend into the game. Though, for Xbox One owners, they will have to settle with the music selection. In the grand scheme of the entirety of Wreckfest, the soundtrack is only a small nitpick in an otherwise stellar racing game.

Most racing games play clean, but Wreckfest players dirty and it’s great!  The racing gameplay is energetic and fantastic. The destruction is tremendously polished, and the abundance of racing events is phenomenal for players. Wreckfest is a truly special racing game, one that has had passion, enthusiasm, and hard work built into its hood. The team hs developers a game that players will be continuously returning to for the foreseeable future. Wreckfest is an awesome fest.

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