Next Car Game: Wreckfest- Guilty Pleasures
Figure 8's are the Devil's Minions
Over Discord, I hear a friend shout in surprise as his car flips over a concrete divider behind me. Another friend shouts as well as he is t-boned by a racer farther back in the figure 8 track. I am in second place, and I am desperately hoping the racer in first place becomes a smear on the wall so I can take his position (and bragging rights).
He takes a hard hit, and like my aforementioned friend, flips over a divider. I take first, shouting and screaming in joy as the rest of the pack behind me vows to mount my bumper above their fireplace and use my racing suit like a fancy bear rug. A couple laps later, I am the victor, wooping and bragging to all my (more experienced) friends. From every race on, I am immediately spun out on sight. I wouldn't have it any other way.
Exactly what it says on the tin
Bugbear Entertainment, the Finnish company that started the FlatOut series, is no newcomer to racing games. They've actually never worked on anything besides racing games. The aptly titled Next Car Game: Wreckfest is a spiritual successor to the FlatOut series, known for over-the-top crashes and stunts. However, instead of the cartoon-y turn FlatOut has taken, Wreckfest is slightly more grounded in reality, focusing more on actual racing and the amount of destruction your car can take. Every race features a health meter that shows your car's current condition. If it completely empties, your car is out of the race and you are disqualified. It provides a reason for players to be aggressive, but not too aggressive, which means dirty racing is still rampant (and often encouraged).
"What the hell is a limited-slip diff?"
Wreckfest also features a rather in-depth parts system, allowing you to buy parts with the paltry amount of money you earn after each race. Like the racing, it's rather realistic as well, like fitting different kinds of differentials (which is also helpfully explained for people like me who don't know what the hell a differential is) and new engines to increase power. As of the time of writing, a crew system is present in the game, but doesn't actually do anything as you can't earn XP to level said crews up.
It's perfectly fine. While cars have different ratings, reflecting their viability for racing similar to Forza Motorsport, this doesn't effect matches too much as anyone is as likely to wreck as anyone else. Different assists, such as anti-lock braking, automatic or manual, and steering, can be turned on or off at your leisure.
"The goggles! They do nothing!"
Aesthetically, Wreckfest 's various dirt and asphalt tracks aren't particularly impressive. They look like the hometown tracks good ol' boys from the South pile into every Saturday night to get drunk and watch someone maim themselves. Graphically, however, they look amazing, featuring high-quality textures and, on appropriate tracks, an annoyingly blinding sun. Concrete dividers and walls, when hit, will dynamically crumble onto the track, showing other racers spots where someone less fortunate than them forgot to turn.
But the destruction is where Wreckfest shines. A very powerful physics engine simulates every bump and hit your car takes, from the slowest of fender-benders to 60 mile-per-hour t-bones, with your white fire suited-driver never looking any worse for wear, despite his torso potentially being a considerable width smaller than what it started at. Even losing entire wheels doesn't seem to slow your car down, perhaps for balancing while the team irons out balancing issues.
$40 for a Toy
All of this wonderful destruction comes at a price, however, a rough $39.99 for an early-access title that even the developers say is in early alpha. The game is fun. Very, very fun. But for right now, in its current state (as of writing, May 11th, 2017) it's just a toy, not a serious racing game like Bugbear Entertainment leads me to believe they want it to be. There are simply too many similar games at much, much lower prices with many more features to make Wreckfest anything more than a neat toy right now.
With that being said, Wreckfest is still a good game. It's a quick flash in the pan that is fun with friends, but it simply can't stand on its own without more content to justify a $40 price tag. If you want to play similar games, try Assetto Corsa or Forza Horizon 3.
Thank you for reading.