• Lewis Gillingwater

Review: Wreckfest PS5

Updated: Jun 5

Reviewed on: PS5

Publisher: THQ Nordic

Developer: Bugbear Entertainment

Available on: PC/XB/PS

For better or worse, Wreckfest is simple. This is a destruction derby game that knows exactly what it wants to be and pulls it off with ease. Finnish developer Bugbear entertainment may not offer you the flashy photorealism of Forza, the simulated handling of Gran Turismo, or the elaborate narrative framing devices of Need for Speed, but what they do offer is sublime in its simplicity. Don't worry about all that nonsense, says Wreckfest. You see all these cars around you? Fuck them up.

Technically, the aim of most Wreckfest events is to win a race. All your standard racing game fare are here, from speedway circuits to rallycross dirt tracks and the occasional Trackmania style loop-de-loop. Of course, what Wreckfest adds is that the aim is to win a race by any means necessary. Where other racing games frown on you slamming other cars, carefully pitting them off track or causing them to crash head-on into walls, Wreckfest screams encouragement from the sidelines. There are no rules here, and no penalties beyond the time it takes to drag your wreck back onto the track.

These race modes are complemented by a series of destruction events where the aim is to eliminate your opponents. Wreckfest strips away the pretence of this being a fair competition among equals here and just lets you go wild. Is it always fair? No. Occasionally you will be flipped over or crushed into a wall by vindictive AI. But then, maybe you should have done the same to them first. Its crush or be crushed, and with a vehicle deformation and damage engine that frequently leaves you driving something that can only loosely be described as a car, it's equally fun to be on either end of the destruction.

There's a hefty campaign offering here, singleplayer events that range from standard races to more ridiculous offerings. I can't help but wish Wreckfest had leaned into the latter here. It's infinitely more fun to play and replay, say, a Combine Harvester destruction derby or a race where you have to weave a three-wheeled van between twenty-four school buses than it is to race a beat-up sedan around a dirt track for the twelfth time. Wreckfest's destruction and no-holds-barred approach to getting ahead of the competition does keep these more sedate competitions interesting, but they're far from the highlights here and quickly begin to feel like filler between the more wacky races.

Solo game modes, however, are not what Wreckfest was built for. This is a game that thrives on multiplayer. Where the AI can sometimes feel a little unfair, they have nothing on the entertainingly stubborn vindictiveness of real players. That sounds bad, but trust me, after a few games you'll be cackling too as you park in the middle of a crossroads or deliberately drive the wrong way and smash into one car specifically out of spite for when they did the same to you. Wreckfest rewards chaos. There's a childlike glee from making these oversized Hotwheels cars fly into one another and come out barely intact, wheels hanging on by threads and missing a third of the bodywork. Like the singleplayer, there are standard races here too (and they're made more fun by how aggressive online drivers get) but it's the destruction arenas where the game shines.

Wreckfest isn't stingy on vehicles and isn't pushy on the currency you need to unlock them. There's a wide selection here and some real variety between speedy sedans, bulky trucks and unique choices like school buses, vans and a sofa on wheels. These are all customisable with parts and paintwork, for people who care to tune up their cars before their handiwork is inevitably destroyed in a four-car pile-up. These tuning options do affect the driving model, which differs substantially from car to car. On the whole, the cars tend to feel like they're fighting you as you steer them around tight corners and try in vain to get them up to speed. If the intention here was to make you feel like you're driving wrecks that deserve to be written off, the developers absolutely succeeded. Perhaps it's not the smooth driving supercars of other driving games, but these disposable junkers are entirely fitting in Wreckfest's less careful, more crash heavy atmosphere.

The game is perhaps a little barebones. In the menus, in the lack of game modes, in the lack of anything beyond the essentials really, it shows its origins as a game that went into early access over 8 years ago now, but none of that stops it from being a fun experience. The shiny new coat of paint offered by this next-gen upgrade certainly helps a lot with that. Everything runs smoothly, loads quickly and the carnage looks excellent. On PS5 especially, Wreckfest sold me on the console's improved vibration and haptic feedback, the controller rumbling in just the right way for you to tell apart a suspension fault, a broken gearbox or a failing engine and to know the car you're driving is not long for this world.

Is Wreckfest going to be a game that you put hours and hours into in pursuit of perfection? No, probably not. There's no complex story here, no esports potential (though, I badly want to see that now I think about it), no progression system designed to hook you and make you spend cash on loot boxes containing car parts. Wreckfest is simple. Wreckfest is chaotic. Wreckfest isn't always perfect. The game knows all this. But Wreckfest is also very confident that it is an incredibly good time.