- Developer: Bugbear
- Publisher: THQ Nordic
- Release date: 21/6/2022
- Price: £34.99/$39.99
- Review code provided by THQ Nordic
Introducing: Wreckfest – Nintendo Switch Review
The Switch has seen its fair share of ports over the years. The quality has varied, from the witchcraft (forgive the pun) of the Witcher 3’s port to the vaseline-smeared disappointment that was Outer Worlds. Wreckfest on Xbox and Playstation was never a visual showcase, but this is a game centred around destruction of both the vehicles and levels, and was always sure to push the humble little hybrid to it’s limits. Thankfully, Bugbear have managed to put together a port which captures the essence of the game, and all the physics-based destruction that entails, whilst still performing admirably.
Most racing games these days are focused on the flashiest and most expensive cars possible. One look at the garage in a Forza or Gran Turismo game is enough to have you reaching for your Ray Bans. Wreckfest on the other hand focuses on the much less glamorous world of Banger Racing. For the uninitiated, this isn’t a game focused on racing around in saveloys, but racing in clapped out old vehicles. Rather than abiding by the normal, well-behaved rules of most racing formats, Banger Racing is all about the mayhem. Wreckfest presents you with a range of events which focus on racing or destroying every one of your opponents, but even the most straightforward race will often descend into absolute chaos, thanks to a combination of crazy course design, aggressive AI, and a sprinkling of bouncy, fun physics.
The meat of the game revolves around the Career mode, consisting of five championships, each broken down into around 20 smaller events. Each event consists of a number of races or destruction derby style events where you are placed in an arena in the vehicle of your choosing and set with the challenge of being the last car still functioning.
Progress through the career mode unlocks new vehicles and parts, which can be purchased using credits, which are earned by winning. Thankfully the game is fairly generous in the way it doles out rewards, ensuring a continual feeling of progress. The range of vehicles can however feel a little samey, with everything either looking like a 90s Volvo estate or a smashed up Muscle car. Buying new vehicles ultimately comes down a stats comparison more than anything.
Progressing through the career mode is a fun way to experience all the different crazy scenarios Bugbear have dreamed up, with a number of wild events thrown in there such as lawnmower destruction derbies or races where your vehicle is a motorised couch. These events are made even better thanks to the physics on all the racers, resulting in some real hilarity when drivers are thrown from their couch or lawnmower and ragdolled around the arena.
Aside from the comedy vehicles there are also lots of fun scenarios such as surviving races in a tiny car against a pack of school buses, or another where you get revenge as a giant bus against a pack of Reliant Robins. All these novelties can only go so far, but the good news is that the proper racing is brilliant too. The handling of the vehicles is tight and responsive, which helps get the most out of the fun courses which Bugbear have designed.
Courses range from simple figure 8s to dangerous valleys which loop you back down the valley again in the opposite direction. As races progress and the pack gets spread out you inevitably find yourself going head-on into a straight with vehicles coming towards you or find yourself cautiously peering sideways as you hurtle towards the overlap in a figure 8. One course even includes a loop which can see heavier, slower vehicles struggle before dropping off at the highest point, which always provides a snigger.
All this mayhem is underpinned by a fantastic physics system which sees vehicles and courses gradually fall to bits with all the collisions that inevitably happen. There’s nothing more satisfying than nudging an opponent off the edge of a bend into a pile of tyres and wooden pallets, then basking in the glory and debris explodes across the course, setting up hazards for stragglers. AI racers are equally as aggressive, so it’s not uncommon to find yourself on the receiving end, or to see some other unfortunate sod getting smashed to pieces.
A Good Runner
Given the game is a port from consoles which are much more powerful, there were questions as to how well the Switch could handle Wreckfest. Bugbear and THQ were clearly confident in the game, as there seemed to be no embargo before launch, and this confidence was well placed!
There have been some obvious cuts to get the game running on the Switch, with a drop to 30FPS as the target frame rate, but the game remains smooth to play and the physics, which are a key element all seem to be intact when compared to other platforms.
Other visual effects like motion blur have been removed and particle effects are drastically reduced, but these things are only really noticeable of you come over from the Playstation or Xbox versions of the game. Draw distance on some of the debris is quite low, leading to some pop in when you drive towards wreckage, but again these things don’t detract much from the main experience. This is particularly pronounced in the replay mode, with items inside the car like rollcages suddenly appearing in the car as it gets closer to the camera.
The key focus here has clearly been on providing a smooth gameplay experience, which I definitely appreciated, however the combination of these visual cuts, plus a reduced resolution, which is particularly pronounced in handheld, may put off those who have the option of playing elsewhere.
Framerate overall is fairly consistent, but there are some issues with frame pacing which crop up when the action gets particularly hairy. This wasn’t significant enough to cause me any issues in gameplay, but was a little distracting.
Wreckfest provides a wild racing experience unlike anything else on the Switch. Spiritually it feels like a modern successor to the earlier Burnout games (pre-Paradise). The single player content should keep you occupied for a while, but there is also online play which seems to be fairly well populated and runs smoothly. As with most Switch ports, there is a toss-up between portability and visual fidelity, but this port provides a nice version of the game which provides the same thrills at the expense of the visuals. This isn’t as jarring as the downgrade in some other Switch ports and shouldn’t put anyone off if they mainly play on Switch. The game is also released at a budget price, which is sometimes a bit of a rarity with Switch ports.
- Handling of the cars is lovely
- Lots to do in single player
- Online runs smoothly
- Visual cuts are evident, particularly in handheld
- Frame pacing can be inconsistent