Wreckfest Review – Xbox One

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As soon as I read that Wreckfest encourages you to use your opponents’ cars to slow down instead of your own brakes, I knew that this was my kind of racing game. Most racers encourage you to drive cleanly, to glide to the front of the pack and finish the race with your car looking almost as pristine as it did on the starting line. In Wreckfest, you’re lucky if you make it through the first bend without a sizeable dent in your vehicle, and it’s often a struggle to finish the race with your car in one piece. This makes for a decidedly chaotic experience, and if you’re looking for a racing game that doesn’t take itself too seriously, then it’s worth reading on.

Wreckfest is developed by Finnish developer Bugbear Entertainment, who have previously been known for the FlatOut series of games, and it’s clear to see the design through-line in Wreckfest. This is a game without many frills, to the point where it could be criticized for perhaps looking sparse and unimaginative, but this approach enhances the focus on the racing itself, and gives the player encouragement to jump straight from one event to another, without having to fiddle with settings or optional collectibles.

The one major downside that the game experiences is that even with the lack of side activities, moving from race to race isn’t as seamless of an experience as it could be. Menus are fairly barebones and aren’t especially well explained, and loading times when entering a race are lengthy to the point that I was tempted to keep reading material by my side to keep myself occupied while waiting for an event to begin. In certain games, where the loading time precedes a lengthy spell of gameplay, this could be forgivable, but when many of Wreckfest’s events are mere minutes in length, and you’ll be entering multiple races in a short spell of time, these loading screens really start to impact your gaming time.

Once you’re in a race, though, Wreckfest really starts to shine, and if it wasn’t for the lengthy loading times, I’d be happy to play race after race, as I was having so much fun. There are a wide variety of events, from your typical lap-based races to destruction derbies, where the last vehicle standing wins. There are also novelty events mixed in, where you’ll be racing motorized couches, slamming combine harvesters into each other, and dodging collisions on lawnmowers. Each event has a bonus objective to fulfill, such as spinning out a certain number of opponents or causing a defined amount of damage, but despite how much fun crashing cars is, your main focus should still be to finish towards the front of the pack. Doing so will award you Championship Points, and this points will unlock new events and new tiers of competition.

Visually, Wreckfest isn’t the prettiest of games, but the rough edges do tend to suit the experience, and it’s easy to imagine that a higher visual fidelity would likely lead to worse performance, especially with all the bits and pieces of both cars and the environments flying over the track. Although a recent patch seems to have removed the problem, I did experience a consistent issue on the menu screen, where a horizontal stripe of squares would appear about one-fifth of the way up the screen, initially leading me to believe that I was experiencing issues with the television itself, until I realized it was only occurring within Wreckfest, and even then only on menu screens. While this particular issue may now have been resolved, it’s still a good example of the general visual experience on offer within Wreckfest, and it’s a mild warning for potential buyers who might be expecting a seamless experience.

Overall, Wreckfest is a highly enjoyable experience, slightly hampered by technical issues and a lack of polish. It takes itself perhaps a little more seriously than the subject matter would initially lead you to believe, but this contributes to the longevity of the experience, and moves Wreckfest out of the novelty genre and into an area of more legitimacy. There is a lot of fun to be had here, and at the end of the day you are throwing a car around the track with next to no worry about your safety, but you’re still required to race well and make smart decisions about when to collide with an opponent and when to avoid them.

Racing games with a single focus have had a difficult time of late, particularly because the Forza Horizon series attempts to deliver a racing experience for all fans, and does such a good job of nailing each discipline. This leads to many other games playing catch-up, and trying to deliver the best experience that they can, knowing that there’s another title out there that has already pretty much nailed what they’re trying to do. While Wreckfest perhaps doesn’t stand up next to Playground Studios’ colossus, it’s an enjoyable experience in its own right, and well worth a look. If you go in with a slightly forgiving mind, and are therefore able to see past some of the rough edges, Wreckfest delivers a unique and rewarding racing experience, and I would be lying if I said that a virtual multi-car pile-up didn’t put a smile on my face.