Wreckfest (Switch Version)
Is Wreckfest The Best Racer On The Switch?
Before a thousand Mario Kart fans start to flood the comment section, I categorize Mario Kart as different from a conventional racer. When I ask this question, I mean compared to other racing games ported on the Switch. As many players know, the Nintendo Switch is not the go-to console when it comes to racing titles and as I played Wreckfest, I began to understand why this is the case. I'll provide greater detail during this review, but in short, it has nothing to do with the console itself. In terms of playability, Wreckfest may be the best "traditional racer" on the Nintendo console.
Often considered to be the true spiritual successor to Bugbear's FlatOut series, Wreckfest was released on PC in 2018 with a console port released the following year. Next-gen versions were released in 2021 and finally, a Nintendo Switch port was released in 2022. FlatOut was Bugbear's flagship racing series, making them a beloved developer in the rally racing genre. Over a decade after their latest rally game, WreckFest marked the developer's return to grace. Like a phoenix rising from the ashes, can the good times continue to roll on the Switch? Or is it a smoldering crater of burnt metal?
Traditional Destruction Derby Action Awaits
While the similarities between Bugbear's FlatOut series and Wreckfest are made apparent, the latter also takes cues from a classic PS1-era racer, Destruction Derby. Races and other events pit the driver against other vehicles in which the player can win the race in one of two ways. The first is to outdrive while the second is to outlast the competitors as vehicles are used as weapons to disable others. Everything from the vehicle's speed to the crash's intensity is accounted for, and the smallest crashes deal the most damage.
An example of this is spinning out your opponents by tapping the rear wheel of their cars. That's enough to move up a position, but causing carnage on the track is also a valid option. When cars are damaged out, they are considered "Wrecked" and are unable to race for the rest of the event. The difference between Wreckfest and Demolition Derby is the omission of power-ups. There are no health restoration, no "bonus point targets" to hit, or any knick-knacks. Just driving skill, awareness, and killer instinct.
Wreckfest Is Serious Business Until It Isn't
Wreckfest isn't what could be considered a "rally sim" or even a "simcade" like Dirt 5, but it's somewhere in the middle. It's a game that doesn't take itself seriously, as the very first event allows players to drive lawnmowers in a derby-like event. A later event has drivers ride around in a figure 8, all lawnmowers, as a large tractor hunt down unsuspecting drivers. In the same tier, drivers will command these rather interesting couch cars? The sky's the limit and the zaniness of Bugbear's FlatOut is shown in full force. I wish that their iconic Crash Mode was included, but it would deviate from the racing I'd feel.
And that's what matters the most for Wreckfest, the racing and how the vehicles handle. As this review focuses on the Switch version, I'd say that this is the best racer on the Switch right now. The bar is understandably low as I recently gave similar praises to Super Street: Racer. While that game was a passable port of a mediocre game, Wreckfest is an exceptional port of an exceptional game. The Switch version's full size came to be around 10 GB and the amount of content Bugbear was able to fit in a condensed package is impressive.
Almost No Compromises Were Made In Its Development
That's not to say that players should expect a 1:1 port of the PC version as compromises are made to tailor the Switch. One specification that goes unnoticed and is why racing games aren't top billing on the Switch is the controls. On a default joycon, each button is digital as opposed to analog, like the triggers on a PS4 and Xbox controller. This means that throttle and brake control in Wreckfest isn't present by default unless you use a controller with analog triggers. At the time of this writing, the 8BitDo Pro series is one I can personally recommend for analog functions. This review isn't sponsored by 8BitDo, but having owned one of them I can vouch for their quality.
This doesn't deter Wreckfest's gameplay as, again, it's not a sim racer. You can play this title as any other arcade racer out there with incredible success. The graphics aren't as compromised, maintaining a consistent framerate that lags behind in replays on occasion. For a bit of comparison, I played a bit of the game on PC via Game Pass on its lowest possible settings. Both games were output to 1080p and the results were as I'd expected.
Wreckfest Is One Of The Better Switch Ports I've Played
While the game does run smoother on the PC, the Switch's version is no slouch as it offers an enjoyable experience. The fewer cars on the screen, the better the framerate so long as players don't expect a "flawless 60 fps." The main advantage the Switch has over other platforms is its portability and accessibility.
While this is the weakest of the Wreckfest ports, it's still a remarkable title compared to other Switch ports. Bugbear Entertainment proves that it is possible for a developer to bring one of their flagship titles to a platform that others have struggled with in the past. As I intended to review Wreckfest as a standalone Switch title separate from its other ports, it's a staple in a player's library whether you're afraid to get your car dirty or not.
Wreckfest is now available on the Nintendo Switch. It is also available on the PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X/S.