Wreck­fest

Do­ing it wrong feels so right in Wreck­fest.

PC GAMER (UK) - - CONTENTS - By Phil Iwa­niuk

For sim rac­ers and ca­su­als alike, Wreck­fest is a dif­fer­ent flavour of driv­ing game. The spot­light is on physics sim­u­la­tion and dam­age mod­el­ling above all else here, ev­ery race a spec­ta­cle of ex­plod­ing tire walls, man­gled bon­nets and nasty screech­ing sounds. It’s pre­sented like a tra­di­tional sim-cade racer. So when the de­struc­tive nov­elty wears off, there’s still the dan­gling car­rot of ca­reer mode progress to keep you be­hind the wheel.

Cham­pi­onships lead to more cham­pi­onships, in faster cars this time, and the odd spe­cial event like a fi­asco in­volv­ing lawn­mow­ers punc­tu­ates it all. A 20-strong garage of proudly un­li­censed ve­hi­cles pro­vides an ex­cuse for some aes­thetic and per­for­mance fid­dling as you un­lock bet­ter parts, but this all feels sec­ondary to the point of be­ing op­tional. Wreck­fest just wants you to make a mess.

Which means the rac­ing it­self is un­like any­thing else in the genre. The han­dling model gets a pass for its weight­i­ness de­spite aes­thetic dam­age hav­ing lit­tle ef­fect on ve­hi­cle be­hav­iour, but that only seems in-keep­ing with the spirit of the en­deav­our. It’s the kind of game that’s more en­joy­able when you’re nurs­ing an un­recog­nis­ably man­gled car around in 13th place in a pack of 20 than when you’re winning. The kind of game in which you don’t feel the least bit bad about nudg­ing some­one into what would surely be a fa­tal col­li­sion, whether the op­por­tu­nity to do so arises in solo or on­line play.

It isn’t just that the crashes look great when they hap­pen, al­though that’s cer­tainly part of the draw. It’s the way your brain starts to con­nect dif­fer­ent neu­ral path­ways as you play, ac­cel­er­at­ing where it might once have braked, tak­ing wildly dif­fer­ent lines than con­ven­tion would deem ideal, and crack­ing a smile, rather than a mon­i­tor, when your race ends in a dev­as­tat­ing pileup.

Ex­am­ple: it’s turn one in an on­line race and there’s an­other racer on the in­side, about half­way-level with your car. If this was Gen­tle­manly Rac­ing Sim­u­la­tor 2018 you’d hold your line and brake at the usual point, but since it isn’t, you brake much ear­lier and watch your op­po­nent over­shoot the turn hap­lessly. You know they were count­ing on us­ing your pas­sen­ger side door as their brake, and you were smart about it. Later in the race you might em­ploy that same in­side line tac­tic on an op­po­nent, fla­grantly ram­ming them into an ad­ver­tis­ing board. It’s bru­tal rac­ing, and so nice to have an ex­cuse to in­dulge in it.

And that’s just the cir­cuit rac­ing. Cult clas­sic de­mo­li­tion events, like De­struc­tion Derby and the more re­cent Dirt Show­down, drop the fa­cade of sports­man­ship al­to­gether and sim­ply pro­vide are­nas for an in­tractable scrum of ve­hi­cles. In other words: every­one drives into one an­other un­til only one car is left func­tional. This kind of thing has fallen out of favour in re­cent years, not least be­cause no one seemed able to at­tach much or­der to the chaos or dis­cour­age game-break­ing strate­gies like the old ‘driv­ing in a big shame­ful cir­cle around the arena perime­ter while every­one else fights’ sta­ple. And that’s true here too, but still deeply en­joy­able.

It’s bru­tal rac­ing, and so nice to have an ex­cuse to in­dulge in it

Fine-tuned

The house of cards would fall down if the physics and dam­age mod­el­ling un­der­pin­ning it all weren’t sound. As you might ex­pect from a game that’s spent over 1,500 days in Early Ac­cess, sound they are. It’s easy on the sys­tem, too, for a game with so many par­ti­cles be­ing tossed into the air, and so many crum­ple zones to ac­cu­rately model. Max set­tings on a GTX 1070 will yield a sta­ble 60fps at res­o­lu­tions ex­ceed­ing 1080p, thought not at 4K.

It’s ob­vi­ous that Bug­bear has suc­ceeded in what it set out to achieve. The ques­tion is whether that’s enough to sus­tain Wreck­fest as a long-term prospect. There’s some longevity in the mul­ti­player and its un­nerv­ingly friendly pa­trons, but un­for­tu­nately com­pared with the big dogs of the genre and their es­ports leagues, Wreck­fest doesn’t have the in­fra­struc­ture to keep a com­mu­nity in it for the long haul. It’s one for the physics sim lovers and the junk­yard fight­ers – just don’t ex­pect months’ worth of depth.

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