Reviewed on Xbox Series X
Destruction for the Masses
Originally released in early access as “New Car Game” Wreckfest is the latest from the creators of the FlatOut racing series. Four years of early access development led to a release in 2018 on PC and on consoles in 2019. The impetus for this review is the just-released 60 frames-per-second patch that has hit the Xbox Series X version of the game. How does this doubling of performance help the gameplay, and is Wreckfest a worthy successor to one of my favorite racing franchises of all time?
New Car Game
The initial tech demo known as New Car Game reminded me of the stunt mode in Rush 2049. You had a large playground to send your car flying with realistic physics that made every hit feel visceral in a way most racing games couldn’t match. Throughout my time with the early access version the game always felt special.
The dedication to realistic damage physics was simply not allowed in any licensed car games. Forza and Gran Turismo get their car licenses with the promise to not allow said cars to be realistically destroyed. Damage is only cosmetic, and I can understand why. Developer Bugbear is under no such directive though and it allows the game to shine.
There is a sense of mischief present in Wreckfest that permeates through every mode. Your first race in the game’s meaty campaign is a destruction derby with a twist. Instead of using beat-up cars, you’re all on rider lawnmowers. Another race has you in a Reliant Robin knock-off, a car that had a ridiculous 3 wheeled system where the 1 wheel was in the front.
Using this death-mobile you try to sneak your way through over 20 large, angry, and all over the track buses. Also in the mix are more typical track races but even these feature hazards such as looping back over the same roads and having to dodge the cars ahead or behind you as a head-on collision at these speeds will total your vehicle. Crazy jumps, great handling, and far improved visuals lead to thrilling races that are up there with the best in the genre. Speaking of those improved visuals…
Sixty Frames-Per-Second Needs to Be Default
Released at launch for the Xbox, the game was not ‘X enhanced’, even though the system had been out for nearly two years at that point. Thankfully a few months later the game was patched up to a 4k resolution but it was still stuck at a floaty feeling 30 frames-per-second.
Six months into the release of the Series consoles a patch has hit that raises this to 60 fps but sadly only on the Series X. Series S instead finds a resolution bump up to 4k, but still a 30 fps lock. I would have much preferred sticking to the current resolution but upping the framerate there. Hopefully, fan feedback will be enough to get Bugbear to change this.
I am not sure if I can overstate just how much running at 60 helps this game on console. What was a good game is now a go-to for me. The controls have improved immensely from the reduction in input lag, and graphically what was a decent-looking game is now legitimately pretty. It’s not Forza Horizon levels, but nothing else really is. The damage model is still the best in the business and now on console the handling system finally matches.
There is a decent amount of grinding in the campaign to earn the cars you’ll need to race in specific events. There is no cross-progression and so my time on PC did not transfer over to console, but the racing feels so much better now that I don’t mind it.
The multiplayer system was broken for a while when the game hit Xbox Game Pass but it has been fixed and working perfectly for me. I generally hop into quick play and join a session; you’ll spectate if a race is mid-way when you join. You can then vote for the next track and hop in for some madness as every race ends up being half destruction derby. It’s great fun if you don’t expect to win all the time. Races are brutally tough, and half the pleasure comes from beating the crap out of your fellow racers.
Music is a solid mix of Rock and the sound effects for smashing into things are always satisfying. Wreckfest is a fantastic podcast game, as you never really need to hear anything, and finding Zen while using a harvester in a demolition derby is a beautiful and surreal experience.
Wreckfest is an excellent racing game. It has one of the best physics and by far the best damage models in any racing game I have ever played. Combine these with a variety of classic and destruction derby-style races and you have yourself one hell of a title. This one is a no-brainer for anyone with Game Pass and it’s on sale quite often as well. Do yourself a favor and check Wreckfest out, there’s a good chance you’ll absolutely love it.
Wreckfest is available on Xbox One, Xbox Series, Windows PC, and Mobile through cloud streaming on Game Pass.