So I was one of the people actually really excited and hyped for this title, it did indeed seem too steep for £70 so I can fully understand the delay and swap to PS Plus, and let me be clear, that was a fantastic move by Sony, however it feels like it should have been a PS Plus game in the first place. The production values are definitely up there with a £70 title, the content however is not.
The gameplay in Destruction All Stars is very simple, and while this isn’t a bad thing, as there is definitely tactics and some depth. However neither the cars nor on foot feels very fun, it certainly isn’t boring ands is serviceable, but it feels like both are missing something.
You don’t really do much on foot, bar raising obstacles and avoiding cars, plus jumping onto platforms and wall running to pick up some gems (which fill your special gauge) and getting in vehicles, the problem for me stems from how big the arenas are in this mode and how long you are simply spending just to get to a car. The car combat itself is fine but all you do is crash into people, there’s no weapons or anything else and the camera doesn’t really let you see what is going on. Making the experience suboptimal.
This means that you can never really be consistent in matches, sometimes I come 12th sometimes I’m first by a lot. When you fill up your bar from gems and attacking enemies you can spawn your hero car which has it’s own special ability, and that is the only time your car actually feels genuinely fun. You finally have something more to do then just trying to crash into people. I personally love Ratu who’s hero car has it’s own special gauge, unlike a lot of other heroes, once full she has a 5 second countdown to a big explosion when activated, AND IT DESTROYS. Characters feel good if not a bit floaty on the jumps, the cards however do feel really good, and I love how they feel. An actual MK style mode could work really well I think.
The main changes to how a match plays out comes down to its modes. There are single player and arcade modes (offline mode) in DAS, which consist of challenges and vs bots. They are not really fun or entertaining, but they do have their own cutscenes based on the char you are playing and adds backstory to them, which is indeed a nice touch. The main hour put into the game however comes from the MP modes.
Mayhem is a classic deathmatch mode, where the arenas feel too big, quite often I find everyone is in one tiny spot of the map and the rest is just inactive unused space. Gridfall is a mode where you only have one life but have some respawns available to you, the arena is made of tiles which start to fall away, the idea is to be the last person standing. The most fun modes come from the team-based modes in the form of Carnado and Stockpile. Carnado is a mode where there is a giant tornado in the middle of the arena.
You can hold a maximum amount of gears which you get from damaging opponents, the catch is your car holds all the points, to cash those points you have to drive into the carnado to destroy it and bank the gears. Carnado actually feels very engaging due to the constant tug of war and is miles above mayhem and gridfall in my opinion. Stockpile is another fun mode which is effectively capture and control, go on foot to collect the Gears and run through a gauntlet of vehicles to one of the three banks around the map. Stand on a bank to deposit Gears and claim it for your team.
The team with the most banked at the end wins. Again, this is the most fun due to the same reasons as carnado. Constant tug of war. Meanwhile the other modes just feel like you either do the wrecking or constantly get wrecked the entire match.
This is one area where the game shines, the art style is solid, it looks very crisp on my 24 inch 4k monitor, the graphics are very solid, although you do get frame drops when things get crazy, i’d guess as low as 50 maybe 48 (I don’t have a tool for console FPS monitoring). The menus are stylish and snappy, the character selection screen is great, the character models are great.
The animation work is very solid, the commentators are solid, every inch of the presentation feels well thought out and had genuine passion put into it. DAS knows what it wants to be and runs with it fantastically. The thing that really lacks however, is the skins, there are not many skins, however they all pretty much suck and are just lame.
The overall sound quality is great and of high quality, cars sound great the voice actors are rather good and the commentators as mentioned already are solid. There are however some minor details I really admire, in the character select screen certain elements of the BGM changes depending on who you choose, every character dynamically changes the background theme, blue fang for example adds a metal twang to the BGM with its distorted guitar, others add an oriental layer etc.
It’s a very subtle and minor detail but it’s one of the things that makes DAS shine. The music is solid and thos esubtle touches really add to it, combined with solid ingame sounds this is a great pakcage on the audio front.
The game does not do much on this front but what it does it does very well, the L1 trigger aka the brake feel very resistant, and the acceleration rigger does nothing until your car is damaged and then there starts being a rumble that conveys the poor damage state of the car, as it shakes about on the screen you feel that in your hands. I did hope the accelerate trigger would have different states for different acceleration levels, but what is here is solid.
Destruction All Stars has a very solid foundation, it knows what it wants to be and every aspect of it feels very confident and well done because of it, however the gameplay while well done for what is there feels lacking and the reason for the level grind is also lacking. For a game that was going to be £70 I would expect more meat on its bones. The content to unlock is minimalistic and not really fitting for an MP game that’s sold at a one-off price or as a F2P title, they are also very poor on top of being of being small in quantity.
The gameplay as mentioned before just lacks something, it feels like all the parts to make something special are almost there, the game is definitely fun, and I will boot it up every now and then after this initial launch. It does however need more added to the foot and car combat, whether that is map size tweaks and gauge building tweaks to up the chaos or some fundamental additions to the gameplay such as weapons for the cars and/or on foot.
There needs to be more. There is definitely some huge potential there with the wide array of characters and incredibly solid presentation and strong enough foundation in it’s gameplay, and with a years worth of content planned at a minimum it could certainly turn into a Killer App for PS5 and something truly special.
As it stands however, it is worth your time for now, but it does not feel like it has any legs. It’s a title any PS5 owner should play and may well get some good mileage out of, but it’s long term appeal is effectively dead on arrival in it’s current state.
Lucid games have shown they are very talented and competent, but are still growing, I can feel there passion and I LOVE IT, how they add to the game in this first years’ worth of content however will shape whether the game has legs and likely where their future as a dev is. If they manage to pull this year off with DAS, they could see theirselves being given much bigger opportunities with Sony. They certainly have the talent for it.