Wreckfest: Drive Hard. Die Last. (PS4) Review

I recently reviewed the rather therapeutic and relaxing FIA European Truck Racing Championship game, a game which plays by the rules and punishes you for bumping into other vehicles, going offroad for a few seconds or even getting rear-ended by another car (as it was clearly your fault). Despite its strict and ever-growing list of rules and regulations, I found peace with the game and enjoyed playing nice and doing as I was told. This week I’ve had to throw that all out of the window as Wreckfest embraces death, destruction and carnage, as it rewards you for causing as much mayhem as you can without biting the dust for yourself.

After a failed Kickstarter, Bugbear Entertainment (FlatOut 1 and 2) released an Early Access version of the game (which was called ‘Next Car Game’ back then) which ended up making more money than the failed Kickstarter’s asking goal! Due to its success, four years of updates and improvements lay ahead of it, along with the name change to the appropriately-named ‘Wreckfest’. The game was finally released on PC last year and hits the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One next week, after a short delay and the company, Bugbear Entertainment, being acquired by THQ Nordic last November, 

The game has a lot of history behind it, from its humble beginnings as almost just a prototype, to being acquired by one of the biggest publishers in the world today. However, is the experience on consoles as good as we hoped for? Let’s find out…

Wreckfest 1

Pile on!

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Wreckfest is a solid arcade demolition derby game with a hint of simulation and enhanced customisation, offering both simple and advanced options for tweaking each and every one of your ‘vehicles’ in order to become your chosen method of destruction. The ‘main’ portion of the game has to be its Championship mode, it’s in here where you’ll engage within five different championships, each with up to fifteen events for you to crash, smash, and emerge the victor within (hopefully).

Despite this being a demolition derby game, it’s not a game built with nothing but arenas and wide-open fields, there’s a variety of events such as One-vs-One, 24-vehicle Track Racing, 24-vehicle Demolition Racing, Folk Racing, and the aforementioned Demolition Derby events on a number of tracks. Although you’ll get the urge to home in on the nearest vehicle and literally tear it to shreds (which you can do in any mode), that’s not always the best strategy as some events may require you to destroy X amount of opponents, but others may require you to come in first place in order to ‘win’ the event.

Each event also comes with a few missions, such as make X amount of damage, take down X number of vehicles, be in first place for a whole lap, win by at least 50m, and others… Obtaining these challenge missions doesn’t affect progression but you do need to collect them all should you want the platinum (which is going to be a pain to obtain). However, coming ‘first’ in each course within the event (some events have up to eight courses) will bag you a number of progression points, points which are required to both proceed within the championship and unlock more levels, and unlocking new championships.

Playlist of four different ‘events’:

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Event Breakdown
Demolition Derby
The demolition derby aspect of the game is clearly where things begin to shine. Up to 24 vehicles, including your own, are all stationed either in a ‘wall of death’ style or a circular ‘Hunger Games’ format, all revving your engines as you await the green light to head forward into the inevitable carnage which lies ahead. However, you could do what I do and just sit back for a few seconds and take sloppy seconds as you smash into the opponents from behind via a sneak attack! The various arenas at your disposal allow for varied gameplay such as one with metal walls you can drive up ala Rocket League, one is like a Monster Truck ‘play area’ with ramps and bumps, and others are either big or small and flat – the smaller it is, the more crowded a full Battle Roya… Destruction Derby becomes. 

Speaking of the dreaded ‘B’ word, The demolition derby has two modes, rack up as many kills and points as you can within a set time limit or you all have one life and it’s a fight to the death until only one survives – a bit like the BR formula but without the shrinking play area. Yeah, I know demolition derby has had those rules for years and it came way before people even thought about BR games, but I imagine those who like the BR format but want something a bit different will enjoy playing this mode a lot, both online and offline.

Something I wasn’t expecting though was the Team-based version of the demolition derby. You can play with two, three or four teams as you’re assigned a colour and each impact and death you cause racks up your team’s points. However, be aware of friendly fire as I accidentally killed a lot of my own men whilst playing this mode! It’s not my fault, they were sat on the Sofa and I was in my brand new Combine Harvester!

Wreckfest 3

We’ve seen better days!

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Everything else
All of the other events you’ll have to work your way through, should you wish to try and complete all of the championships, are based on small arena track racing, both on and off-road. The majority of these will be straight forward, it’s you and 23 other CPU controlled death-machines which are out to come first by any means necessary. However, the above permadeath rules come into play on these, your vehicle will get smashed, crushed, flattened and set on fire throughout these events and once you die, your race is over. So, being on the offensive is a good strategy, but being on the defensive is much better in these races – unless the game gives you the annoying challenge mission of taking out X amount of vehicles whilst you’re trying to come first in the race!

However, this isn’t your usual racing game with enhanced physics-based damage (which works brilliantly as it has realistic damage based on the impact), this game is batshit crazy! There’s an event where you and 22 other CPU opponents are all driving Lawn Mowers around the track, but one of the CPU has a giant Combine Harvester, trying his hardest to seek blood and ram you all off the road! There’s another where the Only Fools and Horses guys are trying to escape the law through a bus depot! Okay, not quite but you’re in a Reliant Robin trying to come in first yet everyone else has a massive single-decker bus – if you’re not aware, a Reliant Robin has three wheels and can’t take corners at all!

Then we get to the fun and original tracks (as if the above isn’t both of those already!)… There’s one race (which may crop up again in the later championships) which has you and 23 other CPU opponents racing around the track on a Sofa. Yeah, I mentioned above that you can ride a sofa but I’m guessing you never really took notice of it! Strapped into you leather two-seater with your wheel firmly affixed to a plank of wood screwed down in front of you, you must go as fast as you can as you casually fly around the corners at lightning speeds in hopes you don’t hit something and literally go flying from the safety of your seat. The worst thing you could ever have on your death certificate is DFS (Death from Sofa)!

Wreckfest 4

Us vs a Combine Harvester – only one solution, throw the enemies into it!

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Customisations?
As a modern gamer, there are things we hope games provided these days, stability, fun, longevity and customisations. I’ll get to the other points later, but for now – customisations, can you customise your vehicle how you want it? Yes, you can! From unlocking the ability to buy new internal parts, such as engines, Cooling and Fuel Systems, to buying new armour to protect your chosen Death Toy against all the bumps and scrapes you’ll get out on the battlefield. There’s a lot of things you can spend your hard-earned in-game cash on in order to ensure you’re the leader of the pack. On top of internal swap-outs (the simple side of the customisations), you can also tweak all the individual aspects such as suspension, the gear ratio and brake balance, should you wish to dive into the more advanced side of tuning your vehicles.

Alternatively, if you really don’t care about the way your new toy handles but you want it to stand out from the other dull and semi-destroyed hunks of metal on the track, why not give your new plaything a smashing paint job! You can apply predefined styles, adjust all the colours and change the livery. I particularly like the Tiger-skin Lawnmower and the ‘Ruff Ride’ campervan with a massive dalmatian painted on the side. You can even buy cosmetic features for your cars such as a giant skull, which shows how badass you are, or a sawblade to warn others that you’re a little loopy!

But, whats a new paint job or design without a range of vehicles to mess around with? There are cars in various classes based upon their power, Lawnmowers, Campervans, Limousines, Sofa cars, Combine Harvesters, Reliant Robins, cars with the shell of a Volkswagen Beetle attached above them like a hat, Busses, and more… Each one controls differently and has their own strengths and weaknesses. You may feel like a badass if you drive a massive Combine Harvester into a gathering of Lawn Mowers, but they are zippy little gits and they can easily outmanoeuvre you and get behind you!

Wreckfest 5

I have the Need, the Need for Speed!

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Gameplay Experience
So, as a single player, the above is the majority of the game which you’ll be playing (I’ll look at the other modes in a minute), but the big question is – how does the game actually control? Basically, Wreckfest is one of the best arcade driving games I’ve played this generation both technically and in terms of the fun aspect. The physics of the vehicles feel perfect as you smash into the other cars and leave realistic damage, hit the bumps and ramps at speed and watch your car goes flying through the air at a believable trajectory, see people come flying off their sofa as you give them a good hard prod, and gracefully take on corners by using other vehicles to cushion your impact and slow you down.

The music is a big highlight for me as it’s quite diverse and perfectly fitting for the game, but there are two major mechanics missing…
1. The game doesn’t tell you what music track is playing (not a biggie but I would love to know who some of the artists are, the metal tracks and heavier rock ones are really good) – I did look in the credits but I shouldn’t have to.
2. There are no in-game music controls. The options menu has the option to turn in-game music on or off, but I don’t want something so black and white, let us press Left and Right on the D-Pad (as they’re not used) and alternate between the tracks so we can skip those we don’t like and listen to those we do.

Also, if you’re wanting to do any YouTube content or streaming, turn the music off – it’s all copyrighted and you’ll lose all monetisation rights (as I found out this morning).

Wreckfest 6

Erm, I don’t think arms work like that…

Technical flaws and oddities
In regards to the camera, there are a few things I need to mention. First of all, there’s a ‘cinematic’ camera mode which looks and sounds great but it’s impossible to play with it on. I can see this being perfect for the replays, as it’s as if you’re watching the race from alternating viewpoints, but don’t try and play the game with it on, it’s impossible. Secondly, there’s a photo mode, which is tacked onto the replay system, so you can rewind and forward the whole race to look for that perfect shot – all whilst moving in free cam or following certain cars via a number of different angles. It’s very barebones but the game has awesome visuals so that’s fine – apart from the spectators. There are a few glitches where ‘humans’ arms, heads, fingers and elbows get stuck in a strange place, causing bodies to bend and mangle like aliens as they wave or cheer. You wouldn’t see or notice this during general gameplay, so it’s not a big issue, but some of the ‘humans’ look rather disturbing!

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Similarly, when you win a race, your driver is stood in front of his smashed up vehicle as he waves his hand in the air. They can also experience this freakish bug which results in them having spaghetti fingers, big floppy arms, and twisted bodies. I even had one which would move his body but his head stayed perfectly stationary and refused to move, despite his neck stretching like a Stretch Armstrong toy! Again, this doesn’t affect the game and will probably get fixed, but I found it mildly amusing, kinda like all the destruction to his vehicle had bent and mangled his bones into unspeakable angles.

Thankfully, I never noticed any performance issues or bugs once the races had started (this being the key point here). However, as of writing this review, the PS4 version of the game is suffering from an unusual ‘bug’ which is currently being fixed for a patch which should hopefully drop by launch. If it does, I’ll cross this out, if not, there’s a simple solution. Every now and again, the game freezes whilst loading a race or a car, it’ll get stuck at around 12% complete. To fix this, you goto the PS4 dashboard, manually close the game then re-open it and continue. It’ll then work fine. Again, the devs are aware of this and it should be fixed very soon. On top of this, the actual loading times are a little long so hopefully fixing this bug will decrease those as well.

As expected, Bugbear Entertainment has come through with a patch which launched in the early hours of Saturday morning. After testing it out for a number of hours, I’m beyond happy with the outcome. I’ve not had the dreaded infinite loading glitch occur, all the humans have realistic joints and not devilish one, the driver win and lose shots are now different angles/areas and also don’t suffer from strange deformities, and the game feels better to play. 

What do I mean by ‘better to play’? Well, the vehicles feel tighter and more responsive on the various tracks (mud, gravel and tarmac), the loading times were a bit quicker, and the game felt a little easier, like the speed of the CPU may have been adjusted a little – although, the CPU now seems more aggressive and you get damaged easier and wreck much faster, at least from my experience replaying a few events I’ve already completed.

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Wreckfest 7

How?! How did I drive this?!?!?

It’s more fun smashing your friends back-door in
So, you’ve completed the five main Championships, or you’ve hit a wall and can’t proceed as the game is based on progression points and if you’re not able to obtain any more, you can’t progress any further – so what do you do now? You have two options currently, engage in a custom event or jump online for some multiplayer mayhem! Let’s stick with the Single Player aspect first…

A custom event is what you’d expect, a chance to turn yourself into a God among men and squash everyone you place into the silly Sofa Chairs, watching as they all go flying as they scream in pain just before you run over them with a 15t Combine Harvester! Alternatively, you could set up a fair event where everyone has a similar vehicle and it’s a fight for their life as you’re all death-row inmates and the Warden has granted pardon to the one who comes out of this alive – the possibilities are endless. Basically, you set the arena/track, what vehicle you want, what type of event it is (along with the number of CPU opponents, the length of time or if it’s permadeath, what vehicles the CPU will use, and if the damage is normal or realistic), pick your difficulty and support options, then confirm your perfect event. 

Multiplayer is the mode I’ve been unable to test fully as nobody is online (due to today being a few days before the general launch). However, you can browse the servers, to see what people are actually playing or wanting to play, pick a certain gameplay mode you wish to play, or just try and jump into a ‘quick game’ with the push of a button. I’m not having much luck today in getting into a match but the other day it loaded up and I played for a few hours – I thought I was playing with a bunch of CPU cars as they all had the default names but it must have been me and at least one other human with the rest made up of CPU opponents. There is a trophy which requires you to ‘win’ twenty online matches, so hopefully the servers will be more full come launch – which they should be as this is a brilliant game.

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**Update – whilst testing out the new patch, I jumped into the multiplayer (as I saw a lot of people got their copy early due to the Bank Holidays). I had so much fun playing online with strangers, especially in the rather unusual course where you have to do a loop mid-race and go upside down before shooting through a small gap and out the other side. It was very easy to get into a game and each one was full of players.**

On a side note – there is a DLC Store tab on the main menu – pre-launch it only brings up an error (as they usually do), so I’m not sure what is going to be on sale come launch. I’m hoping it may include new cars, tracks, championships or vehicle types – I’m really hoping it doesn’t offer in-game currency for real cash as earning money in-game is quite slow up until the fourth championship.

Official Trailer

Final Conclusion
If you love the fun side of driving games (smashing into the other vehicles and watching them bleed oil), then Wreckfest is for you! With its diverse event-types ranging from a standard demolition derby to crazy Sofa-racing, there’s so much more to the game than simply crashing into other cars, it’s all about strategically timing your offensive whilst remaining on the defensive as one hit too many will result in you knocking yourself out of the competition. The main Championships should last you many hours as you try furiously to not only come first in every event but also complete all of the challenge missions as well. Plus, there are countless hours of fun to be had within the Custom Events and Multiplayer – I just wished the game had local split-screen multiplayer.

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Not only is Wreckfest one of the best physics-based car destruction games of this generation, but it’s also the best arcade racer I’ve played and a great source for taking out your frustrations after a bad day. Visually the game looks stunning, mechanically the game acts as you’d expect and the music, despite the lack of controls, is a perfect match to the content.

A copy of the game was kindly provided for review purposes

Wreckfest: Drive Hard. Die Last.

£34.99
9

Final Score

9.0/10

The Good:

  • - The physics in this game are second to noe, they don't even slow down the game when parts are flying all over the place
  • - Visually, the game is stunning (bar the things you're not meant to see
  • - The music is a perfect match to the action on screen
  • - The best Destruction Derby game I've ever played
  • - The variety of tracks and crazy vehicles creates a truly unique experience

The Bad:

  • - No music controls (like skip) in-game
  • - On PS4 there is currently an infinite loading bug (will be fixed soon)
  • - There's a problem with the 'humans', they tend to bend and stretch in unholy positions!
  • - Loading times are a little long (could be related to the loading bug)
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