[Review] Destruction AllStars – PlayStation 5

  • Developer: Lucid Games Limited, Wushu Studios Ltd, XDev
  • Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment
  • Release date: 02/02/2021
  • PS Plus Required: Included with PS Plus

Introducing: Destruction AllStars Review

I was someone who initially was going to buy Destruction AllStars at launch, not because I wanted to, but because I had to as part of the bundle which was the only way that I could secure my Playstation 5. It wasn’t that I was not curious about the game, I certainly was, but more that I wasn’t curious enough to pay full price unless I had to. Thankfully, when the game was pushed back and away from launch and announced to be coming to Playstation Plus as a free game when it did launch, I didn’t have to pay full price. The question still lingers, though, would paying full price have been worth it?

Smash! Crash!

The answer to that is a resounding no. Not even getting into any of the gameplay, Destruction AllStars irritated me very quickly for one reason, you have to pay extra for any of the story. What does that mean? Well, the game has challenge modes that are single player and focus around getting to know how to play one of the characters in the game better. This is also gives you a few short story cutscenes that better characterize one or two of the characters. Normally I would really like this, as finding out more about the characters was framed around getting better at using that character and their mechanics in the challenge mode, which you only need the lowest rank on to progress, though higher ranks will unlock some customization options. 

However, this is the only story that the game has to speak of, and while you are given one set of challenges to start, the others are locked up behind a paywall. There doesn’t even appear to be a way to unlock them with the currency you earn in the game, it seems that you can only do so by using the premium currency to pay for it. So, not only is this a free-to-pay game under normal circumstances, but it is locking up the only way you are going to get to know these characters. To know how bad this is, imagine if the animated shorts that Blizzard was releasing to better characterize the characters of Overwatch were something that you had to buy in game with a premium currency. That’s how bad it is. It honestly soured a lot of what I thought this game had going for it for me.

Round 1

Other than the challenge modes, the main bulk of the game consists of online matches in a few different modes. Half of these are solo modes and half of these are team modes. For the solo we have:

  • Mayhem –  A mode in which the goal is to score as many points as you can by using the systems of the game. This means either running around on foot, or smashing cars up. It’s the heart of the destruction derby concept for the game.
  • Gridfall – This mode is a little antithetical to the whole idea of the game. Smashing cars won’t get you super far and may in fact lead to your doom as you have to avoid falling through large holes in the arena floor.

Mayhem is obviously the more fun of the two. I don’t think that Gridfall really works at all in the context of the game as avoiding others is the trick to win and everything in the game is geared towards making your car and the other car do the smashing together thing. Honestly a battle racer would have been better suited. The games found in the challenge mode did hint at other upcoming modes, though, so perhaps this won’t be like this forever.

Then we have the team modes, which are: 

  • Carnado – A mode similar to mayhem, but your points have to be banked by destroying your car in a giant purple tornado in the center of the arena. If you get destroyed before you can do that, you lose the points.
  • Stockpile – There are three banks around the arena and after accumulating points by fully wrecking other cars, you deposit them into the banks to take control of them. The team that controls the most at time out wins.

Of these, I found myself completely uncompelled by Stockpile, because it hinged on the full destruction of other cars, unlike other modes where even a solid hit could be worth something. Carnado actually offered some interesting risk vs. reward play, as your points would all be lost if your car was destroyed before you could bank them. Meaning you need to consider your own health along with trying to do damage to others. 

Let’s Get Ready to Rumble

However, the fact that there are only 4 online modes makes the whole experience feel rather lackluster. All of these modes feel like there would have been some sort of a method that would allow them to support both single or team play, allowing you to choose what kind of experience you want to have. The absence of a team version of Mayhem is honestly so asinine I can’t even fully put it into words. It’s the mode that is the heart and soul of the idea of a destruction derby game and yet you don’t give the option to play it with teams? Absurd! I’m not bothered by the lack of a ranking system since this doesn’t seem to be the sort of game that needs that, but the low number of ways to play ends up making this feel like it should be a smaller title.

This is a hero based game too, so each of your characters that you have available has their own distinct feel and abilities that you can make use of to effect the game, as well as a signature car that you are able to summon that has its own ability. All of this is well and good, but I found that some of the characters are more useful than others. There are some that I think may be in need of a rework, if I’m being honest. It’s not that they’re unplayable, but more that their usage isn’t as powerful as some others or is highly situational It’s going to be a lot like these other hero games. Some players are going to gravitate to the characters that have the most useful abilities, but others are going to gravitate to the characters that have an aesthetic that appeals to them. No shame in that at all.

You’re going to need a car to smash up while you are working towards getting your special car to be available, so what do you use until then? Well, dotted around the arena will be a few different types of cars. These all have advantages and disadvantages to them. Some are fast, but as durable as paper, and others are tanky, but aren’t going to catch up to others well. While it is possible to feel the difference, I don’t think the difference is all that impressive or notable. I never went for one type of car over the others. I was most likely to just choose whatever was the closest.

Round 2!

There’s just some general issues with the whole setup beyond that. The only way that I seem to see for consistently earning the in game currency is by ranking up. There’s not any sort of a payout for completing rounds. Not only does this mean that trying to save up for the cosmetics that you really want is a bit of a grind, but it also means that there’s nothing really to be lost by leaving a round early. In a game that doesn’t appear to have any form of backfill, this is something that’s led to me actually avoiding the team modes for the most part. There was a not insignificant number of times where I would get to the results screen only to find out the reason that I got absolutely stomped was because there was only one other person on my team that had stayed until the end of the game. When there is no penalty for leaving early, you are going to cultivate a culture of players who jump out of a game the second they start losing and we’re seeing the start of that here.

This isn’t the only issue either. Much has been said about how audio chat was automatically enabled when starting online matches when the game was first launched. Personally, I found it just as annoying as everyone else and I’m glad that this issue has been remedied though patching. However, I do find it to somewhat emblematic of the way that Destruction AllStars just isn’t all that interested in what’s going to be good for players. There’s so much of it that feels like it’s a free-to-play game. I honestly wouldn’t be shocked if it did end up going free to play once it’s time being a Playstation Plus title was up because it’s certainly behaving a lot like one. I think I’d be a lot less hard on it if it was free-to-play, but because it’s still touting itself like it’s not, I have no choice but to treat it like a full priced title, where it’s just not worth the price.

Hold onto your Seat

I do have to concede that Destruction AllStars is visually stunning, though. Every menu is slickly designed and when playing the game, the attention to detail makes the impacts feel all the more impactful. Seeing a portion of the car flapping off and around really sold how battered I was getting and you could even tell the base health of a car from how destroyed they were looking. The trade off to this is that all the arenas that you’re playing in feel the same. I honestly couldn’t tell the difference between them if you asked me to, which is not great.

One the other hand, the character design was also something that I loved. The characters are diverse not only in terms of type of people that exist in the world, but also in the aesthetics that they’re sporting. While all of them are definitely going for that whole ‘effortlessly cool swagger’ look, there’s bound to be at least one that stands out to you. Sad to say that the customization options are sorely lacking. Skins exist, but they’re nothing more than simple palette swaps, pretty boring for all that currency grinding that you’re going to be doing if you play a lot.

When I first booted up the game, I was really excited about the music. It had a great beat and I was looking forward to jamming along with it while I played. And then… nothing. All the music disappears during actual matches. While the sound effects are great, even just a light amount of music could have made the rounds feel more lively. Sure, I can play my own music, but when the menu music was so great, the fact that it was suddenly missing was extremely stark.

Say Goodbye to your Wheels

I only had one issue while running the game. It was when there was some severe lag during a match, which caused other players to jump all over the place. This only happened when I was playing on the first day, though, so I have to think that it was likely due to heavy server usage from a lot of people all trying it out for the first time at once. 

I was pleased to see that there was a good amount of use made of the special features that the Playstation 5 has going for it. There’s plenty of good haptic feedback to make impacts feel more solid and to give indications of what kind of state your car is in. There’s also some use of the adaptive triggers in terms of launching off from platforms with the initial movement of your car. My personal favorite is the stutter that the trigger gains when your car is highly damaged, which actually reminded me a lot of driving a car with a severely flat tire.

Time for repairs

Overall, Destruction AllStars feels incomplete. What’s there doesn’t feel like enough to justify the full price, even if there is supposedly more content coming down the road. Add to the frankly invasive monetization and microtransactions, and I am left feeling like this is just another “game as a service” that’s doomed to be forgotten in a few months. If they had come out the gate swinging, I would have been glad to see it, but I’m just disappointed. The best thing that I can say is “at least there’s not lootboxes” and that’s not something that I should be praising a game for…

Pros

  • Stellar looks
  • Great use of DualSense features
  • Great character designs

Cons

  • Lack of content
  • Aggressive microtransactions
  • Modes vary in quality

Verdict

Destruction all-stars might have some good ideas in there and run just fine, but it’s simply lacking on the content it will need to keep a player base engaged. If you can get it for free, feel free, but don’t drop full price on it.

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