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Aug 29, 2019
Share to facebook Bugbear Entertainment The reviews are piling in for Wreckfest’s console outing and it’s already looking very positive overall for developer Bugbear Entertainment: two days since its release, it’s clocked scores of 84 and 85 respectively on Xbox One and PS4 . Two days ago, I bought a day-one copy of the game and, after getting a good few hours under my belt, I’m here to clue you in on what you can expect from your first foray into this long-awaited console release–and if it’s for you or not. Despite the glowing reviews, it’s not all good news for Wreckfest, but that’s not to say you shouldn’t get it–far from it. It’s a buggy ride from the start Despite a 4GB day-one patch–always a bit of an eye-opener, historically speaking–Wreckfest immediately, and often starkly, showcases graphical bugs. It’s particularly noticeable immediately after a race, in this case the first: the “money received” text element is misaligned, there’s a blocky, flickering overlay at the bottom (which persists across most menus), and in this screenshot I captured, my driver sometimes appears to be Mr Fantastic. Certain parts of the game lack polish, such as the post-race screens, which showcase a few bugs. Bugbear Entertainment First impressions-wise, it’s not great. Luckily–in the hours I’ve played already, at least–the bugs seem to be restricted to the menus and overlays, but don’t affect the races themselves, so embrace them for now; they’re eminently fixable. Those loading times need some work Wreckfest really isn’t quick to load. When waiting for the first race to start, the loading bar was stuck between 1% and 4% for around 45 seconds, and on my Xbox One X. It didn’t improve much in subsequent races, aside from those with repeated courses (e.g. bowls), where elements are presumably pre-loaded. After the initial halt, Wreckfest’s loading generally flies through the remaining 90%+, but the last time I experienced a racing game taking this long to boot up overall, it was Carmageddon: Max Damage. Not a great first impression, given how much of a literal wreckfest that game turned out to be, and something Bugbear will hopefully remedy with future patches. It’s not a work of art, but it still looks amazing I feel for racing game developers; Forza Horizon 4 et al have transformed the genre into art, almost pinning as much emphasis on the photography mode as the gaming experience itself. While Wreckfest doesn’t hit the heady heights that Playground Games has in recent years, it still looks damn fine. Given it operates a comprehensive 24-car damage model, it’s amazing how well it performs in close-combat racing and vehicular combat, combining bright colors, high framerates and delightful lighting. It’s generally subtle, but sometimes, it’s utterly stunning. A customization station for the tuning noob I’m no Don Jaewon Song ; I can’t get my head around the finest details of car tuning offered by FH4, Gran Turismo or Forza Motorsport. It’s a relief, then, that Wreckfest allows you to customize your car’s performance on just four metrics: suspension, gear ratio, differential and brake balance. That’s still 625 possible combinations per car, which is more than enough for casual gamers. There are only four sliders for tuning your car - perfect for those craving a simpler racing experience. Bugbear Entertainment Alongside this, upgrades are offered in an almost identical way to FlatOut 2, split into armor, performance and looks. It’s a nice hark-back to what made the 2006 racer so easy to play; finer elements didn’t get in the way of the core gameplay. And as for that… Underneath it all, there’s a real racing game here Wreckfest is not an easy game, even on the easiest modes, but it’s easy to get competent quickly. Car handling is hard to master, but entirely predictable, especially when you start tweaking your set-up. Transitions from tarmac to dirt are felt immediately, while the carnage all around you is a very real, consistent danger to even the best drivers. It becomes a lot easier once you change the camera angle, though; the default setting is up close and personal, on the rear bumper. It delivers a real sense of gritty claustrophobia, but once you pull ahead, you never see those rear-end shunts coming – until you pull the camera further out, which I wholeheartedly suggest you try early. The close, default camera in 'Wreckfest' feels great, but it's not too practical. Bugbear Entertainment That’s because these rear-end shunts will always be coming for you, for one often frustrating reason. There appear to be rubber-banding issues While it’s acceptable and entirely expected from games like Mario Kart, rubber-banding in Wreckfest is a surprising inclusion, as well as a double-edged sword. At first, it’s barely noticeable as you get to grips with the handling and racing experience, as chances are you’ll stay in the middle of the pack for a while. If anything, the race action feels incredibly tight, close and competitive. But once you pull away, and even after taking a series of corners perfectly, your competitors always close the gap, even on novice. While these battles feel exhilarating, it means Wreckfest gives no immediate incentive to racing veterans like me to change the difficulty up, knowing it’s always a close-run race and fun enough on novice. The vibration settings need a full overhaul You’d best hope you don’t have a battle-weary controller in your hands, because the force feedback in Wreckfest can be utterly awful. Within 30 seconds of a bowl challenge, I changed from a slightly chipped Xbox controller–which sounded like a maraca thanks to the Wreckfest experience–to my newest, undamaged handset because the electric toothbrush-like vibrations were that noisy. Sadly, with the second controller, things weren’t much better. In mud-track races and destruction games, the controller never stops vibrating on a low hum that’s uncomfortable for both the hands and ears. It’s the only game I’ve ever played where I’ve considered switching vibration off entirely. Perhaps that'll change in future updates. That said, the bowls are the star of the show Of all the game modes, and despite the Raynaud syndrome you might develop from playing them, the destruction derby bowls are the very best, particularly with Last Man Standing rules. It encourages a go-hard-or-go-home mentality, where you must participate to stay in – driving in circles will give you a no-contact elimination countdown until you smash into someone. Surviving really can be difficult, especially as your own life ebbs away. As more cars get wrecked, their husks turn the dirt pit into a graveyard of additional hazards, which themselves are hard to avoid when your brakes, suspension or engine may be on their last legs. And despite all this wanton destruction, it still manages to look beautiful. The famed bowl mode is an exciting experience that's surprisingly beautiful. Bugbear Entertainment Completionists may be frustrated by the challenges While they’re not needed for career progression, the completionists among us will be frustrated by the challenges (or “bonus targets”). Some are easy: spin-out three competitors, or finish in the top three; others are down to luck or guesswork. For instance, inflicting “500 damage” doesn’t correlate with the 100-strong health bars above each car; you’ll have to keep track of this seemingly made-up metric in the pause menu. The worst of all is the “finish by 50 meters” challenge, particularly in one-on-one instances. Due to the rubber-banding, you find yourself having to actively hold off until the last lap before mulching your opponent, instead of succeeding through racing skill alone. Bonus targets are given for each race, such as this "500 damage" challenge. Bugbear Entertainment In my first attempt at a 50m challenge, I punted my rival over a fence but somehow he caught up after half a lap, even on the default novice difficulty setting: an upsetting downside of a mechanic designed to keep things exciting. There’s no licensed music Part of FlatOut 2’s appeal was screaming around a track or through an entire building to songs like Wolfmother’s Pyramid or Supergrass’ Richard III. Wreckfest trades this in for a very generic metal playlist that doesn’t capture the fun, comedic essence of its predecessors–or even itself, considering you can race sofas, Supervans and lawnmowers. I get it, music licensing is an expensive inclusion. Still, for fans of FlatOut 2 and contemporary racing games, it’s a real disappointment, reducing these samey songs to mere background noise. It’s absolutely well worth the money I picked up Wreckfest in the U.K. for £26 new (around $31.60, thanks to our appalling exchange rate). In the U.S., prices already appear to have dropped to between $33 and $40. For that money, it’s well worth it, even despite this rollercoaster of first impressions. You might struggle with the handling, challenges or overall feel of the game; like me, you might be overwhelmed by a sudden sense of apathy because you get quickly bored by the repetition in game modes as soon as you move onto the next tier of racing. However, this lack of desire comes in waves; after taking a break for five minutes, I was already itching to return, to see the new, stupid cars and even more ridiculous game modes on offer. Wreckfest is fun. A lot of fun. And while it’s not FlatOut 2, it’s not pretending to be: it’s the product of its developer's maturity. It’s Bugbear’s The Last of Us to its Uncharted, and it’s all the better for it. To answer that all-important question, yes: it’s finally dethroned FlatOut 2. Follow me on Twitter . Check out my website .