I don’t know much about racing games, but I know what I hate. And I don’t hate this!
DEVELOPER BUGBEAR ENTERTAINMENT • P UBLISHER THQ NORDIC • P RICE $ US44.99 • A VAILABLE AT STEAM STORE.STEAMPOWERED.COM/APP/228380/WRECKFEST
Generally, when it comes to racing games, in my opinion there’s Wipeout, Mario Kart, and then everything else just… Well let’s just say I’m no real racing fan. I can’t even drive.
In fact, I’m the last person who should be getting excited over a racing game, but here we are. Wreckfest is a goddamn DELIGHT. It kind of came out of nowhere for me, despite it’s years in early access (see above, re: racing noob), so getting into it now makes it feel like one of the most polished games I’ve played in years – period. It’s striking to look at, features a banging rock soundtrack, and looks absolutely amazing. But even more amazing is that it’s a racing game that’s gotten me utterly hooked without being about zero-g hovercars or mushroom laden racetracks.
And despite the name and demolition derby focus, this is a racing game. Sure, there are ‘tracks’ that are very much focused on destruction, and the various lawmmower modes – yes, you can race in, and cause hilariously over the top carnage in, a ride-on lawnmowers – are pure spectacle, but most everything comes down to racing nerd purity.
The truly exceptional thing, however, is how approachable it all is. By default there’s a tonne of racing assists turned on, and it’ll surprise no one that I have not bothered to turn any of them off. I leave that kind of malarkey to my colleague Ben Mansill, who – with his epic sim-racing rig and hyper-realistic peripherals – immediately dove in to the game in its hardest, most demanding settings (and loves the game as much as I do, which is really something).
Me? I just want to race, smash some shit up, and not have to bother with a dedicated controller. Yes, I’m playing a racing game on my keyboard. In fact, I’m playing a racing game on my keyboard and I’m only using the cursor keys. But with just those four controls, I still need to tune my car to the track. For gravel and mud trucks, I need to soften the suspension to keep road contact; for proper racing surfaces, I want stiffer suspension. This is stuff that used to not only bore me silly, but also intimidated the heck out of me in my previous forays into racing games.
Here I am totally invested. I aim for the proper racing line on each corner, take care to brake into a curve and accelerate out, and all the while know that if I really need to, I can just ram that damn car in front of me off the track and no one is going to care.
The game’s damage model is forgiving at first, but constant contacts can destroy your engine, twist wheels out of alignment, or see you losing braking pressure. Wrecks and other debris litter the track, so each lap gets more and more like threading a needle – especially when it’s a figureeight track, or a track that loops back alongside itself. Resets are easy, but cost you places, or you can just restart.
You can unlock new cars, and upgrade various car parts and bits of armour in what is basically a balancing act between horse-power and weight, but really, it’s all about that pure racing adrenaline.
And smashing things.
Wrecks & other debris litter the track, so each lap gets more and more like threading a needle.