Wreckfest Might Just Be 2018’s Best Driving Game (So Far)

Bugbear is back with a game that feels like a winner.

Fans of the FlatOut series will be familiar with Bugbear’s work (or less so if you only played 3 which was developed by a different team). After years of working on what would likely be their spiritual successor to that series, they have now given us Wreckfest, a game that glorifies aggressive driving and gnarly crashes but is also an incredibly competent and fun racing game. It evokes a lot of the same feelings I had when I first started playing Burnout Paradise, and while Wreckfest doesn’t have a large open world full of events, it, much like Burnout, feels built for fun before anything else.

In a world flooded with simulations racers and a few less intense spin-offs, Wreckfest is the racing game I’ve been looking for. I just wanted a game I could load up and get racing without having to worry about tuning and driving lines. You can tune your vehicle, and those modifications do feel meaningful in their own way. However, I’ve never felt as though it was necessary in the time I’ve spent with it. I’ve mostly just purchased the next level of parts when available that offer flat improvements. As someone who doesn’t like spend a lot of time in the virtual garage, it’s simple enough to get in, buy a part, and get right back to racing. Sure, I’m a little bit faster now, but it’s nothing crazy where I feel like I need to change the way I approach a turn.

Then again, Wreckfest has had a rare effect on me where I am actually interested in some of the tuning options based on the different track types. Many tracks feature multiple terrain types, each requiring a certain amount of breaking, drifting, or acceleration to properly maximize. I’ve hit some of these turns just hard enough where even someone like me has started looking into tuning my breaking and steering to pull ahead through tight turns. As fun first as it may feel, Wreckfest appears, at least a few hours in, to offer enough depth to at least interest the hardcore racers out there who may want to play in the dirt a bit.

Of course, the biggest appeal of the game will be the wrecking itself. Many games talk about no two laps being the same, and Wreckfest achieves this even if it is sometimes purely visual. Every first turn is full of bumping and grinding with parts flying off of every vehicle and left to litter the track on the subsequent laps. These rarely have an actual impact on the racing, but larger parts like bumpers or some of the surrounding walls (almost all of which are able to be driven through) can get caught up and slow you down. Keeping an eye out for hazards is key, especially when your opponents are more vicious than usual.

Over time your vehicle can take damage that will impact its drivability. A wrong turn could flip you over and cause you to land awkwardly on your wheels and hinder your steering, while head-on collisions can impact the effectiveness of your engine. Playing races out in more of a demolition derby is a viable enough strategy that you can afford to take your mind off the race every once in a while and just get to smashing. If you’re the type to take your racing more serious, there’s a demolition mode available where you can really do some damage. One such event involves 20 riding lawn mowers and an unbreakable wall to contain them. Flipping mowers catch fire as the riders get dragged off by the victorious opponent who eliminated them. Smoke fills the air and more and more mowers converge and collide on anyone foolish enough to be caught in the middle of the arena. It’s glorious and showcases what makes this game special.

I’ll be the first to say I’m not always the biggest racing fan and the last few years haven’t given me much to keep my attention. I thought I was going to have to wait for Forza Horizon 4 to finally get my racing fix, but Wreckfest has done more than enough so far to ensure I’ll keep coming back. In terms of pure fun first driving games, this one is the best not to end in “Remastered” so far in 2018.