Demolition racing crashes its way back into my heart

User Rating: 9 | Wreckfest (Early Access) PC

I was very hesitant when I first looked into Wreckfest. First off, I picked it up on Steam as an Early Access title. Early Access doesn't enjoy the greatest reputation because most of them never see a full release. Furthermore, this demolition racing game is from Bugbear, the studio responsible for Flatout, a game I panned. I mean I loathed that game. I'm a bit of a hoarder when it comes to games, and I'm always on about low trade-in values, but I took that game back to Gamestop so fast I didn't even have all the cellophane removed. But something in the preview material got its hooks into me and refused to let me go. I went against my better judgment and bought it...

I was richly rewarded! This game actually lived up to the hype. Admittedly, I found a few flaws, but they're more nit-picking and certainly nothing to detract from this immensely satisfying experience.

Career mode is very straight forward, get in, get going, get wrecking. It's typical demolition racer fare: races and demolition derbies. There are tracks like the Figure 8 and The Death Loop. Races on these tracks becomes a fight for survival as the smoldering wrecks of your less fortunate competitors litter the track, making each lap more perilous. Demolition derby arenas are equally enjoyable and often involve some kind of gimmick. You'll be crashing and bashing in old motor homes, school buses, riding mowers, and even massive combines harvesters.

I noticed some difficulty in resetting your career (it's not an option, you have to delete your save which is much easier for the versions on consoles), but it's not a big issue. Progression is smooth enough, and you don't have to spend countless hours grinding the same three or four races that you're cleared to enter until you earn just enough cash to upgrade your car to eek out a win in another race, and then you repeat the process again. Car customization and upgrading is equally quick. You're not going to find the kind of depth in the garage that you would encounter with Gran Turismo or Forza, but it's this game keeps a bit of that quick pick-it-up-and-play feel so a crazy deep garage system would clash with this model. There are a few silly bits you can purchase to deck out your cars like an inflatable shark for the roof.

With vehicle selection and customization out of the way we can get to the nitty-gritty, the main course, the good stuff, the...the...I ran out of metaphors for the racing and the wrecking. The cars in this game handle well, they learn towards the arcade, but it has some simulation elements. The tracks are gorgeously rendered, with lots of tire barriers and other destructibles that will litter the racetracks in conjunction with the broken bits and pieces from your and your opponents' cars. They can interfere with your driving so it adds a new level of depth to the experience. This ties into my main point: the soft-body damage modeling is easily the main attraction. When you're banging around in a tight pack or causing automotive carnage in a demo derby it's immensely satisfying to watch as car parts and track pieces fly through the smoke and the dirt, the occasional fire seen peeking through the grille of a vanquished foe. Another noticeable sim influence is the vehicle damage, itself. Apart from the obvious (and very well-executed soft-body physics damage) the critical systems of the cars can be damaged and their losses directly affect the vehicles' performance. Critical damage can be incurred during races, as well, which means you've gotta watch yourself in the longer ones.

This is one truly enjoyable Demolition Racing title from a company I previously wasn't too crazy about. I think this title has plenty to offer all racing game fans, not simply demolition racer enthusiasts. It's available on PC, PS4, and XB1, so there's no excuse for missing it.