Wreckfest is a demolition derby and racing game with lifelike visuals, believably crunchy cars, and a music track that really wants to pump you up to destroy some vehicles. Add in some sparse customization choices and an online-only multiplayer to take the carnage global and you should have all the makings of a modern classic. And yet…despite everything mentioned above, there’s just one little problem that becomes apparent after playing: it’s just not very fun.
I booted Wreckfest up and found no beginning tutorial waiting for me, and the slightly confusing and hard-to-read UI gave me no hints as to where I should start. There are several options when you first enter the game, including Career, Multiplayer, and Custom Event. I’m a sucker for an easy learning curve, so I started with Custom Event, where I had access to many choices for the AI I’d be up against. Again, I like an easy learning curve, so I chose a car and let my rivals ride around on wimpy little lawnmowers. Serves them right for going up against an old pro like me.
There are more options to choose from, including the map, whether or not it will be a race, and further game mode types. Additionally, before each match you also have the option to tune your vehicle, if it’s capable of being tuned. So far, so good.
Actually playing the game was another matter, and immediately boring, despite the go-hard music track in the background. Controls mostly amount to Right Trigger for GO, and Left Trigger for PLEASE STOP. The options menu told me I had a handbrake, but I didn’t find it worked particularly well. Truthfully, I thought running over a bunch of lawnmowers being ridden by what looked like clones of Top Gear’s The Stig would be a little more satisfying.
Reality quickly turned to disappointment, however, and incredibly sterile. The experience is like playing zero-stakes bumper cars, only without the fun of actually being in the driver’s seat and making your doctor worried you got whiplash.
Early racing tracks aren’t particularly interesting, and the game struggles to render some of them without framerate drops and flickering landscapes. And don’t me started on those extra-long load times, which stretched out long enough for me to check my messages and social-media updates.
I’ll give Wreckfest this, however: the vehicular damage was spot-on. I turned my patched-together muscle car into a Volkswagen Beetle by sheer force of ramming into other cars again and again. This is the only part of the game that felt very satisfying. Here’s the thing, though – I could do that in any driving game, even my all-time favorite, Colin McRae’s Rally 2005. It may be fourteen years old, but that thing holds up!
My biggest complaint is a common one for games like these. There’s no local co-op. No split-screen, no jostling each other on the couch as you jostle each other in-game. Essentially, there’s not much fun to be had with Wreckfest’s brand of vehicular combat. Not that I want to play this game with friends, but with strangers I might not feel guilty for ruining their day. What happened to the days when driving games routinely had local co-op? Oh, the tragedy of it all.
Wreckfest promised very little substance and delivers just that. There’s nothing completely and utterly wrong with the gameplay or presentation (besides the lack of decent multiplayer), but we should expect more from our destructive racing sims besides crashing and more crashing. How’s it possible for a game featuring so many explosions and spectacular pileups to be so sterile? And offer so little fun in the process? I didn’t hate it, but boy was I bored by it. Looks like it might be time to go back to Colin McRae.