After years of racing games telling us not to hit other cars and insisting that we drive sensibly, here comes Wreckfest. That said, for those of us who see other drivers as merely a cushion to use as we go around corners, Bugbear Entertainment's racer is just what the doctor ordered.
It seems surprising there haven't been more demolition derby games on this generation of consoles. We've had a spate of sensible, realistic driving sims that taught us about driving lines and made us earn our licences, and these have been complemented by a handful of arcade racers such as Onrush. However, for the gamer who wants a semi-realistic no-nonsense destroy-everything-and-win experience, there hasn't been much of late. Until now, that is.
For the most part, Wreckfest takes itself seriously. There are no boosts or power-ups and the damage modelling is detailed. This racer is all about causing as much damage as you can, avoiding wrecking your own car, and keeping your fingers crossed until you've crossed the finishing line, hopefully in first.
The single-player is made up of five championships. You gain points by finishing each race or series of races, which in turn opens up more. When you accumulate enough points you win the whole competition, which then opens up the next championship.
It's all pretty standard stuff until you look at the races that are included. You have your normal banger races, which involve trying to finish first while smashing your way through a pack of up to 24 cars, and demolition derbies where you have to either survive until the end or cause as much mayhem as you can before you go. Each race also has an extra challenge, such as causing X amount of damage or spinning three opponents. Then, there are the other races involving things like motorhomes and school buses. More on them later.
So, where does the fun come from? Well, it comes from the absolute carnage that you can create, and the chaos that you have to weave through. There are cars flying off into trees, rolling off the track, and crashing all around you. You can be at the front of the pack when some joker smashes into you, causing you to flip, damaging your car and forcing you to reset - you can go from 1st to 11th in a heartbeat.
It also feels like the other drivers are never far behind you, and one mistake or badly taken corner leaves you potentially in someone's crosshairs. After a few laps, the track is littered with debris and destroyed opponents who didn't quite make the grade. All of this carnage leads to some hi-octane adrenalin-fuelled fun.
Then, just when you think it couldn't get any better, there are a series of events that take it to another level. Have you ever wanted to drive a three-wheeled car and try and escape some school buses (or vice-versa)? Have you ever wanted to race sofas, demolish combine harvesters, or destroy as many lawnmowers as you can? If the answer is yes, read on.
In Wreckfest you can do all of this and more, and on top of that, the races all feel different, unique, and you don't have to commit hours of your day to each playthrough either as races don't take too long, so if you have 20 minutes to spare, you can just pick up the controller, do a few laps, enjoy some carnage, and then put it down again. What's more, there's the option to indulge in some multiplayer and smash into fellow racers from around the world.
Back to solo play and there's the option to tune or upgrade your car. You can buy new parts for the engines to speed things up, or impact bars which slow the car but make it better at destroying stuff. You can also upgrade the look of your ride with new paint jobs and cosmetic items stuck on the roof. Before each race, you can also tune your car, changing things like gear ratio and suspension, but luckily, this isn't too involved meaning you can just flick a few bars and get on the track to cause more mayhem.
All of this action is set to a great soundtrack which has techno and rock tracks that really set the tone perfectly. That's if you can hear it over the smashing of metal on metal. On the other hand, at least at the start of each race, the cars look great, and crashing into other vehicles or walls can leave you looking worse for wear. What starts off as a nice little run around ends up looking like it's been stripped for parts by the end of each race. The only thing we would point out is that sometimes the crowds can look a bit fake, with their constant clapping or standing around. It doesn't take away from the experience at all, though.
The only real moan we have is the slow loading times, which were improved with a day one patch, but still could have been faster. It would have been nice to have more weather effects too, such as rain and lightning, as we think this would have added something extra to the experience.
All in all, we had a lot of fun during our time behind the wheel of Wreckfest. The wealth of single-player races provided us with hours of entertainment and enjoyment, and then there's the multiplayer, which opens up hours of additional fun. This is a fun, aggressive racer, one that feels pretty unique on this console generation. If you're looking for a game that'll give you loads of fun and encourages you to cause some carnage, it's well worth checking out.