It has been, you sense, a bit of a rough ride for Bugbear Entertainment. Wreckfest, which has finally left Early Access, is only the talented Finnish developer’s second game within the last decade – and the other, sadly, was Ridge Racer Unbounded, a brilliantly muscular racer that might have earned itself a place alongside close contemporaries such as Split/Second and Blur if it wasn’t for the baggage that the Ridge Racer name weighed it down with. All the while the Flatout series that made the studio’s name veered into disrepute (even if Kylotonn did restore a little pride with last year’s outing), and Wreckfest itself has never really had it easy either, birthed from a failed Kickstarter and seeing several false starts across its four years in Early Access.
The end result, after all that time and toil, is a surprisingly modest affair; a simple no-frills game that’s more Destruction Derby than Flatout, evoking a different era for the racing genre with its no-nonsense approach. Unassuming it may be, but it’s also absolutely wonderful, a knockabout racer that sticks to what Bugbear does best; this is all about cars lunching one another in a variety of events that are tuned towards maximum carnage, and as ever there’s a cathartic joy to be found in seeing fields of pre-loved machinery crumble at your fingertips.
And Wreckfest really has a lovely line in tearing cars apart. The damage model here is exceptional, the soft body physics just a few notches down from the standard setting BeamNG.drive but benefitting from the fact they’re placed in a very tangible, winningly traditional game. A few little wrinkles aside, Wreckfest keeps things very simple – you’re either racing or wrecking, placed into a pool of twisted metal in demolition derby events or into a stream of cascading chaos in races that take place across dusty makeshift tracks. And even when you’re in a pure multi-lap race, the truth is you’re always wrecking and racing.
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