Wreckfest Review

After an incredibly rocky start, Wreckfest is finally set to arrive on the Xbox One. Having begun development back in 2012, Bugbear Entertainment went through hell to finally get it released on Windows in June of 2018. Now set to arrive on Xbox on August 27th, I’m sure you’re all wondering if the destructive action was worth the wait or if Wreckfest tires fall flat.

It may be that Wreckfest has arrived at a good time, with no new major racing titles on the immediate horizon – though, to be fair, it does fill a niche that other racers does not. While the car models are not quite detailed as elsewhere, and there are no officially licenced vehicles, the destructive nature of Wreckfest gameplay thankfully does not require it. There is a variety of event types to choose from and an equally robust number of tracks and arenas to drive in, as well as a good number of special events. Races will run across varied terrain and cars may be tuned accordingly.

Tuning options are simple to grasp, with just a few adjustments on a number of sliders governing different aspects of your car. These are for your suspension, gear ratio, differential, and brake balance. A number of upgrade parts are available as well. These will typically give a positive boost to your car’s performance. In addition to the performance upgrades, you can also armor up your car with some heavy metal. The armor upgrades will boost your overall strength but there is a downside. More armor means more weight, adversely affecting your car’s performance. Finding the right balance can be tricky. There are some visual upgrades as well but this is mostly for the sake of customization. 

On the subject of customization, there is also the paint shop in which you can play with the different styles, liveries, and make color adjustments. While very basic, making your car one of a kind is still entirely in the realm of possibility for any player, no matter what their artistic skill. I still wish that there was a bit more personalisation (there’s only pre-determined paint schemes here), but perhaps they can gradually add more into the game. Still, with at least thirty cars to choose from and more on the way via DLC, players are sure to find their favorites. 

The three main modes of the game are the Career, Custom Event, and Multiplayer. In Custom Event, players can create their own single player event and take charge of every element. From the race type to the track layout there is a large variety to choose from. In Career mode there are a number of championships to unlock starting with the Regional Juniors. Progress is achieved by earning enough points to unlock the next championship. Each championship has numerous events to take part in, but it isn’t necessary to complete all of them to unlock the next. In Multiplayer you can join a quick match to jump in any available match regardless of discipline. Or you can join a server for racing only, or demolition derby only, or even one for special vehicles only. I think most players will opt for mixed events myself. You can even browse available servers to make sure you have a good ping rate, and the best connection possible to smash up the other players.

Ok. Now that I’ve talked about all the various menus and options, let’s talk about how it plays. Races are very straightforward – be the first to cross the finish line. This, however, is not as easy as it sounds. Remember, this is a game where racing dirty is not only NOT frowned upon but is actively encouraged, as you get experience bonuses for crashing your rivals. Demolition derby events require you to be the last man standing. Again not an easy feat in a field of 24 vehicles. Think you’ll just avoid everyone while they wreck each other? Guess again. After a short time if you have not made contact with an opponent, a timer will start to count down much like an NBA shot clock. Basically, you’ll need to get down and dirty – but, after all that’s where the fun is!

The car physics and handling model are both quite impressive. Lighter cars are quick and agile, though may be somewhat difficult to control at times. The big, heavy cars can cause major damage at high speeds, but are a bit more cumbersome. The mid size vehicles strike somewhat of a balance between the two. In all cases you can really get a feel for the weight of your particular car. Fittingly for a game titled Wreckfest , the damage modelling is pretty accurate. The more damage you sustain, the more your car’s performance is degraded, making it more difficult to handle. How much damage can I really sustain in a straight forward race, you ask? Well, many races involve jumps, cris-crossing intersections, and in some cases facing incoming traffic head on. This white knuckle driving at its best. Especially if you happen to be in the lead. All in all, Wreckfest offers quite a bit of fun. Especially if you’re one of those racers that likes to enter that first turn at full speed, using your fellow racers as launchpads!

I’ve played the game thoroughly with both a controller and a racing wheel. I have to say it is equally fun no matter which you choose. Both provide excellent feedback and really give you a sense of both weight and power. If you use a wheel, be prepared to spend a little time on wheel settings as this game does utilize the full range of motion by default. Between that, the force feedback, and the violent nature of the game, playing on a wheel will give you quite a physical workout. I know it made me break a sweat.

Visually, Wreckfest isn’t the prettiest game out there. The cars lack a little bit of polish and even the environments seem a little bit dated. The clouds of dust kicked up by other cars is quite satisfying though, and the sheer amount of wreckage that gets strewn about the track or arena more than make up for the lack a visual wow factor. Wreckfest does a little bit better in the sound department. Car engine sounds are appropriately powerful for the ugly beasts in this game. Hitting the tire barricades sound like what real tires sound like when hit by a large object. That kind of hollow “thunk” sound. It has an appropriate heavy metal soundtrack that perfectly accentuates the Carnage of each event.

Ultimately Wreckfest has a lot of positives going, it’s way but it does have a few short falls. The most glaring of which was even getting the game to start. If you are a wireless headset user that has a USB transmitter plugged into the back of your console be aware that for some unexplained reason this will sometimes interfere with the initial start up of the game. Unplugging the transmitter before starting the game will remedy this, and hopefully this should be patched very soon too, but as of writing this, I still had it happen from time to time. Strike two in the USB device list is recognizing your force feedback steering wheel. This is the only game where I’ve had my wheel recognized but not the pedals. Unplugging and replugging the USB fixed the pedals but then the force feedback was gone. I had to quit out of the game and restart before everything worked again. This problem came back when I was away from my console for a while, once the screen saver kicked in. Again, quitting out of the game and restarting solved this. I am using a Thrustmaster TMX pro wheel and pedal set. Again, these issues should be patched out by the time you guys get to play, but it’s something worth bearing in mind all the same.

One strange visual glitch I’ve experienced was similar to when an old Nintendo or Atari cartridge was dirty and would cause graphical errors on screen. This was only in the menu screens and was limited to the background image and not the text thankfully. If you like to drive with the in car camera view be aware that when a side collision crushes the driver side enough it will appear as if you’re sitting half in and half out of the car with the steering wheel off to the side. It would be better if the camera could stay focused closer to the wheel rather than the initial starting position, rather than this jarring visual presentation.

Conclusion

Despite a few odd technical issues, Wreckfest is really rather fun to play. The sheer carnage on display as you smash and crash with your fellow racers is quite the sight, especially in the destruction derby style modes. Those looking for a racer with a little extra edge will no doubt find it here.

This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox One. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version.
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Good
  • Fun use of physics
  • Nice visuals audio design
  • Good track design
Bad
  • Some technical issues
  • Car customization is a bit limited
8.1
Great
Gameplay - 9.1
Graphics - 7.5
Audio - 7.8
Longevity - 8
Written by
Born in New Jersey across the Hudson from Manhattan, I've been playing games for over 30 years. I can confidently say that I've played at least one game on every console ever made. An accomplished Forza artist, I enjoy racing games, platformer/puzzlers, adventure/RPG's, sports titles, and arcade shooters, although I have been known to play some FPS's on occasion. JPep715 on Xbox and jpepek715 on Twitch, feel free to add or give me a follow.

4 Comments

  1. I’m glad to read this positive review. I’ll have some free time in the evenings in October. This and the car mechanic simulator game will probably fill those gaps.

    Reply
  2. For sure. Definitely not a sim but good fun all the same.

    Reply
    • Can’t believe the online multiplayer mode is region specific. Many users have friends and families in different regions and can’t play together

      Reply
      • I don’t ever play video games but when my 8 year old got a new x box for Xmas I figured cool a rece game in wreckfest. I quickly realized you can’t play against one another…
        What kinda game in this day and age isn’t set up to play against one another?? Wow????

        Reply

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