When it released last year, Destruction AllStars ultimately disappointed. Lucid Games’ chaotic crash-‘em-up was not a dud – in fact, between its diverse cast of well-animated characters and compelling use of the DualSense controller, there was much to like – but it just didn’t feel quite right. It was hard to put into words, but for a game about smashing up cars it felt distinctly unsatisfying.
Someone, somewhere at Sony must seriously believe in this project, though, because the Liverpool-based developer has dropped a massive update this week which, frankly, makes the game good. While it’s not without its faults – ground-based combat still doesn’t seem particularly useful to us – the woolly, wishy-washy skirmishes of the launch version have been replaced and refined.
Colliding cars now feels like it matters. This is due to a number of subtle – but crucial – under-the-hood improvements. At a surface level, the developer’s cranked up the “game juice” to a ridiculous degree; you’d always get screen-shake and crunching sound effects, but now coloured gems fly off your opponents correlating with the intensity of the crash and there are damage numbers, similar to what you’d expect to see in an RPG.
This is important because previously the game gave you very little feedback about what you were actually doing, and it felt quite flat as a result. You’ll now get awards every time you complete a scoring action, and a Wreckognition meter will build on the screen if you can combo these manoeuvres, ultimately awarding you more XP at the end of the match.
But this also all feeds into the way Hero vehicles work. Previously these were unlocked passively throughout the course of a match, but now the developer’s added a skill gap by forcing you to unlock them. This means there’s now a purpose to performing parkour as collecting gems will help you to get to your Hero vehicle quicker, but also you need to keep chaining actions and generally playing well.
Clearly this game is never going to be an e-sport, but the greater degree of on-screen feedback helps you to understand what you’re working towards and why, which makes matches so much more rewarding. It’s still chaotic and somewhat luck-based, of course, but everything’s so much more transparent now, which helps to make the action feel more gratifying overall.
The pace of the game is also a lot quicker, owing to (we assume) some smart alterations to the size of arenas – there’s still room to escape and manoeuvre, but cars are bundled much closer together – and a reduction in match lengths. The shorter rounds are smart because, as mentioned, you’re always working towards your Hero vehicle, and you can mount comebacks if you unlock it with seconds left on the clock.
There are a raft of other smart changes, too, like the fact that you don’t need your Breaker active to double-jump when on foot, which makes traversing between vehicles and picking up any gems in the process so much less restrictive. There’s still no music during matches – well, not until the closing moments anyway – which does feel like a mistake, but the 3D audio is good.
Elsewhere, the user interface has been overhauled to more closely mimic the likes of Fortnite and Apex Legends, which makes sense. Some changes to the menu music haven’t been well-received – one of the best features of the game was how its soundtrack would adapt as you toggled between different characters – but this can easily be rectified. The flow of matches has also been enhanced, although we still wish there was even less of a delay between rounds. The likes of Rocket League are the gold standard at this.
We suppose the biggest issue with this title is its lack of content at the end of the day. While it has a Fortnite-esque item store, the cosmetics available are, frankly, crap and there’s no real incentive to buy any of them. There are new starter challenges which do earn you some of the in-game currency now, which is nice if you want to play some of the story content for free – but yeah, that aspect isn’t great.
Ultimately, it may come down to whether Sony feels generous enough to continue to invest in this project. Feeding service games requires rigorous and continuous updates, and is really hard to do. You need a constant supply of skins, cosmetics, seasons, modes, and so on. It’s, of course, a chicken/egg scenario, because you need engaged players to make all of that worthwhile.
The upshot is that Destruction AllStars is good now. Crashing cars, wrecking opponents, and earning your pimped out Hero ride all has purpose, and the shorter matches will leave you longing for more – not wishing the clock would countdown quicker. This is a good rescue attempt on a title that always had potential – now, can it establish itself as a popular, viable PS5 multiplayer title?
Will you be giving Destruction AllStars a second chance? Have you tried out the new update and what are your thoughts on the improvements? Cut through the comments section like Hana in her Hero vehicle below.