Not so long ago, Thq Nordic published a trailer detailing one of the opponents in the just released Wreckfest. And understandably, we were all expecting more of such video features to be released as the title’s launch was growing closer. But now with Wreckefst available across all three main platforms, these are nowhere to be found. While such decision seemed fairly odd at first, then it is not difficult to understand after one has played the game in question – as all the in-game opponents technically don’t exist.
Don’t get me wrong, within Wreckfest you can race against up-to 23 different drivers. However, unlike in games such as Need for Speed: Rivals, or even the original The Crew, the opponents in Wreckfest only exist on paper. Sure, they all have their own vehicles and names, but they do not exist outside of the track. And this is mainly due to the fact that Wreckfest’s career mode is nothing more than a series of loosely linked events, which feature no narrative or any kind, or even substance for that matter.
To say the least, Wreckfest’s career mode is immensely disappointing, as it is ultimately nothing more than filler which has been cobbled together by the developer in no time flat only to pad the title’s content count. The lack of reasoning behind you competing in different races and derbies may be bad enough, then what is even worse is the fact that the title’s reward system does nothing to entice you to push on, with the rather monotonous and disappointing endeavour.
Whenever you complete a race, you receive an appropriate amount of xp, which allows you to level up and unlock new vehicles, upgrades, and cosmetics; as well as currency, which allows you to purchase all the prior-mentioned items. However, you can level up and acquire currency within any other mode, so if you want, you can pick one custom race, and grind it infinitely to bypass the grind. And if you want to complete Wreckfest’s career mode, then unfortunately you will be forced to grind, as some races require you to use specific vehicles, which can only be purchased.
Certain events within Wreckfest’s story mode reward you with brand new vehicles, which allow you to bypass the title’s grind ever so slightly. However, those are usually severely under-powered, and are more often than not, nothing more than gimmicks which you will use once and forget about. And even when they are tangible vehicles, then you are more than likely to not make any use out of them, as by the time you unlock, you are bound to already have a much better car.
In truth, Wreckfest’s story mode feels like a complete afterthought. It’s there, it allows you to experience the game in a slightly altered manner, but ultimately it does nothing to entice you into spending your precious time on it. And if you are going into this release thinking that you are getting a spiritual successor to the FlatOut series, then you are more than likely going to be severely disappointed.
Wreckfest is at its best when it is experienced in short, controlled bursts – and especially when it is played with friends to boot. As ultimately, the title’s appeal lies in its chaos, and the vehicular carnage which it creates. And this is mainly due to the fact that the core gameplay of Wreckfest is more than stellar. The vehicles feel adequately heavy, the collisions are full of crunch and impact, and the physics engine behind such is immensely satisfying. So as far as vehicular, mindless madness goes, Wreckfest is simply second to none. And in all honesty, the only times I truly enjoyed it, was when I threw the story mode out the window and submerged myself in the sea of arcade carnage.
The story mode of Wreckfest simply takes away more from the game than it adds. As it puts it in an unfavourable position, where some could assume that it is nothing more than a lazy cash grab. But the fact of the matter is that it is not, but you couldn’t blame anybody for thinking that, as the story mode feels like a lazily tacked on burden, more than a fun and engaging adventure. And the ‘DLC’ tab which is front and centre of the main menu screen, really doesn’t do this particular feeling any favours.
Ironically enough, the gameplay of Wreckfest is iron clad. However, the age of this title is really showing. And you could ask ‘how it’s age could be showing if it’s only just been released?’. Well, the answer to this question is immensely easy. As Wreckfest has been in development since 2012, and in that time it has undergone numerous overhauls, which have improved the title’s physics, but in turn held its visual presentation back significantly.
Wreckfest is not eye piercingly ugly by any means, but it lacks many of the modern visual features which we are all accustomed to, especially, as we are approaching the finish line of the current console generation. And what is the most apparent, is the lack of any complex visual effects. And this drawback is especially apparent while driving on dust and/or mud. As no matter how hard you step on the pedal, yours, or any other vehicle for that matter, will kick up barely any dust, and/or mud.
In many ways, Wreckfest is the complete antithesis to the prior-mentioned Need for Speed: Payback. As it is not the most visually impressive game, but it is probably the most engaging and fun racing game of this generation. The in-game races, whether against AI or human opponents, are intense and nerve-wracking. The demolition derby is an absolute hoot, which can make you keel over with laughter, as you are chasing your friend round a dust-bowl. And the demolition racing, which is combination of the two, has caused me to have more fun than nearly every other game which I have played in the last five years. So in short, Wreckfest is simply fantastic.
If you were looking for the next big racing game, then you’ve found it with Wreckfest. Because while it may not be a big budget racer akin to Project Cars, or Forza, then it is ultimately better than all those combined, and that’s because it is simply fun. It is not overly pretentious, it doesn’t try to be the next big thing, it is simply trying to give you the racing experience which many, much bigger developers and publishers have failed to deliver, time and time again. And I would be more than happy to give it a much higher score, but I unfortunately can’t due to its rather lackluster and unnecessary store mode, and some minor imperfections, which do have an impact on the overall experience.