The idea of driving into other vehicles for personal gain has been a theme in gaming for decades, from the likes of Twisted Metal and Destruction Derby to Burnout and, very recently, Onrush, which we wrote some words on here.
And so the fact there is yet another crash-'em-up, albeit with considerably more visual polish than games from the 90s and noughties, made us reluctant to bother running the install, let alone play it. But, boy, are we are glad we did.
Wreckfest review: Out with the old, in with the old
Five championships comprised various mini events make up Wreckfest's solo career. These range from surviving as long as you can to coming first in a race. Thanks to the wonderfully detailed graphics and physics systems, these are rarely anything but satisfying.
There are also moments where you get to ride on a high-powered ride-on lawnmower, which are amusing and rewarding in equal measure, and showcase the Wreckfest developer's sense of humour.
Whether you win or lose, experience is doled out that can be used for upgrades, new vehicles and other cool stuff. As a result, it never feels like you have wasted time on a bad race although you may still hit the restart option every now and then if you dislike coming second.
Total carnage is usually about 4mm away, thanks to Wreckfest's ruthless artificial intelligence, but how much of an efffect it has on the car can be adjusted. In 'normal', your vehicle can usually survive a number of serious shunts.
In 'realistic', meanwhile, it only takes one bad landing to ruin your day, or at least severely impede the handling, which can mean having to limp over the finish line.
This gives Wreckfest added depth because the tactics needed to win, or at least survive long enough, vary. For a game so shallow on the surface, Wreckfest actually rewards smart thinking as much as skilled driving although it does try to stop you from using cheap tricks.
In the destruction derby, for example, 'last as long as you can' mode driving around the edge to avoid getting hit and let other players wipe themselves out is the key to success, but do this for too long and a countdown begins. Fail to hit another car in that time and it is game over.
How damage is handled is a strong-suit of Wreckfest because the type of damage caused is based on where you are hit. This can be anything from a bent bumper or a crushed radiator, each one having a different effect on the vehicle in terms of handling.
Even better, though, is how good everything looks when you plough multiple tonnes of old-school American V8 metal into your rival, with bits of metal bouncing everywhere in delicious detail. As racing games go, Wreckfest is spectacularly pretty at its highest settings, which adds to the satisfaction.
Its handling model is rewarding, too, even if you use standard keyboard buttons. Every car feels different to drive and the difference between one road surface and another is easily noticeable, making it surprisingly realistic.
But more than that, Wreckfest has a physics system that is as clever as it is stylish. Cars feel heavy and are inclined to drift, which feels good, yet it is difficult to lose control and spin out, keeping the difference between winning and losing a challenge tantalisingly close.
That is not to say Wreckfest is an easy game. Far from it, there are times when you will need to work on your racing line just to keep up with the pack and avoid the inevitable early race pile-up.
Wreckfest review: Crash wallop
Where Wreckfest falls down (arguably) is the soundtrack, which will keep rock fans happy and is suited to the carnage undertone, but can prove a bit grating. The user-interface is also a little dull in the presentation style.
There is also something to be said for longevity once you have pulverised your way through all five championships if you are an offline player, although the custom match option and online play will keep the online crowd happy for a very long time.
But then the engine noises and sound of metal on metal as you collide with other vehicles are top-notch, serving to emphasise a level of unexpected polish. Wreckfest really is top-notch where it counts.
Wreckfest review: Worth buying?
Wreckfest never set out to rewrite the rule book. It simply wants to amuse, entertain and excite with simple crash-based hooliganism and it does so with infectious enthusiasm. The sort that makes it universally appealing, as opposed to just for racing game fans.
For sheer fun, quite honestly, there are relatively few modern-day racing games that get close. And that is really quite impressive when you consider this type of game has been done to death.