Cast your mind back to June 2020. It is pre-PS5 release, and Destruction AllStars is being touted as a launch line-up exclusive for this coming November. Even at this point, while the game looked spectacular, there were doubts creeping into my mind about its longevity and pricing structure.
Being an online-focussed game during a platform launch period is always a risk, as even if there’s large demand. You don’t know if the audience will be large enough to sustain a community – something that is essential for the longtail success of a predominately multiplayer title.
When Rocket League originally released in July 2015, it was free for all with PlayStation Plus to boost the initial audience. Now the title is on every platform possible, is owned by Epic Games and still harbours a significant active player base.
Fast forward to October 2020, and it’s announced that Destruction AllStars is delayed until February 2021, but huzzah, common sense had prevailed – it would be free to all PS5 owners with PlayStation Plus.
Available from 2nd February to the 5th April 2021 for no additional charge, the game sadly received a mixed reception. I for one downloaded it, tried it for 20 minutes and then got distracted by something else. Which is a shame.
I apologise now for not giving this Titanfall 2-come-Twisted Metal mashup a fair shake.
Now no longer part of PlayStation Plus – but still in your library if you redeemed it – the Lucid Games developed vehicle brawler is available to purchase for a cut-price $19.99/£19.99 in both digital and physical forms. A far cry from originally slated $70/£70.
Earlier this month, a significant update hit, which introduced Season One Hotshots, a new AllStar, Alba, and the promise of more updates and content additions throughout this first season. You can play through the season to unlock in-game trinkets, much like Rocket Pass, Motorflix or Podium Pass.
With a feature and development roadmap also revealed, I thought now was the time to jump back into Destruction Allstars. Literally.
Selecting from a diverse suite of characters, each with their own distinct personality, in some ways it reminds me of a Street Fighter or Tekken release. Each person has their own catch-phrases and there’s even a very brief ‘story’ mode of sorts to play through.
Each match, or level, starts off with your AllStar sprinting in a third-person perspective and diving off the end of a ledge as if they are Nathan Drake. You then run to the nearest vehicle, hit triangle and leap in through the sunroof.
When this game first released, invariably, your competitors had already snapped up all the cars and you were left with the feeling of being picked last for the high school softball team. This seems to happen less often now, though.
No matter. Once you have found a vehicle, in the most basic terms, you earn points by smashing into, and even eliminating, your rivals. You’re vulnerable too, of course, and that has strong Destruction Derby vibes. Except, of course, located within a shiny near-future arena.
Succumbing to damage from fellow competitors means a respawn on foot. Here you can simply run to a new vehicle, if there is one, or jump on top of a rival’s vehicle, initiating a quick-time battle for ownership.
While running about the arena, you can collect shards, which boost your charge gauge, in turn unlocking signature abilities. Sans vehicle, this invariably means not taking damage by being hit. The other option is to unlock a signature vehicle, unique to each character, which features special functions. Be it extra armour or even invisibility.
That’s the essence of the game. Smashing into things, earning points, trying not to be run over and beating other players.
Layered on top of that are different game modes.
Most of the time you will be playing the staple Mayhem setup. The bread and butter of Destruction AllStars, this is car combat in its most basic form. Smash rival’s vehicles, get points. When you nail a wreck, and I mean really smashing into someone disabling them in an instant, there is instant gratification. Dare I say it, thanks to the dramatic slow-motion cut to the destruction, it provides a similar endorphin rush to performing a takeout in Burnout.
I found myself having fun trying to get three stars in each of Ultimo’s story section events, and even going through the tutorial practice levels.
If all of this sounds like the most adrenaline fuelled chaos since ziplines were invented, then you’d be right.
While the basis of Destruction AllStars is a solid one – wait, no, a great one – and the visuals strike the right balance between that next-gen sheen and a playful cartoon vibrance, something is missing.
Or rather, several small things are missing that combine to create a feeling of emptiness.
I’ll start with the vehicle handling and right off the bat, things are amiss. You’ll find yourself zig-zagging left to right like a drunk person trying to walk home after a post-lockdown session. There’s simply not enough pliancy in the control set-up. Being able to turn in a razor-sharp fashion may help to turn a corner in short order, but when you’re trying to aim at someone else who happens to be racing by, it can lead to many frustrating misses.
Drifting is also rather unsatisfying. You can initiate a slide with a quick tap of the handbrake, but a nice smooth skid isn’t possible.
Then there are modes. Alongside Mayhem, three other variations exist at present. I enjoy Gridfall where part of the floor disappears as time progresses and the last car standing wins.
Carnado is probably my favourite. Smashing into other players nets you gears which you bank by self-destructing by driving into a literal tornado.
On the flipside, however, is Stockpile, where you must smash into vehicles, jump out to collect the gears on foot, then get back into your steed and find a base. But then you must jump out again and stand on a pedestal to make the points count. Too much faff. I can’t get into a flow with this one.
All the modes are on a daily rotation, with two being available at any one time. Each day you log on, it’s changed. This incentivises repeat play, but all it takes is one dud game type and it can put you off your stride.
The running around seems largely pointless too. Sure, you can collect shards, but I don’t think there’s enough incentive to go exploring. It takes too long to find a rhythm too, like failing the combinations in Mirror’s Edge only without the option of restarting a sequence.
Then there’s the elephant in the room. No, not the aforementioned Rocket League, but Wreckfest. Something I enjoy far more.
Yes, we bang on about the game far too much at Traxion, but there’s a new PS5 version and throughout May it is free on PlayStation Plus. You can gather a few friends, create a private lobby, fire up a party chat and have a ball.
I played this a few days ago with a group and we were all laughing so hard my cheeks started to ache.
They may be very different games in many respects, but when it comes to multiplayer, they are direct competitors, especially right now within the PlayStation ecosystem. Pick a car, crash into things, try to beat everyone else.
Destruction AllStars has all the ingredients to become an online phenomenon but has been dowsed in too much seasoning. There are almost too many ideas here, and the end result somehow feels a little watered down.
Right now, the potential is not quite realised. Snappy vehicle handling, largely superfluous running and some dreary game modes take away from the satisfying damage mechanics, interesting characters and slick visuals.
I hope Lucid Games has the backing and time to continue developing upon it, because the potential for something special is here. For now, though, I’m off to play something else. Here’s hoping that after a few more updates, I’ll be back for more over-the-top car collisions.