We’re previewing Bugbear’s Wreckfest today – coming out in 2018 after a lengthy and rocky development process.
What we know
First announced over four years ago (and in development for five years now), Wreckfest is the upcoming title by Bugbear Entertainment, previously responsible for the FlatOut series. It was originally simply dubbed “Next Car Game”, before being named Wreckfest back in 2014.
After a disappointing Kickstarter campaign and a very promising subsequent Early Access launch on Steam, the game has slowly faded from the public eye over the past few years with Steam players becoming increasingly disgruntled with the lack of progress that was being made. Then, earlier this year, the game was picked up by THQ Nordic and we just saw a huge update to the early access version released this month.
What we saw
We met with Bugbear and THQ Nordic this summer during Gamescom in Germany, where we saw a hands-off demo of the new physics model and some demolition derby-esque gameplay. Then, this month, we went hands on with the current early access build. This build includes some of the stuff we saw back in August, but also has a lot of new content added to it.
Most importantly perhaps, a first build of the game’s career mode – which now features two championships to battle through – has been included. There is also a “rival” system in place that’s a little like Grid 2’s in how it pits you against particular opponents, even in a bigger field.
What we thought
Our hands-off demo during Gamescom didn’t give us a good feel for how much fun this game would be to play. What we did see was how dear this product was to the developers at Bugbear. Playing a destruction derby type of level, they made sure to get into a few bad collisions before switching to the instant replay mode. From there, the action was played back in super slow motion – going back and forth to showcase individual sparks and bits flying off the vehicles involved. It was highly detailed, and the team was clearly proud of how they had implemented this. I was impressed, but it did feel more like a tech demo than a gameplay demo to me.
Because of this, I was happy to finally go hands on with the game a few months later. I got to play some destruction derby-esque gameplay myself, and it brought back memories of Demolition Derby on the Playstation 1 – but with incredible details this time around. My favorite gameplay modes involved more racing elements though, in which destruction still plays a role. I haven’t experienced a race where everyone made it to the finish line, but did manage to lose a race in the final stretch because an opponent pushed me into one of the wreckages still left on the track. Frustrating, but also one of those things you can’t wait to try yourself.
As with Bugbear’s previous games, there is a definite arcade feel to Wreckfest, but there’s an intricate physics model as well and race tactics are crucial as well. This applies even to destruction derbies, where you can go in and cause a ton of damage and score points early, but this might wreck your car before the end of the round – allowing others to overtake you in the standings. Where exactly you get hit and where you hit others also matters, as it’s generally game over once your engine is destroyed but you can keep going for quite a while as long as you make sure it stays intact.
In the career mode, cars get progressively more powerful and challenging to work with – and the game offers you driving assists to cope with this. This should potentially make the game more interesting to more sim-oriented folk, provided that they enjoy a more extreme kind of racing as well. How well this is going to be balanced during multiplayer is something I’m curious about, but we’ll have to wait until 2018 to find out. For now, it’s clear to me that most of the negative reactions to the game on Steam have been about the game’s development issues – the game itself looks like it’ll be a ton of fun. It’s up to Bugbear to deliver on that promise now.