For a newborn, PlayStation 5 is not short of exclusive content. Nowadays this is how you build your platform and having a frantic action, easy-to-pick-up multiplayer game by your side from the very early days of the system is a must-have. Destruction Allstars has some good design ideas and gameplay loops, and this game could be great in the future but, right now it's lacking content and overflowing with microtransactions. So, start your engines and let's race into the reasons.
Destruction AllStars is a vehicular combat game where you compete alone or in teams against other players in short matches. Depending on the game mode, a single match can take between a few seconds or 7-8 minutes. All you have to do is smash into other cars and avoid being crashed into yourself. Although, no need to hesitate in getting rid of your scrap junk because there is always another car waiting for you.
The best part of the game are the basic mechanics and the pairs of characters and vehicles. Driving any car around the arenas feels good and responsive, and you get a sense of speed even if the space is too small for full throttle. There are a few basic cars and vans for everybody spread in the arena and a unique vehicle with a special ability tied to every character (16 in total). The handling is different in all of them, as is speed and durability, and this is important because you need to choose the one that suits you.
Special abilities or Breakers can make for real advantages during the match and differ a lot from one to another. Ultimo Barricado's The Undisputed, is a defensive truck and is ideal to take you all the way till the end in Gridfall, a game mode where small pieces of the ground keep disappearing and you lose if you fall. While Genesis' Callisto is so fast that you can travel the map in a few seconds, which is ideal for say carrying gears in Stockpile, but it's at the risk of being destroyed quickly. Stockpile is a team vs. team game mode where crashed players drop gears and the opposing team have to pick them up and bank them.
Whenever you are not in a car, you're on your feet. Destruction AllStars characters are very capable on their own, as they can jump over rival cars and wreck/take it by completing a QTE or collect shards on their way to another vehicle. Plus they have a special ability too, but this is far less useful than the others. Getting into empty cars and collecting shards is kind of a platformer activity, as those are in elevated platforms, and while the characters move fast and know how to evade a car acting as an angry bull, beware of other traffic.
This side of the gameplay may be a little bit annoying for some people and kind of frustrating when you can't find an empty car, but this is where strategy-minded players pave their way to victory. I found it far more useful spending a few seconds looking for shards instead of driving regular vehicles in order to be the first in the match to get my special car. Breakers are useful and have the power to change the path of a match, but not so much to feel like the game is unbalanced. Of course, it will improve with time and metagame values will fluctuate as well.
I like the general art style in Destruction AllStars and really loved how well crafted every character and every vehicle are. Lucid Games put a lot of attention to detail in how they look, how they act, how they speak and how to match aesthetics with Breakers. There are even different arrangement of the main theme per pilot and you can listen to it in a seamless transition on the character selection screen.
As for visuals and sound design, they are flawless but not memorable. And this also applies to the stages. Right now there are only four venues - Tokyo, Barcelona, London, and Las Vegas - and while you can actually see that the layout is different, somehow they fall short being unique. It's like all that matters is where the other cars and the walls are.
The feeling that the game lacks content is devastating because the core is good. I told you about two game modes and there are a couple more, Mayhem and Carnado. The former is a free-for-all competing for the highest score and the latter is almost the same but in teams. And this it, four online modes with little differences between them. This is where you will spend most of your time.
Lucid Games' did look to single player as well, and besides the arcade and training mode, there is a very interesting Challenge Series that act as short story modes per characters. There are three at the moment, and you have to complete different goals such as crossing checkpoints in time or wrecking rivals companions without being wrecked. But, besides the first one, the other two are behind a paywall.
Microtransactions are all over the place and in your face. There are two currencies, one you get for levelling up playing online and the other one to be bought with real money. With the first one you can buy a ton of skins, emotes and so on, and also you have to save some for the Challenge Series. To unlock the first challenge is 200 coins (2 euros) and the second one, 400 coins. While Destruction AllStars is free for PlayStation Plus subscribers, it invites you to spend a lot of money all the same, but let's see what happens in the future regarding this. Will it become free-to-play? Sold in the store as a regular game? We'll have to find out.
Technically, Lucid Games takes great advantage of PS5 computing power, from the main menu to the rage of battle. Visuals are crisp and clear and run smoothly. I've read people complaining about ghost cars in online matches but for me it was almost always fine. The worst thing in Destruction AllStars is an annoying system to mute other players in online rooms; mic is always on if you don't mute yourself in the controller and some people leave it running, so you have to listen to their trash talk on their speakers. To avoid it, you have to go to the console menu and look for an activity card at the beginning of every single match. Please, patch it soon.
I can see Destruction Allstars being a long-lasting game on PlayStation 5 thanks to an interesting gameplay loop for short bursts, but right now it's lacking. Lucid Games spend quality time creating characters and cars, but the game needs more game modes and arenas and hiding the interesting single player side of the game behind a paywall is a dirty trick.