Years ago, I used to head out on a Friday evening. I’d go to the local race track and before I’d even got in the gate I’d hear the crunch of metal as cars piled into one another; the early races of the local Derby Mania were taking place. It was great fun to watch but having never dared to put myself in the seat as a hunk of metal flies towards me, the closest I ever got to being amongst the action was in the old Destruction Derby games and the FlatOut series. Over the years though, these games have been long forgotten and whilst we have had a fairly recent outing with FlatOut 4: Total Insanity, the level of carnage wasn’t quite what we all hoped for. Now though the original developers are back, and Wreckfest has arrived on Xbox One, but is it the Destruction Derby we have all been craving?
When you first dive into the world of Wreckfest, there are several options available – Career, Custom Event, and Multiplayer are the modes, whilst garage and settings are also options to look at. If you’re a story/career/campaign fanatic, then the Career mode is the place where you’ll spend a lot of your time, with plenty of content included.
So, Career boils down to five separate Championships. First up is Regional Juniors, followed by National Amateurs, Challenges, Pro Invitationals and finally World Masters. Within each Championship sit a wide variety of series and single events, with points to win, challenges to complete and a ton of wrecking to be had. Before moving on and progressing through each Championship, players must first earn a set number of points across the various events to unlock the next. It’s a pretty basic progression structure, but it works well.
To help win the various events, you can utilise money earnt through events to upgrade and improve vehicles, be it with vanity items or general performance improvements. These aren’t essential to victory but certainly help out should you end up on the back end of a spin-out and need a quick way to catch up to the pack. That said, there are car restrictions in place for some events, and so it’s not always a case of tuning your car to run the show. Because of this, rarely do you see a race that doesn’t feel highly competitive.
The thing that has really shocked me with Wreckfest however is the actual gameplay. Whilst we are all quite used to track racing, seeing a game produce a satisfying handling model isn’t something we see all quite so often. However, it seems Wreckfest has managed to perfect it. Cars not only feel weighted, bulky and heavy when slinging them around a corner, but are highly realistic when slamming them into the side of another vehicle on track. It also means heading over a jump or into a corner isn’t as simple as simply turning and accelerating, as those who misjudge things will soon find themselves in a face to face meeting with the closest barriers or trackside obstructions.
There is one niggle I have with the Career mode though, and that’s the number of laps within a race. Unless you’re taking part in a Destruction Derby or Elimination event – both of which appear numerous times throughout the Career mode – then you’ll find races lasting no longer than 3 laps. Of course for those wanting to power through, that won’t be any issue, but if you’re hoping for a long and hard fought battle through every step of the Career, then you might feel a little disappointed. It’s also worth mentioning that if you make a mistake in a 3 lap race, it can often mean a forced restart is on the cards due to a lack of time to catch back up and make an impact over the remainder of the race.
If you can look past that though, the Career mode on offer only goes from strength to strength as you progress through the Championships.
Away from Career and there is both the Custom Event and Multiplayer to get stuck into. Custom Event is great for those wanting a one off, no strings attached event in which you can set-up the race or event with your favoured number of laps, class of vehicles, damage settings and more, all before having it out with the edgy and competitive A.I. opponents that are constantly looking to take a piece of your car with them.
Multiplayer on the other hand allows the chance to jump into some online action against other players and A.I. competitors in the Mixed Events mode, Special – for specific vehicles such as the Lawnmower, and Combine Harvester – or across set Racing only or Derby only servers. There is also a Quick Match option.
During my time with Wreckfest on Xbox One, loading times have been long and online connections have been a little unstable, but with a fix due in the day 1 patch that all players will receive, there should be no issues in what has been an incredibly smooth and silky racing experience otherwise. Of course, online racing is always going to be a little different than racing against the A.I. but even with the limited players I’ve so far been able to face, racing doesn’t ever feel all that different to the single player side of things. That is a big bonus for those frequenting the online world.
There does seem to be one issue however and that is the fact that whatever upgrades you have applied to your car in career mode, will be the same upgrades that car has online. This means that should you be late to the game and have only just started your destruction career, you may be up against others who have a fully upgraded and much more competitive vehicle. It’s not game breaking, but it could certainly do with a tweak or two to ensure the experience remains fair for all players after launch.
Away from the game modes and Wreckfest comes across as a capable and largely enjoyable return to the days of Destruction Derby. What makes it so good however isn’t just the competitive racing, or the impressive visuals that are on display. It’s not even the detailed and highly destructive tracks which offer great variation from the figure of 8, Ovals and onto more defined and well-crafted tracks, but rather the destruction model itself.
For years players have long craved true destruction in a racing game and even though Race Driver: Grid has been possibly the best console experience that offers a true collision model, Wreckfest goes above and beyond that with vehicles losing wheels, body parts, and internal parts. They are genuinely able to be completely flattened by the competitive racing. Of course, find yourself with too much damage and you’ll be dumped out of the race and wrecked on the side, but should you position your hits well, then there is no reason why you can’t prolong things that little further to find your car crunching it with the rest – even with just a few wheels remaining. If you haven’t already seen the trailers or watched the gameplay, then consider a Battlefield level of destruction crossed with the racing scene, and you’ll be painting an appropriate picture!
If you enjoyed the old school Destruction Derby games, want more of the original FlatOut style racing, or simply want to scrap all that clean track racing for something a little more exciting, then Wreckfest is a game you need to be playing. It’s hectic, it’s engaging and it’s complete carnage. In fact, it’s the Wreckfest that we’ve all been waiting for!