Destruction AllStars Review: Destructive and explosive fun that’s nearly thwarted by its thin content
Played On: PS5 (Original)
With there being so few vehicular combat games anymore since Twisted Metal has gone silent, there was something oddly refreshing and hopeful about Lucid Games’ Destruction AllStars – especially with it coming to February’s PlayStation Plus lineup.
The game was originally meant to debut within the PlayStation 5’s launch lineup at a $70 retail price, but eventually was slated to come to PlayStation Plus instead which was great since it can be a big boost for smaller games. Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout certainly got a big following from being available on PlayStation Plus so there’s no reason that the same couldn’t be said for Destruction AllStars. The first trailer that dropped during PS5 reveal livestream looked very promising for a chaotic, energized, and destructive good time and with the team behind it having some experience in creating titles for the Need for Speed and Wipeout series, there were plenty of reasons for it be a success.
When it comes to the overall concept and the driving mechanics, there’s a lot to like about Destruction AllStars. The game has players enter a “global sports entertainment event where stars & cars collide.” They can take control of sixteen AllStar drivers and their unique vehicles to smash, crash, and destroy their way to first place in four central game modes. Mobility is easily your greatest asset in Destruction AllStars as the game offers great movement for players to take advantage of both in and out of their vehicles. Behind the wheel, the driving mechanics are pretty standard, but amplified with the Dualsense’s haptic feedback triggers to create a more immersive driving experience. The drifting is perfectly tight and there’s this perfect sense of adrenaline and excitement as you barrel towards an unsuspecting car to do some high-speed damage. It’s made even better with the game’s slam mechanic that players can use deal some extra damage and possibly even wreck their opponent’s vehicle for good.
Things are even crazier on-foot as players can hop out of their vehicles at any time during the match to explore the arena or do some other game-changing actions. While exploring the arena, players can search for bigger, better, and undamaged vehicles and take the fight to other players by using a barge attack on other on-foot players or hop onto rival vehicles to try and take them over. Along the way, players can traverse the arena through wall-running and climbing up ledges in search of special power-ups and items called shards that help players power up their AllStar’s unique abilities.
The AllStars easily give the game its own feel as each AllStar not only comes with their own personality and style, but their own special abilities called Breakers. When activated, Breakers give AllStars an ability that either enhances their currents skills or allows them to create chaos for their opponents. All Stars like Harmony and Hana have their barge attacks enhanced when their breaker is active while other characters like Xander and Lupita will leave a trail of hazards behind them as they sprint across the arena. Across all the characters, players will notice that they also move faster and that they can double when their breaker is active. Breakers definitely help keep players alive when out of their vehicles and can have a good effect on opponents, but it’s generally not enough. It’s great that you’re not totally helpless when you’re running around for another vehicle, but the breakers really only help you get to the next car.
Each AllStar has another trick up their sleeve in the form of a unique vehicle. Upon filling up a meter, separate from the Breaker meter, by performing actions and collecting shards, players can summon a unique vehicle to the arena that comes with a special attachment or ability of its own. It’s worth noting that this vehicle is immune from other players taking it over, which is a good thing considering that players would likely bombard those using Blue Fang or Ultimo’s vehicle because they are far and away over-powered. The other AllStar vehicles don’t even compare to the damage and protection these two offer. Blue Fang’s Shredder vehicle has a saw blade that decimates the competition in one hit when activated and Ultimo’s Undisputed vehicle brings down a shield that’s impossible to get through. Haro’s Sabre vehicle has a similar power to Blue Fang’s where she can cut nearby cars in two, but it’s not nearly as effective because the timing has to be perfect. Every time the game would show who the winner was after an online match, it would always be Blue Fang or Ultimo and it speaks to the much-needed balancing. Look, being able to go invisible in Shyft’s Cypher vehicle and create a smoky haze with Sgt. Rescue’s Smoke Commander vehicle is cool and all, but when every mode is basically about doing as much damage as possible, most of special vehicles just don’t cut it.
What makes this imbalance even more frustrating is that there’s no real way to get better or fully hone your skills because how of random things are. You can certainly get better at handling vehicles and better your attack timing, but with things being so chaotic and unpredictable there’s no real sense of improving or getting better from your last match. It also doesn’t help that there’re too many characters in this to get a real feel for them or their abilities. It’s nice to have a good-sized roster, especially one as diverse looking as this, but it’s a little overwhelming to try them all and with there still being some balancing issues, most of them just come off incredibly inferior to others. It’s also disappointing that there’s no way to upgrade character abilities or vehicles since currency earned from matches only goes towards cosmetic changes.
Worst of all, Destruction AllStars is a game that lacks substance as it has very thin content that offers a repetitive gameplay experience that loses its freshness fast. There’s a great deal of delight to be had in smashing cars and watching them explode, but when that’s all you ever do, it gets old fast. Even though modes like Carnado, a team mode where players earn gears by smashing and bank them in a spiraling tornado in the middle of the arena, try to keep the experience fresh, they aren’t different enough from game’s signature free for all mode Mayhem to stand out. Thus, it just feels like all the game modes just revolve around the same idea of smashing and things end up getting boring after a while. The game desperately needs some kind of party game mode, maybe having the Destruction AllStars formula mesh with another sport, to freshen things up.
They also need to rework their version of a story mode in their challenger series since it misses out on a lot of good potential by offering such little content. The challenger series mode offers some nice cutscenes that flesh out the personalities and rivalries between these characters and some different experiences in playing this game but is poorly delivered. Each series, consisting of about seven events, looks like they’re coming out on a weekly basis. With the first series taking me about under an hour to beat, that’s a long time to wait for just a little bit of content. It’s also dumb that there’re only three characters of sixteen that look like they’re getting their own series. Sure, there’s a “coming soon” tab that says there’s more to come, but again, that’s a long time to wait for such little content.
Oddly enough, the best mode of Destruction AllStars is the multiplayer since it runs really well. There’s not a lot of lag, the servers seem strong and can handle all the destructive chaos that ensues, and it’s the perfect kind of fun that players can enjoy with their friends. It is a shame that the multiplayer is just those four standard game modes that can get repetitive (Mayhem, Gridfall, Carnado, and Stockpile), but it’s still creates a good time in a game that’s visually impressive. I haven’t really mentioned it yet, but Destruction AllStars is a really gorgeous looking game – maybe one of the best-looking games on the PS5 so far. The art style looks incredible, the character designs are unique and memorable, and the explosive destruction is quite a sight. Also, it’s worth mentioning that the multiplayer had an issue where it would automatically connect players in microphone chat leading to some foul/discriminatory language issues. However, that has since been fixed – thankfully.
With its minimal content, repetitiveness, and balancing issues, it’s easy to imagine the uproar players would’ve had with Destruction AllStars if it had launched as a $70 PS5 launch title like it was supposed to. However, as a free PlayStation Plus game players can get free for the next two months, it’s fun enough to overlook its flaws. Destruction AllStars is a unique entry in the vehicle combat subgenre that maybe can’t fully capitalize on all its ideas but manages to exude a vibrant energy powerful enough to make its destructive chaos and colorful cast of characters fun enough for an enjoyable ride.