In our original review of Wreckfest for Xbox One we praised its variety in races, realistic handling and incredible destruction system. It’s clear Wreckfest was the destruction derby game fans had been waiting for. It was a great, arcade-y racing game with an emphasis on smashing into opponents and playing dirty. But since its release, Wreckfest has received next-generation optimisation for Xbox Series X|S. So how does Wreckfest stack up on next-gen hardware?
Firstly, what does Wreckfest’s next-gen optimisation offer? Like many next-gen updates, the Series X|S versions offer improved resolution and framerates: 4K/60fps on the Series X and apparently 4K/30fps on the Series S. The update also brings along improvements to visual effects like smoke and fire, improved textures across the board, better-looking dirt tracks and an even better damage system. There’s also a new 24-player online mode.
You should also keep in mind that Wreckfest’s next-gen update costs £7.55 in-game, and does not take advantage of Xbox’s Smart Delivery Program. This is a major disappointment, especially next to typically ‘greedy’ publishers, like EA and Ubisoft, not charging for updates. And this isn’t because Wreckfest is offering something more than standard with this update. We’ve seen textures, effects, resolutions and framerates improve across the board with next-gen updates. Regardless, let’s breakdown how it runs on the new machines.
I tested Wreckfest on Series X but spent the majority of my playtime using a Series S. On the Series X Wreckfest’s update is great. It looks good, the framerate always keeps up with the on-screen mayhem and tracks in the dirt are particularly nice. There are definitely some areas of the game that do not look as crisp. Some textures in the background of tracks along with the human audiences look particularly bland. But this is probably a product of budget rather than the game being badly optimised.
In our original review, Wreckfest’s damage system was a highlight of the experience. Damage to different parts of your vehicle made a tangible difference in gameplay. This is particularly true in the next-gen update. Damage to the vehicle affects handling, movement and physics in the most subtle ways, whether that is with difficulties in drifting or sluggish turns. It really elevates Wreckfest above other racing games to create a unique experience.
On the Series S, Wreckfest is another story. Immediately, the frequent framerate drops were noticeable. I’m not a gamer that is usually sensitive of framerate drops, but that should give you a picture of how severe these drops can get. They’re especially noticeable when there’s even input lag affecting gameplay.
These drops were persistent and plagued the entire game. They were significantly worse in modes focused on destruction and crashing into others. But were still present in more straightforward racing modes that you would find in any racing game, even when there was nothing especially demanding going on, at least on-screen. These framerate drops were a significant barrier to my enjoyment of Wreckfest as a whole, and the fact that this is a paid update makes this issue more sore.
The reasoning for this is confusing, though. At first, I thought it was because the Series S was probably running an Xbox One version of the game. But while some framerate drops were reported on the base Xbox One model, I don’t get the impression that they were too common or distracting. This makes me think that the developers may have tried to use the exact same update on the Series X, for the Series S as well. Meaning the S is unsuccessfully trying to run a racing game at 4K at 60fps. I’m not a game developer so I can’t come to any conclusions. What I do know is that I would not recommend paying for a Series S update right now.
Apart from those annoying technical issues, Wreckfest can be an immensely fun racing game. As mentioned, the destruction of cars, and the physics that go along with it, are great. Wreckfest also has a number of modes for players to choose from, even just ignoring the career and multiplayer split.
There are traditional races that become something more chaotic thanks to Wreckfest’s emphasis on smashing into competitors. Making someone spin out and crash into a barricade never gets old. But there are also modes focused just on destruction, where more than a dozen players are thrown in a pit to set each other on fire. There are even some more bonkers options such as one where every player races on a sofa. It’s full of variety, tons of creativity, and the racing chops to back it all up – when the game’s not stuttering, of course.
The only other thing really holding Wreckfest’s gameplay back is the number of laps included in career mode. On one hand, it sometimes feels as if the game was asking me to go around the laps too many times. But even minor mistakes can set a player up for an unwinnable race, due to Wreckfest’s destructive nature.
Destruction Derby has not been this good in video games for years. It’s just such a shame the publisher is charging for an update that affects Xbox Series S players in such a way. If you’re playing on an Xbox Series X, then Wreckfest is a fast, aggressive and chaotically fun racing game. I would definitely recommend it, especially since it looks and runs pretty great on the Series X. Otherwise, wait for an update on the Series S side, for the time being.
Wreckfest’s Xbox Series X|S update is now available – head over to the Xbox Store for an in-game purchase