In all honesty, Bugbear’s new smash-em-up, Wreckfest, hit me (no pun intended) out of nowhere. Which is ironic because since playing and subsequently shelving modern racers such as Forza 7 (blah) and Project Cars 2 (blah X 10), I’d pretty much given up on finding a racing game worth spending time on.
I guess I’m a little spoiled though because I’ve played many of the great racing games of the past, everything from the early Need For Speed titles (remember when those were good?) to the Gran Turismo franchise. But ever since the 90s and early 2010s racing games have seemed to have drop off in terms of both their accessibility and overall fun factor. Nothing has really grabbed my attention in a long, long time.
When I’d first heard of Wreckfest, I read part of its description on Steam which promised: “Expect epic crashes, neck-to-neck fights over the finish line and brand-new ways for metal to bend – These are the once-in-a-lifetime moments that can only be achieved in Wreckfest, with its true-to-life physics simulation crafted by legendary developer Bugbear, who also brought you FlatOut 1 & 2!”
That all seemed a little over the top, especially for an Early Access game. But what caught my attention is that Bugbear also made FlatOut 1 & 2, games which I regarded as super-fun. So, I decided to give it a whirl.
I fired it up and didn’t notice any fancy-dancy loading screens nor any narrative preamble, just a straight forward menu with choices such as Campaign Mode, Multiplayer, and Options. Later, I realized that this no frills, BS-free approach permeates throughout the entire game. I began with a starter car called a Rocket (none of Wreckfest’s cars are officially licensed which is fine by me) which is basically an old-school Ford Mustang, and promptly started up a campaign game.
I jumped into my first race which had a mixed tarmac/gravel track and anxiously awaited (with over twenty other AI vehicles) for the countdown to well…count down. As the race began I noticed how detailed everything was—from the beautifully-rendered track and surrounding environs, to the cars themselves which had some seriously gorgeous textures and shading. And to top it off I could even see my character actually sitting in the driver’s seat. For some bizarre reason many racing games feature cars with vacant driver’s seats which is a total no-no for me as it completely breaks immersion.
As I swerved down the track trying to get to grips with the controls I began to realize how responsive the handling was. The only thing that I could compare Wreckfest’s controls to was 2000’s Need for Speed: Porsche Unleashed, one of my favorite racing games of all times. Everything felt so responsive and crisp that it didn’t take long for me to feel every bump and groove on the tracks and every little nudge (or side-swipe) from fellow competitor’s cars.
In no time I was braking and drifting through variously angled turns and everything became intuitive in a short period of time. Wreckfest is a highly accessible game that I can tell is hard to master, giving it a lot of longevity for all of the racing perfectionists out there.
The races themselves are called “banger races” because you blast down different tracks, smashing into other cars (and being crashed into as well) while trying to keep your own on the road. The AI is very well realized and can really throw some curve balls at you—I felt like I was playing with real live people most of the time. And, there isn’t any cheap rubber-banding to keep AI drivers artificially in a race.
In a nod to Gran Turismo, Wreckfest sports a full-on customization mode. You can trick out everything from internals like air filters and differentials, to tires, spoilers and the like, and of course numerous cosmetic options such as paint jobs. It’s really fun to tinker around with your cars and tune them up for specific purposes.
So, if you’re looking to prepare for your next demolition derby, for instance, you’ll want to invest in various sorts of reinforced bumpers, roll cages, side protectors, and the like. Whereas if you’re looking to get into your next banger race, you’ll want to concentrate on camshafts, fuel systems and other parts that make your car go faster and handle more responsively.
Perhaps the star of the show is Wreckfest’s insane physics modeling. This isn’t some last-minute, tacked on feature as it is in other similar titles, this is a full-on physics simulator. Just driving around you’ll notice when you bolt through the air over bumps and land, the shocks on your car realistically respond (as well as the tires). When you crunch into other cars from side-swipes and other collisions you’ll see little things from your car’s chassis deforming slightly to windows braking or falling completely out of their frames.
Best of all, when you hit other things more violently such as in head-on collisions, you’ll behold some seriously delightful (in a destructive sense) displays of metal twisting, glass shattering, and various particles sprinkling throughout the air. It’s quite dramatic but also highly realistic—so much so that I always find myself purposefully trying to get into collisions with both AI and other human drivers (the game boasts a 24-player multiplayer mode).
Wreckfest is one of the most fun racing games I have ever played. Its attention to detail, advanced physics engine, gorgeous graphics, and balls-to-the-walls racing action can really get your blood pulsing. I’d highly recommend this to gamers even remotely interested in racing games.
Wreckfest features outstanding graphics that make its demolition racing gameplay truly shine. However, you want to have a pretty beefy gaming PC or gaming laptop in order to play it at a decent framerate. So, you may just want to invest in a decent gaming rig:
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