Do you like driving dirty? Really dirty? Then, Wreckfest is for you
Type: Single-player, Multi-player
Genre: Racing, Simulation, Sports
Publisher: THQ Nordic
Release Date: Aug 29, 2019
Wreckfest is the contact sport of the racing genre. Motorized rugby distilled down to axles and tires barely holding on as your car veers wildly out of control in a race to the finish line, except that you just got mowed down by a couch on wheels. Ouch. No, it is not the beginning of a Simpsons episode, it’s Wreckfest, where your wildest driving desires are made flesh as you dive headfirst into some anarchist automotive mayhem for the masses.
Wreckfest is for the Mad Max driver in us, where the only things missing are harpoons and flame throwers welded to the chassis (for now!). The PS4 release has recently graced the shelves of the Playstation store offerings and oh what a joy of destruction it is.
Now, I’ve also been perusing the anti-accolades of late on Steam because there is a bit of an uproar from the PC fan base, where Wreckfest had its origins, after the latest patch. This patch is essentially the console release you’ll be playing on your PS4. I honestly think it is overblown and, frankly, the review bombs often render Steam reviews empty of impartial critique in favor of a means to vent in a digital society where typing “this is trash” is somehow considered the “true” review.
I’ll share my thoughts as someone who bought the game on Steam before it was even officially released. Maybe that will help a bit.
Back in the time before dinosaurs, Wreckfest was in Early Access and super amazingly bare bones as far as a racing game went. It had some nice physics, destruction effects galore, and very much had a sim-like feel to the controls. Yet, there were very few tracks, a handful of cars, the framerate was all over the place, and the online community was small. Fast forward to the actual release on Steam in 2018 and it was a full-blown game at last, with a larger community, more tracks, more polish, a ton of physics and detail, yet still some frame rate issues for those who don’t have a $2000 PC. Then came the August 2019 patch.
Dun. dun. Dunnnnnnnn. Things were changed and the community cried foul. What changed? Well, they released the console version of the game instead which is good and bad. Bad for those that liked the sim-like feel of the controls, but good for those who suck at car sims and wanted something a little easier to play. Bad for those that like the game cranked up to Ultra with as many crashy bits and pieces flying around as possible, but good for those with mid-level PC’s who want to play with a steady framerate. Bad for those that liked to play with AI because now they drive sporadically both hard and easy, but good for those that like the challenge or don’t care about the singleplayer anyway. Gone are the ultra-detailed effects which would tank the framerate of lesser PCs. Gone are the car sim controls in favor of an easier to drive experience. I do have to say, that was an awful lot of work by the studio that was essentially thinned out, which is a head-shaker of a situation all by itself. My thoughts?
It’s still a damned good game.
Wreckfest is not an arcade racer, but more like an Arcade ++ because you need to practice awhile to get good at this game or you won’t even get to the finish line, that is for sure. They took out some of the car sim feel and replaced it with an easier to play game that even non-racers may enjoy playing, but it’s not dumbed down in the least. Seriously, the controls are very tight and feel like they are on the edge of being out of control while still allowing some steering and movement allowances. I say this as someone using a PS4 controller, not a keyboard and mouse, so that’s my take. Also, it’s not *that* easy and yes you will get wrecked often, probably every time until you learn how to stay clear of certain split-second catastrophes on the track. That said, your driving settings are the DEFAULT values. You can go into settings and change things up however you like.
You can adjust your Suspension, Gear Ratio, Differential, and Brake Balance. The way you change these can really affect your race, but it depends on the track. I adjusted my Suspension for paved roads on the Figure 8 tracks and it made a huge difference. On the mixed tracks, much less so and I’d even go so far as to say it’ll make it harder to play if you mess with the settings on mixed road surfaces, but try out different things to see what works best for you. I also liked changing the Differential as that seemed to prevent my overblown cornering. Additionally, there are more advanced settings to adjust. I played with these a bit, but I could not tell much difference one way or the other. Give it a go and see how it works for you.
On PS4 the default controls actually feel great and, personally, I feel the more folks racing just makes it better because this game is not so much about making it to the finish line fastest as it is about playing as dirty as possible with absolutely over the top moves that change the outcome of the race by the second. Though, yeah, you probably want to come in first when you can. You are in for the journey and experience as much as the race itself. If you want a car sim, look elsewhere. This is just plain racing FUN without extra frustration and honestly one of the best crazy racing games produced this console generation. Jump in, rev your engine, and drive into sheer chaos.
I played the game on a PS4 Pro and had zero framerate issues. Granted, it is playing at 1080p and I’d hope for a resolution upgrade or maybe a physics upgrade, but for now we get a steady 30 FPS, which is more than I can say from the older PC unpatched version of the game where I’d get frame drops whenever too many particles were on the screen. Also, the multiplayer is absolutely awesome. I never had a disconnect or time-out once and I’m just using regular wifi on my PS4. There are a ton of people playing, so finding a group of folks online is a breeze. However, there are some waiting times involved. It is not as bad as it was on PC, but it’s still going to be a wait to load the lobby, find the players, and then wait for them all to get ready. Overall, a solid multiplayer experience where I have yet to experience a problem after several days of playing.
Would it be better at 60 FPS? Absolutely. But there is so much going on, I doubt the PS4 could manage that, not even on a Pro. Can you imagine 24 cars all exploding and crashing into each other as they race down the track in multiplayer with all the effects turned up? Maybe on a 2080 video card, but that would kill the framerate for sure on a PS4 Pro, so 60 FPS just isn’t going to happen. I’ll take the steady FPS instead. So, there is that 30 FPS limit that will make you wince a bit if you think framerates are the sole purpose for living. Maybe it’ll clear up on PS5 with the PS4 backward compatibility, I don’t know. Does it make me enjoy the game less? Nope.
You wonder if the destruction comes off as mediocre or turned too far down? Not really. You still get a ton of effects and proper crunch and pieces flying. Not as many as before, but there has to be some sort of leeway to get that steady framerate, so point taken. The damage each car receives is unique and affects your driving as well, so you get a very realistic effect on how the car handles the more you get clobbered.
As for actual cars, I didn’t see any licensed car makes or models. Don’t go in hoping to drive your favorite muscle car, but you get the general feel what they represent. There are upgrades to the car you can purchase as well like the valves, new spark plugs, a better air filter, armor, and more.
There is a huge variety of tracks now, many of them carefully designed to extract the maximum amount of carnage from each curve and turn. There are also eight tracks where you have to somehow dodge oncoming traffic as you drive along your lap. Those might piss off some folks to be honest, but keep in mind this is Wreckfest not Project Cars here. I also enjoyed the death loops where your car becomes a roller-coaster ride and, of course, the non-racing tracks.
Venture away from the races and you’ll find the demolition derby, complete with last man standing or even lawnmower death runs and sofa races. Truthfully, driving a lawnmower or sofa is substantially harder than driving a car. One of the first singleplayer events is to win a lawnmower derby and I had to employ some dirty tactics just to do it. Instead of racing to the end to see if I could win, which I tried to do to no avail, I decided to create the largest pile up of lawnmowers as possible and then, when I was down to a few AI bots to take down, I made a point to trip them up before they got too far and take the lead. Call it playing unfair or whatnot, but in Wreckfest you get XP just for smashing into other cars. I love it.
There is actually quite a lot of content here with tiered sections you can unlock by gaining XP. Here you’ll find challenges and races with set goals like coming in first or beating a single car in 1 on 1 race. Once you complete those challenges you get awarded XP, stars, and unlock cars to keep in your garage. You can also earn credits to purchase cars. Be aware some cars won’t unlock for a certain challenge. You’ll need to purchase those in the market, but this is just earned in-game money.
Now there are some challenges that are incredibly frustrating. I am looking at you Sofa Race Challenge! Dear gawd, trying to drive that box on wheels is hard enough, but 6 laps of 24 cars and you have to come in first? I played that dozens of times and the best I got was 3rd place.
The soundtrack is absolutely crunchy with a bit of ghost pepper distortion to top off the perfect blend of metal and the occasional laid back EDM that somehow feels like there is an underlying power chord around the corner. If you like metal, this is a treat and by no exaggeration, the songs are screaming your voice box out of commission good. I just wish there were more of them, as they do get repeated a bit too often.
What I thought was lacking most were the sounds on the track. My engine often sounded more like an ATV recording. Where is the low hum of an idling V10 engine and the growl of a monster american car about to eviscerate the competition in a demolition derby? Please update with mean sounding engines. Unless those sounds are trademarked somehow? I have no idea.
Just as I was about to finish a glowing review, I started getting bugs in a challenge event. Usually it creeps up as a solid grey blob vector that hides a chunk of the screen. It only happened in one event, the sofa event, but still it is something I have to mention because it happened multiple times. Oddly, it did not happen again the next day.
Wreckfest is a gem of a game with no holds barred because just as you are on the final lap in first place, you get hit upside the head and fall to 16th place in 2 seconds. It can be absolutely fun or aggravating, depending on your point of view. For me, I enjoy the ride as much as the challenge, essentially making it a great experience whether I win or not.
In my opinion, it provides a very evenly balanced way for both new and seasoned drivers to get right into the fray of things. This is definitely a game you want to install and just leave it there for a quick match of metal fury death wrecking. If you look at the trailer and think, “Man, I can get into this.”, then you very likely will. The controls are somewhere between a sim and arcade with a steady 30FPS and multiplayer works great, even over wifi. You can race with farm combines, lawnmowers, RV’s, school buses, and even a sofa couch on wheels. With more tracks than ever, some nice DLC like Goofy Roofs with missiles and poop, and more content planned for a season pass, this is a much more complete and ongoing game than I expected back when I bought it on Early Access. It’s worth getting into, so I rate this a Save for all your destructive drivers out there ready to smash into someone else.