If you enjoy driving games but fancy smashing and crashing your way to victory, then this game could be right up your street.
Wreckfest takes a very simple formula and then builds on it relentlessly by putting the player into the driving seat of a fantastic variety of vehicles and then letting them loose in a wide range of arenas and race tracks around the globe. While many games focus on speed and high-end supercars, Wreckfest prefers half-wrecked bangers, monstrous school buses and even supercharged lawnmowers (and sofas…yes, seriously). Every race is an exhilarating blast round tight corners and over chaotic jumps, with all kinds of chaos ensuing from the moment the light turns green. It’s dumb, but a lot of fun.
From the first race of the career mode, it’s clear that this is not a game that takes itself too seriously with players thrust straight into the driving seat of a lawnmower and pitted against a field of thirty drivers with one common objective: wreck as many people as possible. Cue drivers flying through the air all over the place and much hilarity. Honestly, the first time I smashed into someone and saw them flung skywards I genuinely laughed out loud. After that, I was screaming at the TV and wincing with every near miss and nearly woke up the kids next door. The handling of the cars is spot-on for this type of arcade-racer but there is a deceptively deep simulator hidden under all the madcap shenanigans that allows those with a bit of know-how to tweak and tune to their heart’s content (I really don’t know much about that type of thing, so I just upgrade and drive like a maniac).
The main campaign is broken down into multiple events, each based around a particular class or style of vehicle. To begin with the cars are a little sluggish, but you quickly earn enough credits to upgrade numerous aspects of the cars in your garage so that they handle better, become more durable and, ultimately, can move up into higher class races. While there is plenty of variation here, the different race types can generally be classified as either: a destruction derby in an enclosed arena; circuit races with the aim of placing first; survival races where the objective is to wreck as many people as possible before you get eliminated. The car handling is really responsive and has an arcade feel to it, but you can alter the settings to be more like a simulation if you wish (if you do then much of the cosmetic damage becomes far more threatening as your car can be damaged to the point of elimination, even in a standard race). It’s good to have the option to change the game to suit your preferences and this also means that the game is more accessible in the earlier stages.
I enjoyed the variations of the different race types and the fact that numerous races have specific requirements in terms of car type, country of origin, class etc., as this meant I could spend my hard-earned in-game credits on something more suited to the specific requirements of the different events. Over time, I built up a decent stable of stallions (and a couple of donkeys to boot) with different cars being built around different areas of focus. By doing so, it became easy to select a car that was best suited to each race series or specific race type from my roster and, as an example, you can make sure that cars that are intended to be used for the demolition derby races have higher level armor to keep them in the running as long as possible once things get a little hairy.
For most people, the highlight of this type of game is the way that the cars themselves get smashed to bits. The damage modeling is brilliant, with cars crunching and folding with each successive impact, and I’ve had more than a few races where I’ve crossed the line in smoldering heap (but at least I crossed the line). Glass shatters, debris gets flung all over the place and some of the tracks feel different on subsequent laps because of all the wreckage lying everywhere.
You can be incredibly wanton in terms of your intended level of destruction, but you need to strike a balance if you’re going to take a top spot on the podium. Some races are really tightly contested, especially on the higher difficulty settings with realistic damage, and finding the right moment to shunt an opponent into a wall is hugely satisfying – one highlight for me was being involved in a bit of cat-n-mouse chasing that ended up with one of the AI cars taking on a grudge towards me and trying to ram me into the pack at every opportunity, this went on for a good few laps before I ended the argument when I managed to force him into a large post that sent him cart wheeling across the tarmac and left most of his windscreen and bodywork scattered over a wide radius. If I was racing for real, you can guarantee I would be leaning out the window and raising a middle finger salute to that one.
Wreckfest is a surprisingly good looking game with a lot of nice aesthetic touches when you consider that its main focus is destroying anything that gets in your way. Each of the courses are well-realized and apart from a few slightly dodgy looking spectators they look great. You don’t really have time to take it all in when there’s 20+ other cars trying to rear-end you as you approach a hair-pin bend, but the weather effects and luscious vistas that sprawl into the distance really tie it all together. Throw in some lush sunsets as you annihilate your opponents and you can even find ways relax amongst the carnage you leave in your wake.
Overall, this is a whole lot of fun and there’s plenty to keep you occupied. What makes it even better is that you can play online and smash the hell out of real people without the consequences this type of driving might lead to in the real world. Fast, loud and dumb as they come, Wreckfest will take you for a ride you’ll remember.