Here I am getting excited about yet another version of a game that has its roots embedded in late 2013, almost eight years ago, which is more than a little bit baffling.
That’s when a failed Kickstarter campaign pushed developer Bugbear Entertainment into offering a ‘Sneak Peek’ demo for the then-titled ‘Next Car Game’ to those who had pre-ordered the title. The history of the game is for another time, but all the hard work has culminated to the 4th May 2021.
This is when the PS5 version became available – one month ahead of the planned general release – to PlayStation Plus subscribers and it is pure, unbridled, enjoyment.
Wreckfest may have first seen light in some form or another many years ago, but right here, right now, this is the pinnacle of the experience.
It reminds us why we play games in the first place. An escape, pure fantasy.
You smash up vehicles, from a sofa car to a school bus and everything in-between, making use of a satisfying damage mechanic and bombastic AI rivals to create a cacophony of bent metal, burnt rubber and felled hoardings. Beautiful.
But we’re here to talk specifically about the PS5 release, as for now, this is the only version that has been remastered with native 4K visuals, 60 frames per second fidelity and, crucially, new lighting and textures.
If you were forgiven into thinking that this is just a light spruce up, I wouldn’t mind. The gaming industry right now is more than a little foggy for players, with cross-gen releases, free upgrades, Smart Delivery, cross-play, remakes, remasters – let me just say that this isn’t the PS4 or Xbox One release running at a higher frame rate. This is an extensive re-do that deserves your attention.
Wreckfest on PS5 is a testament to the detail that goes into making a video game, each tiny little refinement paying dividends to the whole experience.
The biggest change is to the lighting. You now have rich sunsets during races. With many of the tracks based on a typically Scandinavian tree-lined route, the sun now breaks through the pines, dispersing its light in a naturalistic fashion.
The shadows surrounding the cars are more detailed, noticeably if a car has a giant rear wing. Brake bulbs on a big American cruiser slowly fade out when you let off the middle pedal.
Reflections on the vehicle windows are probably the most marked improvement, even simply as you pan the camera in the garage, but even the grass and gravel that supplements the violence look markedly more enriched. You now make your own individual, reactive, tyre marks through the dirt.
I know I’m talking about small, nerdy details, but going back to an older version of the game is like trying to read with an old pair of glasses. Everything seems slightly blurred around the edges. It looks like a new from scratch next-generation game at times, such is the visual leap forward.
You then take all that detail and smash your pick-up truck and the surrounding environment into a million tiny pieces, which feels better than an hour with an over-priced therapist. This game is cathartic.
If you’ve not played Wreckfest for a while, you now benefit from a build-up of free track additions, and I really recommended dipping into the Tournament mode. This is where new challenges are added on a regular basis, allowing you to earn ‘Fame’ (read, XP) to purchase new machines.
The two season passes which expand your vehicle library are also worth a look.
Then there are the always chaotic online modes, from simply quick joining a random lobby, to a selection of event types or even creating a private lobby for friends. The public lobby size has been expanded to 24 players from 16 on PS4, although at present it should be noted that private lobbies are still limited to eight participants.
The loading times on Wreckfest have always been slower than a Reliant Robin on a motorway, decades pass before you can race. It varies, but I noticed around a 25 per cent improvement on PS5 compared to PS4. It’s still sometimes close to twenty seconds to load a race though, which when you compare that to the three-four seconds for Ride 4 of WRC 9 on PS5, is glacial.
The DualSense’s adaptive triggers provide more tension when slowing down, which I’m always a fan of. But there’s no haptic feedback when you ride over a kerb or go off into a field.
Still, that’s nit-picking of the highest order. The only real complaint that could be levied at this new version of Wreckfest is that your previous game saves cannot, at present, be transferred across. If like me you haven’t played for a while, then it’s not a huge drawback because the enhanced experience does enough to warrant a replay, but I can see if you’ve completed the career on the old-gen version recently, perhaps via PlayStation Now where it’s included, you may be a little perturbed.
Despite this one hiccup, this is still an astounding achievement and one that lucky PS5 owners owe themselves to check out. It’s the best racing game on the platform so far.
PlayStation recently revealed that 7.8 million PS5s had been sold and PlayStation Plus subscribers had jumped 14.7 per cent. Every single member should try this new version of Wreckfest, and if you’ve never played it before, you’re in for a treat.
Wreckfest on PS5 is available now to PlayStation Plus subscribers for one month. If you are a subscriber who hasn’t been able to get a PS5 yet, you can add it to your account via the web store or app for use at a later date. It will be releasing for all PS5 owners as a digital and physical release on the 1st June. Existing owners of Wreckfest on PS4 can upgrade to the new version too for $9.99.