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Opinion > Video Games
World

Destruction AllStars review: Smashing with little substance

Destruction AllStars mixes car crash mayhem with a vibrant aesthetic to compelling effect, although there’s little under the hood to keep player’s coming back.
Vehicle-based destruction is a game-type distinctly tied to the 90s, when Destruction Derby, Twisted Metal and Vigilante 8 were lucrative franchises for the original PlayStation. The Burnout series somewhat took the reins with its sparkling takedowns and popular Crash modes, but there’s been little to shout about since when it comes to bashing cars and watching the slow-motion sparks fly.

Destruction AllStars then, is a welcome and refreshing prospect in 2021. Originally scheduled as a PS5 launch title, the game has found a far more suitable release as a freebie for PS Plus subscribers (at least until 5th April), hoping to emulate the player base push which catapulted Rocket League and Fall Guys to zeitgeist success.

While Destruction AllStars doesn’t feel distinct enough to hit that popularity, the core gameplay is a blast. Playing as one of 16 characters, all with unique abilities and hero vehicles, you’re thrown into a combat arena to rack up points by smashing into opponents. The action switches between on-foot and in-car controls, with the best players wrecking opponents until your own car’s health falls low, at which point you can eject yourself and run about the field freely, collecting shards to attain power-ups while finding another car atop platforms to get back into the mayhem.

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Destruction AllStars thrives when you nail the transitions between car combat (Picture: Sony)

Once you’ve wrapped your head around the mechanics, the transitions between car destruction and ejecting yourself into a new opportunity is where Destruction AllStars shines. While being on-foot sounds significantly less fun than shunting enemies behind the wheel, it’s only marginally so thanks to the flexibility on offer. There's wall-running, timed power-ups which enable faster movement and double jumps, along with the ability to take over enemy cars by jumping onto the hood and completing a button-prompt mini-game. The latter is difficult to pull off, especially in online matches where latency becomes an issue, but hopefully developer Lucid Games can iron this out in planned future updates.

The heroes too possess far more personality than their Fortnite-like designs would suggest. While they’re not quite Overwatch standard, they possess enough distinctive traits to keep them memorable - mostly through their hero vehicles which each have specific power-ups. These range from shooting fires from wheels, covering your vehicle in spikes, or my personal favourite Hana, who has a samurai blade to split opponents in two.

There’s plenty to like about Destruction AllStars, especially when the car combat captures the same satisfying weight of Burnout’s destruction. The main problem at launch however, is how bare bones the package is. There’s four modes available at the outset divided between solo and 8v8 team games. Mayhem is the standard essence of Destruction AllStars, where players rack up points by causing as much damage as possible. Gridfall elevates the tension by only giving you one life (although you can earn respawns through damage points) with a small, degrading space to drive around, with the last person standing declared the winner.

These solo modes are the standouts of the package. The team games in Carnado and Stockpile, where it’s about banking damage points in hotspots around the map, face the fundamental issue of reducing the amount of chaos and carnage around you. When half the players are on your side, the bigger challenge becomes finding an opponent you should be smashing into, stripping out fun from chaining slams together and interrupting the manic gameplay flow found in solo matches.

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Destruction AllStars nails the weighty car combat (Picture: Sony) 

Outside of online multiplayer, there’s little to dive into as well. Bizarrely there’s no split-screen multiplayer, even in offline matches, which largely makes Arcade a redundant second Practice mode. The Challenge Series is the closest you’ll find to a dedicated single-player experience, which fleshes out the characters with cut-scenes and specific missions. While the first set is free, others are locked behind Destruction Points which, currently, can only be attained via micro transactions.

While this is easier to stomach as a PS Plus freebie, it still feels cheap to lock single-player content behind a paywall when there’s so little available - especially when Destruction AllStars looks to carry the £69.99 price tag when it comes off PS Plus. If this game in its current state released at that price as was originally intended in November, Destruction All Stars would rightly be hounded into the ground. 

 

Verdict

The future of Destruction All Stars hinges on how Lucid Games will support the title in the coming months. The core gameplay is fluid, frantic and fun which may be enough to keep players coming back, but minimal variety and a disappointing lack of decent modes stops this from leaving the lasting impact it should. 

7/10

Destruction AllStars is available exclusively on PlayStation 5 for PS Plus subscribers until 5th April.