|Destruction AllStars Review|
|Publisher||Sony Interactive Entertainment|
|Release Date||February 2, 2021|
|Time Spent Playing||15 Hours|
|Game downloaded via PS+ for the purpose of this review|
Prior to the PlayStation 5 release, a full showcase of upcoming PS5 games and exclusives teased us with the offerings on the next-generation system. One of the most intriguing to me, personally, was the reveal of a brand new destruction-derby style game knows as Destruction AllStars, where players took the wheel of high-octane vehicles in an arena of chaos, attempting to cause as much mayhem as possible. Interlaced throughout the trailer were whacky human characters running, jumping, dodging, and using unique abilities to gain the upper hand. As a long-time Rocket League fan personally, this was a hotly anticipated release for me, and I was gladly ready to pay the $60 price tag before it was finally announced as an upcoming PlayStation Plus title.
I think comparing it to Rocket League was a little unfair before I had ever played it – after all, I think Rocket League likely has the best driving mechanics of nearly any competitive car game to date. The controls are difficult to master yet largely intuitive and are fine-tuned to almost absolute perfection. It’s no wonder that the game continues to be one of the best and biggest e-sports, even years past its release. Lucid Games, developer of Destruction AllStars, would practically have to plagiarize every ounce of controls to create a competitor in the genre, so jumping in as a fan of its spiritual predecessor is immediately disorienting. Trucks and vans feel heavy and forceful, the emergency brake causes neck-breaking turns, and the addition of directional pushes takes some dedicated practice. Nevertheless, after a few hours of gameplay, the cars start to feel more familiar and comfortable, and the ultimate goal of bending fenders with your opponents becomes simpler and less aggravating.
Obstacles around the map (another hindrance Rocket League veterans are largely unfamiliar with besides special game modes) are less foreign as you learn the lay of the land, and eventually, you’ll find your average wreckage points begin to climb. And yet, for a game with sixteen players in any given lobby, you may still find yourself with periods in your timed matches where you’re crashing into nobody at all. Ultimately, most of the maps and modes feel too wide and vast with too little ability to destroy your opponents in between, and you’ll even accelerate a few laps before finding a suitable target. Some matches had me dealing more damage to myself from obstacles, walls, corners, and jumps than I did to other players. Surely skill and practice are of paramount importance to the success of any competitive online game, but frustration from self-sabotage was a frequent barrier to my enjoyment.
If I wasn’t able to deal vehicular damage, then at least my power-upped super abilities could close the gap a little. This is where Destruction AllStars begins to feel most like Twisted Metal – sixteen different drivers are available to choose from, each with unique aesthetics, driver abilities, and car “breaker” abilities, or the game’s equivalent of ultimates. Powered up gradually over the course of the match, you’ll only be able to make use of your ultimate once or twice before the bell rings, but they can provide significant advantages. Though not perfectly balanced, they are almost universally fun to use, be they a shredder on the front of your car, a strip of flame down the center of the arena, or land mines that explode on unwitting victims.
In fact, characterization is where this game actually succeeds over the likes of Rocket League, a largely impersonal affair with only car cosmetics to flair up your ride. Each of the characters in Destruction AllStars changes the look of the automobile as soon as you enter it, so the keen eye will identify which foe you ram into. Most cosmetics are unlockable through a currency achieved by playing matches and leveling up and provide small shifts in colors to your outfits and automobiles. Voice lines provide sly introductions to the character’s personality, and I can’t help but compare the fun cast to something like Overwatch, where much of the game’s fandom thrives on the deep lore of its participants. I would also be remiss if I failed to mention the inclusionary aspects of this company that doesn’t play to stereotypes. A Nigerian action star, a motocross champ from New Zealand, a Somalian mechanic, a Russian influencer, and an Indonesian martial artist all work together to create a well-rounded and respectful cast.
Unfortunately, without further development of backstory and personality, this cast will only carry this game so far. Some of the game modes are very fun – variations like “Carnado”, where you build up points and bank them for your team by sacrificing your car to a tornado, or “Gridfall”, the effective equivalence of a battle royale as pieces of the ground gradually disappear beneath you – but only offer so much variation to a game that otherwise feels lacking in action and satisfaction (a grievous error for a game with such a powerful concept as destruction derby). It should be noted that team games are only 8v8, and there’s no easy way to party with friends to create fun cooperative play. Strangely missing from the game lineup is a classic destruction derby – no falling off of maps, no high point scores, just crashing into other cars in a small, dirt-filled pen until one remains. How this omission made it by the developers is enough to boggle one’s mind.
The team at Lucid Games has thankfully been very responsive to players and fans, including implementing quick updates to disable always-on voice chat and improve queue times, but that doesn’t fix the core problems with the gameplay, nor does it make the game any closer to the kings of the industry. There is a solid foundation of a game in Destruction AllStars, and there’s a lot of fun to be had if you’re playing with friends, but the inability to create any truly meaningful team play, or any truly competitive scenario with so many players on the map, makes it difficult to imagine this game as anything more than a passing fad. Still, as a free PS+ game, owners of the PS5 should at least give the game a few rounds to decide if this is a game worthy of taking up that precious solid-state space.