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Wreckfest Review: Crashing The Party

  • First Released Dec 31, 2014
  • Reviewed Jun 29, 2018
  • PC

The Festival of Wrecks.

If there's anything to be learned from a game like Wreckfest, it's that thrashing around old bangers, running opponents into concrete barriers, and threading the needle between a group of crashing cars can, even in 2018, be brilliantly fun. After a four-year stint in Steam's early access, Wreckfest has hit the track with surprising confidence. Showing off its impressive soft-body collision system that lets colliding cars twist and crush with brutal realism and some fierce AI, every event is brimming with satisfaction. Wreckfest succeeds where it matters, becoming one of the most surprising and gratifying racing games of the year.

Wreckfest's career mode is made up of five different championships, each consisting of various events--from multi-race championships to one-off demolition derbys--that each gradually unlock as you gain XP and increase your driver level. In addition to XP, rewards are doled out regularly in the form of performance parts along with credits to buy new cars and parts with, so even a poor finish, which will happen, never feels like wasted time.

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Most career events are a simple race to the finish where you'll have a handful of laps to hunt down the opposition and score as good a position as possible, giving you a chance to serve up mayhem while slicing through the field. Race starts are a gorgeous, chaotic mess that can feel like running a gauntlet as cars jostle and barge for position. They're also where the game's marquee destruction engine shows off its capabilities as cars fly off the course through wooden fences and tire barriers, sending debris scattering into the air and across the road. It can be spectacular to watch from a distance when tailing a pack of cars or during a replay, but equally brutal when you're the one involved in it.

Other event types include demolition derbys, where you try to turn your opponents' cars into cubes of twisted steel by smashing into them as hard as you can, and elimination-style heat races that normally take place on a closed figure eight track or an oval. There's also the occasional lawnmower derby, which shows off the game's slightly twisted sense of humor. Each mode not only offers some variety in destruction but is also visually spectacular in its own right. Landing a perfectly timed swipe that puts an opponent into the path of an oncoming car and watching the resulting destruction behind you looks just as great as slamming a school bus into a pack of Minis.

Damage in Wreckfest has two settings: normal and realistic. On normal, you and your opponents can survive more than your fair share of hard hits, making heavy impacts much more forgiving. But with realistic conditions, things get a lot tougher and a bit more spectacular too. Longer races become tests of survival, as all it takes is one bad collision to put a car out of contention (or at least change how it handles). A bad landing off a jump could destroy your suspension and send you into a wall of concrete that shatters spectacularly upon impact, and that's your race done. There's no rewinding time to fix your mistakes, either; you'll need to restart the race if it all goes south. But while this kind of repetition would normally be grating, the act of racing is so good that it takes the edge off.

When you do manage to escape the chaos and settle into a good driving rhythm, Wreckfest shows off some wonderful driving physics. The transition between different road surfaces is sublime, and regardless of whether you're driving with a top-of-the-line racing wheel or a gamepad, the sensation of sliding around a corner, catching the rear end, and gassing it all the way out feels superb. Tires slip and slide through the dirt but scream for grip on the tarmac, and you can almost feel them flexing as the car rolls through the corners.

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Each type of car, from the hulking school bus all the way down to the miniature two-door Killerbee, feels different to drive. Some are heavier and more sluggish, while others are lighter and can corner better but suffer more in collisions. Upgrades to vehicles can substantially alter the handling, whether it's through better performance or a stronger chassis that's better at taking damage. Although having no way of saving upgrade sets can result in some minor headaches when optimising for each event type, overall it's a meaningful upgrade system with tangible effects on the already diverse feel of racing.

AI drivers race unapologetically no matter the scenario or difficulty level, unafraid to punt you off the road if they decide they want to get past or smashing into to you head first in an effort to take you out. If competing against AI isn't your bag, you can take it online and race against others on dedicated servers or set up your own custom race server with your own rules, and it all works smoothly.

It's rare when a racing game manages to modernize and reinvigorate an old formula with spectacular confidence, but Wreckfest does just that.

Compared to the dynamic gameplay, Wreckfest's user experience is a bit frustrating. The UI is surprisingly bland for such a technically impressive game, with static menus and a heavy rock soundtrack that's obnoxious enough to warrant immediately turning the music off. With that out of the way, you can more fully appreciate the game's excellent sound effects. Throaty engines belch and roar loudly--except for the lawnmower, which sounds like thousands of angry mosquitos--and crash sounds are impactful and bone-crunching. Equally as good are the game's visuals. The cars themselves, while all old, banged-up muscle cars, look suitably mean and ready for thrashing. Debris stays on the track over the course of a race, as do the littered remains of cars that don't make the distance. Heat races show off the course at different times of day, with the later heats often taking place as the sun starts to set and rays of sunlight pour through the gaps in the grandstands and trees. Replays give you the chance to relive your best moments, although the lack of a rewind function makes it a pain to focus in on specifics, forcing you to restart the replay from the beginning.

It's rare when a racing game manages to modernize and reinvigorate an old formula with spectacular confidence, but Wreckfest does just that. Minor issues with menus and its soundtrack aside, it wows with a gorgeous look and wonderful driving feel, along with a damage system that satisfies in the most brutal of fashions. With its array of different cars, tracks, and event types, Wreckfest is a brilliantly fun and frenetic racing game that can be thoroughly enjoyed by anyone, not just racing game fans.

James Swinbanks on Google+
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The Good
Wide variety of cars and tracks, each with different look and feel
Crash physics and damage are spectacular
Superb, sophisticated driving feel with both a gamepad and racing wheel
Race rewards are both plentiful and meaningful
Aggressive AI are a rewarding challenge to overcome
The Bad
Bland UI that belies its overall technical charm
Abysmal soundtrack
About GameSpot's Reviews

About the Author

James Swinbanks rolled his car 37 times and played 15 hours of Wreckfest for the purposes of this review, using a copy purchased during early access.
31 Comments  RefreshSorted By 
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Avatar image for ragethorn

I can't find this game on the PSN STORE.

Avatar image for itchyflop

@ragethorn: its not released until may 31st 2019

Avatar image for firstplace1

This game reminds me a lot of Test Drive Eve of Destruction...does anyone know if Wreckfest will have similar races like the "Whiparound Race" and the "Suicide Race"? It's good to see a racing game with car damage - without the cars driving around at unrealistic speeds and bouncing off the track's surroundings.

Avatar image for analgrin

This is a great game. Really does bring back memories of Destruction Derby back in the day. For the first tier of career mode it's so-so. Then from tier 2 and beyond the tracks get more complicated and the AI get more aggressive and the game becomes much more fun and much more difficult to survive until the end of a race let alone finish first.

Everything maxed out at 1440p (can't remember if I have MSAA x2 or x4?) with a gtx 1070 and it runs great (locked 60fps on my tv).

Little tip, turn off sharpening in options and install "cinematic depth of field" from steam workshop which adds subtle blur to very near and far objects which helps mop up the few jaggies anti-AA misses.

Avatar image for cjtopspin

Cheesy Onion McFuckels...excellent name.

Avatar image for ragethorn

It was released 4 years ago? Wtf?

Avatar image for analgrin

@ragethorn: Early access 4 years ago. That's when I bought it for a fraction of the price they're selling it at now. Great game now it's finished.

Avatar image for mal123456

Just finished Flatout 4 on Ps4 so this looks like a worthy follow up in November!

Avatar image for timthegem

Cool! Please review Ms. Pac-Man next. Unless that game is still too new.

Avatar image for so_hai

@timthegem: Ms. Pac-Man

Physics and damage are consistent
Superb, sophisticated Pac-feel with both a gamepad and arcade stick
Stage rewards are both plentiful and usually cherries
Aggressive AI ghosts are a rewarding challenge to overcome
Bland UI that belies its overall technical charm
Abysmal soundtrack
No Achievements
Not enough water
Avatar image for bfeinberg

@timthegem: Uh, the game just released, so not sure what your problem is. It was in early access up until late last month.

Avatar image for 93ChevyNut

I did not expect GS to even review this game and I certainly did not expect it to review this well. Yeah, gonna need to get this one.

Avatar image for Warlord_Irochi

Reminds me a lot of Destruction Derby on PS1, in fact some of the tracks look like there were directly taken from said game.
Not that that's a bad thing, mind you.

Avatar image for Daveof89

Oh, it’s finally out! I bought this game like, 3 years ago.... I will have to get back into it!

Avatar image for SkiBumMSP

Finally, an honost-to-God, smash-em & crash-em racing game for the modern era! Personally, from what little bit of the game I was able to see and play myself, I thought the soundtrack actually kicked ass! Then again, I am into all that hard rock and heavy metal to begin with. I don't know what kind of music the reviewer listens to, though, but I guess if you don't like hard rock and/or heavy metal, I can see how it can get obnoxious. Then again, if I find myself playing a game that uses a rap/hip-hop soundtrack, I often find myself muting it as fast as I can as I cannot stand rap/hip-hop and find it really obnoxious.

Avatar image for Alucard_Prime

lol @ 2:50.....2 cars on top of each other? This game looks great.....unfortunate to hear about the music, good we can turn it off

Avatar image for gunnyninja

@Alucard_Prime: If I recall, one steers and the other gas and brake.

Avatar image for openmind23

Been playing this quite a bit. It has been in early access for a while on Steam, but really good now it's released in full. Excellent racing game and my current favourite in this genre. :)

Avatar image for Alucard_Prime

Sounds great, Xbox One version confirmed as well Nov 20

Avatar image for DeviantCode

The real FlatOut 3.

Avatar image for lionheartssj1

Sounds like fun...I kinda want to get this now.

Avatar image for Terminator95

PS4 Please

Avatar image for xantufrog

@Terminator95: it's on PS4

Avatar image for aaron25m

@xantufrog: Not until November sadly.

Avatar image for xantufrog

@aaron25m: understood - I took his question to be "I want a port", in which case he's (or will be) in luck

Avatar image for siarhei

Never heard of this game but sounds fun.

Will get it on console when it comes there.

Wreckfest More Info

  • First Released Dec 31, 2014
    • PC
    • PlayStation 4
    • Xbox One
    Wreckfest is a demolition derby themed racing game with soft-body damage modeling, sophisticated driving dynamics and in-depth vehicle upgrading, featuring both demolition derbies and more traditional track races. It’s all about fun, breakneck racing and over-the-top crashes.
    Average Rating19 Rating(s)
    Please Sign In to rate Wreckfest
    Developed by:
    Published by:
    THQ Nordic, Bugbear
    Arcade, Driving/Racing
    Content is generally suitable for ages 13 and up. May contain violence, suggestive themes, crude humor, minimal blood, simulated gambling and/or infrequent use of strong language.
    Mild Lyrics, Mild Violence