I have loved my time with Destruction AllStars so far. There is a simplicity in its gleefully bombastic and accessible premise that sunk its claws into me the moment I started playing the game. It’s kept me coming back for several hours of gameplay, and is likely to keep me coming back for several more. But putting my appreciation for the core mechanics and premise aside, it’s undeniable that there are some serious issues here that cannot be ignored. A big part of me simply loves Destruction AllStars for what it is and what it lets me do. But another part of me is disappointed with all the caveats that go hand-in-hand with the game’s biggest strengths.
Appropriately enough for a game that is all about driving fast and crashing into other vehicles, driving in Destruction AllStars is fantastic. There is an undeniable sense of speed and momentum here that is crucial in a game like this. The controls are tight and responsive, and your inputs on the controller are always met with great audio-visual feedback, including flashy graphical flourishes and loud noises of crashes and revving cars. Pulling the handbrake to turn around corners feels fantastic, and boosting your vehicle with a simple flick of the right stick to crash through an opponent at breakneck speed feels even better.
Destruction AllStars also makes excellent use the PS5’s hardware to ensure that its frenetic action feels even smoother and more impactful. The game sports sharp and vibrant visuals, and runs at 60 frames-per-second, with hardly any frame rate drops to speak of. Meanwhile, the DualSense’s adaptive triggers and haptic feedback are also leveraged excellently, from rickety vibrations when your car is seconds away from exploding in a glorious blaze to the resistance you feel in the trigger as you try and accelerate right after coming out of a drift.
"A big part of me simply loves Destruction AllStars for what it is and what it lets me do. But another part of me is disappointed with all the caveats that go hand-in-hand with the game’s biggest strengths."
But unlike most other car combat games, Destruction AllStars is about more than just driving. You also spend a fair amount of time outside of your vehicles, on-foot. Vehicles here are disposable, and their health bars deplete pretty quickly, which means you’re regularly jumping out of old cars and hopping into new ones. On one hand, this means matches remain fast-moving and exciting at all times, and things never get stale. On the other hand, the downtime when you’re between vehicles is a drag.
Appropriately enough, any time you’re on-foot, you’re extremely vulnerable, but having to frantically run around and look for a new vehicle while cars explode around you is no fun. All characters have their own unique abilities called Breakers even when they’re outside of their vehicles, but they hardly ever come in handy. Frankly, in all the time that I’ve spent playing the game so far, I’ve only found activating Breakers useful because they let me double jump and move faster, allowing me to get to a new vehicle more quickly.
It doesn’t help that on-foot movement and platforming in general feel a little wonky, with jumping in particular being floaty and inaccurate a lot of the times. Weird hit detection when you’re on-foot also means that the game will often register hits on you even when there were no enemy cars around. Once you’re back behind a wheel though, Destruction AllStars flourishes, so it’s a good thing that the vast majority of the core loop is focused on vehicular action.
"Appropriately enough for a game that is all about driving fast and crashing into other vehicles, driving in Destruction AllStars is fantastic."
Though vehicles are disposable and easily found scattered about the arenas, each character in Destruction AllStars also has their own signature Hero Vehicle, which can be summoned every once in a while once your hero meter fills up. Hero Vehicles are incredible, and getting your hands on one is pretty much a guarantee of a wonderfully chaotic couple of minutes. Not only do these vehicles feel even better to drive than ordinary cars and sport excellent visual designs, each of them also has their own Breaker.
These Breakers recharge on cooldowns, and boast excellent variety across the roster of characters, from massive sawblades attached to the front of Blue Fang’s “Shredder”, to plumes of fire bursting out of Fuego’s “Cerberus”, to blasting supersonic damage-dealing waves of sound from large speakers on top of Harmony’s “CRASHendo.” When used at the right time, these Breakers can provide cathartic releases of maximum carnage, injecting healthy doses of chaos in an already chaotic game. Variety, sense of personality, and strong aesthetics are things that Destruction AllStars exhibits in everything from its characters to its vehicles to the arenas you drive in, and that stands true for Hero Vehicles and their Breakers as well.
Most of the fun I’ve had with the game, however, has come from a single mode, which is Mayhem, the free-for-all mode that gives you points for damaging and wrecking enemies, with the player with the highest tally of points at the end of the match being crowned the winner. Unfortunately, on the whole, Destruction AllStars doesn’t have a lot of well-designed modes.
"Variety, sense of personality, and strong aesthetics are things that Destruction AllStars exhibits in everything from its characters to its vehicles to the arenas you drive in."
Out of the four modes available at launch, only Mayhem is great- though Carnado is decent enough as well. It’s an 8v8 affair in which you get gears for damaging opponents, and have to bank those gears into a massive tornado in the middle of the arena before your vehicle gets destroyed and you lose all of your gears. The team that has banked more gears at the end of the match wins. Carnado has a solid grasp on the destruction-focused nature of Destruction AllStars, and makes great use of the whole “disposable cars” schtick, and it’s certainly the better of the two team-based modes. It wastes some of its potential in how teamwork hardly ever feels like a necessity, but at least it’s still fun.
The other team-based mode is Stockpile, another 8v8 affair in which you grab gears off of wrecked vehicles, and then store them in one of three banks in the arena, with banks being under the ownership of whichever team currently has more gears in them, and the team with more banks under its belt when the timer runs out winning the match. The problem with Stockpile is that it forces you outside of your vehicle all too frequently- you can only collect gears when you’re on-foot, and you can only bank them when you’re on-foot. On-foot gameplay in Destruction AllStars is not very good, as I’ve mentioned, which means Stockpile ends up being a bit of a chore.
Then there’s Gridfall, which is easily the worst mode of the bunch. Pieces of the arena slowly crumble away in this free-for-all battle royale-style mode, and players have to try and stay on solid ground, with the last car standing winning the game. Gridfall tries to incentivize destruction by letting you respawn more if you wreck more vehicles, but it instead becomes a ridiculous affair where almost everyone is simply driving around slowly and trying not to fall into the ever-growing chasms throughout the arena. Matches also end too quickly, which means you’re often waiting in lobbies for 2-3 minutes for a match that might not even last a minute. Gridfall is as uneventful as it is quick and boring.
"Challenge Series are fun, if not excellent, and are a decent aside to the multiplayer. Sadly, they’re also crippled by shockingly bad monetization decisions."
Though PvP is very much the meat and potatoes of this meal, Destruction AllStars has some single player content on offer as well. This comes in the form of Challenge Series, with each Series being dedicated to specific characters and their rivalries with others in the game’s cast, offering little bits of story and focusing on these heroes as personalities. Each Series has a number of challenges on offer, ranging from variations of the multiplayer modes to new (but rather generic) ideas of their own (such as time trials).
Challenge Series are fun, if not excellent, and are a decent aside to the multiplayer. Sadly, they’re also crippled by shockingly bad monetization decisions. While you get your first Challenge Series for free, every other Series has to be unlocked with Destruction Points, which is a paid currency. Locking actual gameplay content behind microtransactions is simply baffling to me. Destruction AllStars is currently available for free on PlayStation Plus, and will be at least until the end of March. But this is a game that you can buy right now, and, once it’s off PS Plus, future players will have to buy if they want to play it. Single player content being locked behind a paywall is bad enough in a free-to-play game, but in a full-priced premium game, it’s beyond ridiculous. It’s also worth mentioning that “full-price” here means $70 instead of the usual $60, thanks to Sony’s increased retail prices.
Progression in Destruction AllStars is problematic as well. You get AllStar Coins every time you level up, and though you level up at a pretty rapid pace, you don’t get nearly enough points to be able to keep buying things at regular intervals. Boring purchases like banners and avatars for your profile are cheap enough, but skins are exorbitantly priced, with the cheapest ones being around 8,000 coins apiece. And the worst part? None of the skins are very good. They’re all boring paint variations of the same design, and the few that are somewhat mildly interesting are – you guessed it – locked behind microtransactions.
"Boring purchases like banners and avatars for your profile are cheap enough, but skins are exorbitantly priced, with the cheapest ones being around 8,000 coins apiece. And the worst part? None of the skins are very good. They’re all boring paint variations of the same design, and the few that are somewhat mildly interesting are – you guessed it – locked behind microtransactions."
In light of all of this, thinking back to the beginning of this review – where I said I’ve loved my time with Destruction AllStars – might seem strange. But here’s the thing- I really have. I realize that for many players, the boring cosmetics and unrewarding progression might mean that there isn’t enough incentive to keep playing, but in my experience so far, the core gameplay here is so ridiculously fun that. even in spite of the issues, I’ve been more than happy to keep coming back. I realize that the selection of modes isn’t the best, and locking single player content behind microtransactions is, simply put, deplorable, but I’ve been having bucketloads of fun in Mayhem, and occasionally Carnado.
Destruction AllStars has an excellent foundation in place- but Sony and Lucid Games need to ensure that they keep supporting it. The game has a solid skeleton, but right now, there’s a lot of flaky, smelly flesh on that skeleton. The developers need to add more (and better) modes, add more interesting cosmetics, fix the progression, and for the love of all that is good, rethink the monetization model. If they do all that, we’ll have a real gem on our hands. Right now, Destruction AllStars is not a gem. Right now, it’s a diamond in the rough.
This game was reviewed on the PlayStation 5.
Driving and the vehicular combat feel excellent; Tight and response controls; Hero Vehicles are a ton of fun to use; Strong aesthetics and sense of style; Mayhem is a fantastic multiplayer mode (and Carnado is decent as well); Looks sharp; Solid performance; Excellent implementation of the DualSense's haptics and adaptive triggers.
Stockpile and Gridfall are poorly designed modes; On-foot gameplay is a drag; Unrewarding progression; Boring cosmetics; Single player content is locked behind microtransactions.