You’ve played Destruction AllStars a thousand times. You’ve also never played something like Destruction AllStars. The new multiplayer derby battler from Lucid Games—out today exclusively for PlayStation 5—is both immediately familiar and refreshingly new. After taking it for a spin, my initial feelings for the game are all over the place.
Let’s start with the basics. Destruction AllStars is an arena-based multiplayer showdown in which you crash cars into other cars, kind of like Rocket League minus the soccer. There’s an added wrinkle in that you can hop out of your vehicle at any moment. In fact, you’ll spend much of each match running around on foot amid all these speeding, multi-ton death machines. Before each round you choose from a stable of characters, à la Overwatch or DOTA or Battleborn (RIP) or any other game of that nature. At the end of each match, win or lose, you earn experience points which go toward leveling up your overall Destruction profile, which in turn earns you in-game currency, which you can spend on new paint jobs, banners, and the like. (You can also buy some in-game currency with real money.)
Yes, Destruction AllStars trots along a well-trod road, but the moment-to-moment gameplay prevents it from feeling derivative. You start each match on foot. Cars spawn around the map, much like weapons would in a first-person shooter. The first three seconds, then, involve a mad dash to the first crop of vehicles. If you get one, sweet! If not, you can board any opponent’s car, sparking a brief mini-game that amounts to a competitive quick-time event. Win, and you get to decide whether to take the car for yourself or make it go kabloomers. Lose, and you’re tossed off. No matter what side you’re on, it’s always thrilling to know your fate will be decided in a matter of seconds.
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Running around on foot doesn’t feel like an afterthought. In fact, it feels terrific—certainly faster and looser than in most third-person games—and, bonus, even features some wall-running sections. Everyone loves a good wall-run, right? I’ll say this, though. When Destruction AllStars was first shown during a digital PlayStation event last summer, I expected the on-foot gameplay to be a bit more combat-focused. Instead, you’re limited more or less to running, jumping, and commandeering other vehicles, as detailed above. There’s a flying kick move, but it’s saddled with a three-second cooldown and is tough to connect. Characters have special abilities called “Breakers”—one, for instance, can leave a trail of fire in her wake, while another can see through walls—but they don’t shake up the core formula too much. Maybe Destruction’s on-foot moments will become more hectic once players get a collective, community-wide understanding of how these Breakers work. In the meantime, I wouldn’t have minded a punch or two.
There are four modes in Destruction AllStars. The first, Mayhem, is a standard, free-for-all deathmatch. Whoever scores the most points—mostly by crashing into other cars, but also by running over players not in a vehicle—wins. Another, Gridfall, is elimination-based: You die, you’re out. Oh, yeah, and the floor constantly gives way throughout the match. (Gridfall matches are a bit too short-lived for my tastes, though high-level players might get more out of it.)
Despite the unforgivable pun, my favorite is a mode called Carnado. Two teams of eight face off in a battle to earn as many points as possible. You don’t accrue points just by accruing them. Instead, you have to drive your vehicle into a central bank to essentially cash in any you’ve earned, destroying your ride in the process but boosting your team’s score. It’s a lot like the now-amazing Gambit mode from Destiny 2, except each match doesn’t end with a showdown against a ghastly monster from another realm.
I’ll square with you: The fourth mode, Stockpile? I don’t really understand how it works yet. The few matches I’ve played have consisted of me driving around, crashing into people (opponents and, I’ll admit it, teammates), generally not really understanding what’s going on but having a blast nonetheless.
That in itself is a microcosm of what it’s like to play Destruction AllStars: chaotic, but entertaining. Even if you don’t fully understand all the rules and movesets, it definitely has that “just one more round” appeal. And since each match is relatively short, you may find yourself cuing up another, and another, and another. Next thing you know, it’s 2:30 in the morning and you’re facing an alarm in a few hours. Whoops.
But it’s impossible to ignore the clutch-sized baggage that accompanies this release. The game was initially planned for launch day and date with the PlayStation 5 at the price point of $70. Two weeks before launch, it was pushed to February of this year, a move that Lucid Games said, in an interview with IGN this week, was made in part to get the game in front of the considerable PS Plus audience. (Destruction AllStars is one of February’s games included with Sony’s PS Plus subscription at no extra cost. Unlike most monthly games, it’ll be listed for two months, rather than one.) It’s currently listed as “out of stock” at many retailers, and does not show up on the PlayStation Store with a price tag. That tracks: PS Plus membership is required for the game’s online functionality. It’s an online multiplayer game. If you’re paying for PS Plus to play the game, you get the game. But what happens in April, when Destruction AllStars is no longer available to members of PS Plus? Will it hit retail at $70? Kotaku reached out to Sony for comment, but did not hear back at press time.
As one of the first truly PS5-exclusive games, Destruction AllStars offers a unique chance to see what the system can really do, both in terms of technological prowess and the benefits you can get with the snazzy, haptics-enhanced DualSense controller. There’s no denying the game’s dynamic 4K resolution looks sharp and everything runs at a pleasingly smooth 60 frames per second, but I’m less enamored with its use of the DualSense.
Per the game’s listing, vibration is required—and it is by no means subtle. When you’re at low health, your DualSense will vibrate with the uncomfortable rattle you feel when driving over a sleeper line on the highway. Even worse, I’ve found no way yet in the settings to adjust the intensity. I suppose this is meant to get you out of a busted vehicle and into some foot-based gameplay, but it’s frankly unwelcome. There’s not much to do with the triggers, either. The right one resists when you hit the gas and tightens up a bit when you hit full speed. That’s…pretty much it. When you compare all this to other PS5 games that so brilliantly make use of the DualSense’s robust capabilities—like Astro’s Playroom or Spider-Man: Miles Morales or even the revamped PS5 version of Borderlands 3—it’s hard not to be somewhat disappointed.
All told, Destruction AllStars left me with feelings of hope and promise, and some uncertainty. Lucid Games didn’t make advance copies of the game available to Kotaku. Nearly everyone you see playing this game is experiencing it in the same way at the same time. Could it take off the way Fall Guys—which itself received a boost from showing up on PS Plus for a month—did last summer? Or will it sputter out like, say, Bleeding Edge? I don’t know what to make of the game yet. No one does, not really. Luckily, it currently doesn’t cost much to find out.