Destruction AllStars was revealed as one of the PS5-exclusive launch highlights before being pushed back to February 2021 to release free via PlayStation Plus. This move was for the best, because I cannot see how it would have been successful at the $70 premium it was planned for. That’s not to say that Destruction AllStars is a bad game at all. In fact, what’s there is a blast, with over-the-top style and exceptional production values. It just lacks a sense of depth beyond the surface multiplayer experience, which can wear out its welcome more quickly than anticipated.
What happens when you take the visual flair of Rocket League, turn it into a destruction derby, and then add a dash of Twisted Metal mixed with Overwatch for the character roster? Destruction AllStars is a visual treat, with a dynamic and diverse roster full of fascinating and interesting characters that each ooze their own unique style. On the character selection screens, the menu music even slightly changes to match the background and culture for each of the 16 different characters. Characters have distinct personalities that are showcased in the menus, match intros and endings, and even in the way they move about the arena while outside of their vehicles.
Gameplay is fairly simple to learn, with small changes per game mode, depending on what you are playing. Driving feels crisp and responsive, a good trait for a game centered on getting behind the wheel. Lucid Games did a great job making everything feel easy to do. While you may have a bunch of near-misses when trying to ram other cars, that’s just down to your own bad driving. The overall controls and gameplay are very simple to learn and execute.
Game modes range from pure free-for-all carnage to team-based objective modes. While you want to be in a car most of the time, there are certain advantages to being on foot too, and Lucid managed to make the flow feel incredible, leaping from vehicle to running and back into a vehicle again. I hope to see additional modes in the future that really play up the “on-foot” side of the game a lot more too.
Choosing a character isn’t just cosmetic. Each character comes with their own unique Breaker for on-foot traversal and Hero Vehicle with its own special ability. Charging these abilities up via gameplay and collecting shards while on-foot allows you to turn the tide of any match with a variety of both offensive and defensive specials, depending on which character you pick. But you’ll have to learn to identify and watch out for your opponent’s breakers, which can also shift the direction and catch you off guard if you aren’t careful. In the ensuing chaos, it’s all too easy to get obliterated thanks to a few players’ special abilities.
For a game centered on vehicle destruction (I mean, come on, the word is right there in the title), Lucid went all out with not only the destruction visuals, but the vehicles physics that change as a result. Get a front tire blown out and you’ll leave behind a trail of sparks from your rims while your car pulls in that direction. Hoods, trunks, and bumpers bounce as you lose health. Wreckage and pieces of vehicles scatter across the levels. Fortunately the balance of physics changes never get overly frustrating. It’s possible to maintain control of a smoking wreck on its last legs, but you’ll definitely be aware that another hit will send you scrambling for a new ride.
Destruction AllStars various arenas have different layouts, each being located in a different city, but aesthetically tend to look and feel the same overall. The visuals seen outside of the arenas change depending on where you are—London gracing the background of one, while las Vegas shines in another—but the arenas themselves don’t incorporate obvious elements of the cities they are set in and the neon pastiche all begins to blend together rather quickly.
Destruction AllStars Review – Wears Out its Welcome
After a few hours running through all of the modes with various characters, I started to feel like I’d seen everything Destruction AllStars had to offer. It’s fun ramming cars into other cars, watching pieces and parts go careening off around the arena. I love watching the characters all take running leaps off the starting platform as they scramble for a vehicle. And its presentation as a spectator sport adds another layer of excitement to the twisted steel and metal carnage. You’ll get criticized by a caster for a soft hit, or reminded that you have a Breaker ability ready to go through unique audio. Everything is designed to ramp up the excitement while playing.
There are single-player Challenge Series, which act as kind of mini-campaigns for individual characters, however these are locked behind both time gates and paywalls in a bid to push players to keep it installed and come back every couple of weeks. I can’t be sure if the heavy-handed free-to-play-like mechanics were always intended to be there—even before the shift to PS Plus—but they feel odd in a game that was once supposed to retail at $70 (and will, once the PlayStation Plus free period ends in two months on April 6th). The implementation of the Challenge Series feels heavily inspired by mobile games and further highlights the lack of depth, requiring people to both wait and pay up in order to play these events.
The first Challenge Series—Ultimo against his rival, Jian—is free to give players a taste of what they offer. Unique single-player events challenge players to win and achieve various other goals to earn stars and unique cosmetics and rewards only available in these event series. Players can currently purchase the second one, starring Lupita, for 200 Destruction Points, the game’s premium currency. Lucid Games has said that players will eventually be able to earn Destruction Points via in-game challenges, but currently, you’ll have to pay up. The third one won’t be available for another two weeks, and it will cost 400 DP. Others will be added at later dates.
Ultimately, Destruction AllStars feels like playing in a shallow pool. I wade in, the water looks and feels great, and I want to jump into a deep end that isn’t there. At least not yet. Perhaps that depth will be unveiled over time with additional content updates throughout the year, but for right now, much of Destruction AllStars just feels too “samey” to drive me to continue to play. When paired with excessively long matchmaking/loading times, and occasional network errors that entirely dropped me from matchmaking, I just wasn’t interested in waiting around for a long time to continue splashing around in the shallow end.
Destruction AllStars is loaded with style, flair, and a great core concept, but what you see is what you get. While that’s not a bad thing at all, there are very few surprises and no sense of depth lurking beneath the surface. I want more to do. I want more to chase. I want more reasons to want to jump into another match than just leveling up to earn coins for character color swaps. As a PlayStation Plus free game, there’s a lot of potential, hopefully something that Lucid Games can expand upon before asking people to pay a premium up front. In a sea of multiplayer games begging for people’s attention, Destruction AllStars has a bit more work to do to earn it.
Destruction AllStars review copy played free via PlayStation plus subscription. Reviewed on PS5. For more information on scoring, please read our Review Policy.