Destruction AllStars is quite a frustrating game. Not really because of anything the game does wrong, but because it clearly holds a lot of potential. As an idea, it sounds great: a destruction derby style title that keeps you in the action with on-foot gameplay when you’re between vehicles. In practice, while it does succeed in some ways, it misses the mark in others. What we end up with is a car combat game that feels confident but underwhelms in areas it should shine.
A major issue it faces right now is a poor first impression. When you get behind the wheel for your first match of Mayhem — the game’s core mode that rewards points for dishing out damage — it can all feel very aimless, confusing, and somehow rather tame. Although your objectives are fairly straightforward, there’s a method to the game’s madness that you need to wrap your head around, lest you be bottom of the leaderboards forever. This initial learning curve may well put off a lot of players, but it’d be a mistake to write the whole thing off so quickly.
Cars are very disposable here, and what sets this apart is the ability to hop out and run around the arena on foot. This sounds like a dumb idea, but each of the characters are capable of dealing with incoming traffic. Ditching your busted up ride for a fresh one is part of staying alive, and means you’re constantly on the move. It’s a clever way to keep players engaged, and allows all the characters to be shown off in and out of a car.
The roster of characters wouldn’t look out of place in a hero shooter like Overwatch. The lineup is nicely diverse, and all their unique abilities add some neat wrinkles to keep things interesting. They all have special Breaker powers when on-foot and behind the wheel of their Hero vehicles, and your choice of character will make a difference, depending on which mode you’re playing. The roster is well designed, and while not all their abilities are equally useful (and some are definitely overpowered), there are some really neat ideas in the mix.
In terms of presentation, Destruction AllStars looks fantastic. It has a very clean style running through the menus and even in the arena. Despite the over-the-top particle effects, image quality is slick, and it all runs at a smooth frame rate. It’s actually on the audio side of things that it starts to falter. The music in menus is decent, but in the thick of the action, there’re no tunes to lift the atmosphere. With no music during a match, they can feel a little soulless. Commentary lines begin to repeat quickly, and the crowds cheering don’t really fill the space. That being said, sound effects of cars slamming into each other are great, especially when paired with excellent DualSense haptic feedback.
The feeling of emptiness in the soundscape is exacerbated when a match lulls in the middle. We’re not sure if arenas are too large, but fairly often, we were left looking around for opponents. There’s a minimap that shows everyone’s location, but you rarely get a chance to look at it properly. For some reason, matches can feel surprisingly empty, with all players bunching up, inexplicably always at the point furthest from you.
On foot, the game has similar pacing problems. Whether by choice or not, popping out of a car can leave you kind of stranded. There are usually several cars available to choose from, but they might be quite far away, meaning a slow jog to find a ride.
Fortunately, most of the game’s modes are a good time. The aforementioned Mayhem is a chaotic free-for-all, but the other three have clearer objectives. Gridfall limits respawns and has pieces of the arena floor slowly fall away, and the winner is the last remaining player. It feels a bit at odds with the gameplay, but does force you to play more carefully, which is interesting. Then there are team-based modes Carnado and Stockpile, revolving around gathering Gears to boost your team’s score. Both of these are great fun, and bring some order to the madness.
Single player is pretty basic. There are practice modes against bots, an Arcade where you can test yourself against three difficulties of AI, and the Challenge Series. This is where it attempts to inject the teensiest bit of story, but there’s little to get excited about. These events contain unique modes like a checkpoint race around an arena, for instance, but none of them are particularly good, and any narrative stuff doesn’t really amount to anything. Worst of all is that, aside from the first of the Challenge Series, each of them costs Destruction Points, a premium currency you can only get through microtransactions. It should be pointed out that you will be able to earn Destruction Points eventually, but as of right now, you have to pay to see the majority of the Challenge Series, which is poor form.
The trouble we have is that, when the gameplay is flowing well, there’s the kernel of a great game here. At its best, Destruction AllStars can be a fast, slick multiplayer experience, delivering fun, adrenaline-fuelled action. We’re certain it’ll only get better over time, too, with at least a year’s worth of updates planned. The trouble is, right now, it doesn’t hit those highs enough.
Destruction AllStars can be a brilliantly frantic multiplayer game, with fun characters and cars, great DualSense feedback, and entertaining modes. However, it can ring a little hollow at times when the action dips. Lacklustre customisation options and mictrotransaction-locked content doesn’t help matters, but when everything is playing out smoothly, this is more than capable of giving you a good time. Currently free to PS Plus members, it’s well worth taking for a spin.