Arcade racers are an integral, if often overlooked, cornerstone of the gaming landscape. From Ridge Racer and Wipeout through to Split/Second and Destruction Derby, this is a genre that’s not only dominated popular culture at times, it’s one that’s inherently tied to the PlayStation brand. It was with some excitement then that we first caught a glimpse of Destruction AllStars amongst the PS5’s launch titles, but even weeks prior to its planned launch alongside the PS5 we still didn’t really know what it was. A last minute delay came with the gentlest of softening blows, making free for PlayStation Plus subscribers with February’s update. (That’s tomorrow, 2nd February, by the way)
We had a chance to catch up with XDEV’s John McLaughlin and Lucid’s Colin Berry, the Destruction AllStars Director, who told us that it was really what they’d been hoping for the whole time: “From the Lucid perspective, something that we wanted was to launch in Plus, and we’ve wanted it for quite a while. We want the biggest possible audience. We’re conscious as a multiplayer game […] you need people playing it so people can find matches. You don’t want to launch an online game and it be some sort of ghost town. So we were conscious that we thought Plus would give us the best possible launch. It’s a huge opportunity for us.”
Destruction AllStars certainly looks like the kind of thing that’s capable of repeating Rocket League’s PS Plus-driven success, especially with the installed PS Plus user base on PS5 likely to be virtually 1:1, but it wasn’t the only advantage, with Colin continuing, “the amount of people who’ve got PlayStation 5 and Plus at this point is probably incredible. You can imagine that early adopters are going to be the people who’ve got Plus, so that’s brilliant, and so for us at Lucid, when we finally got confirmation that we could launch in Plus but it’s going to be February, it was like, right, okay… that’s cool!
“Because that gives us an extra bit of time. I think all developers if they get the opportunity to have a little bit of extra time go, ‘Yeah, that’s not necessarily a bad thing.’ It gave us an extra little bit of time to do a bit more balancing and add a little more polish, fix a few things up and iron out the bugs. So it was great!”
The team at Lucid certainly know their vehicular games, having been founded by ten former Bizarre Creations developers, who previously worked on Metropolis Street Racer, Blur, and the Project Gotham series. If that talent wasn’t enough, they’ve also drawn in developers from some of the North-West’s finest racing game studios. I asked Colin what it was that kept them coming back to the genre, with him telling me, “It’s always been very prominent in the north-west. I think game development-wise from back in the early days of Psygnosis and Bizarre Creations, there was also Studio 33 which worked on Destruction Derby and F1 games for Sony back in the PlayStation One era and we’ve got some guys from there now who were also at Bizarre or at Sony.
“For me personally, I fell in love with Wipeout the moment I walked into a shop back in Liverpool in 1995 and saw it on a TV screen and I was like, ‘Oh! What the heck is this?!’ I was fortunate enough two years later to get a job at Psygnosis testing games, and then a couple of years later to start working on Wipeout as a junior designer and I’ve just always been in love with the series and think it’s awesome!”
It’s clear to see the effect that all that development talent and their racing heritage has had on the game – just check out last week’s dedicated State of Play – with vibrant visuals marrying to some truly incredible-looking action. Some of that history has definitely found its way into the game, though Destruction AllStars is quite clearly its own thing.
“Destruction Derby is a seed,” Colin said, “but it quickly went off and then all the seeds became other things. There isn’t much of F1 or Wipeout or Motorstorm in there in terms of the gameplay, but in terms of the visual kind of thing there is. If you remember the mud in Motorstorm, we want damage to have that same kind of thing where people went ‘Woah! That mud in Motorstorm’s cool!’ so we want our damage to be like that, as visually impressive.” He continued, “There’s not a huge influence of art from Wipeout or ‘we want to have such and such from Project Gotham’, or anything like that, but from those games, there’s the underlying knowledge that hey, we know we need arcade handling and we know how to do arcade handling!”
As a PS5 launch window title, for all that the visuals look fantastic, I really needed to know what it was about the game that wouldn’t have made it viable on PS4. Luckily, both XDev’s John McLaughlin and Colin were able to fill me in, with John setting things off; “I guess with every new console, I’m definitely a graphics guy. I love new shiny graphics, show me something shiny, but you know what? You get that with every new console. As the console matures, graphics get better and better, so it’s kind of a given that you’re going to get better GPU, better CPUs, so on and so forth, but the biggest game-changers for us were the SSD and super fast loading.”
Colin added, “The power of the machine enables us to do things with the physics and the deformation that we wouldn’t have been able to do on previous generations to the same level. With a look back at the old days and everyone has the memory of Destruction Derby being brilliant, and you look at it, it’s like 50 polygons in a car and when you hit someone they just texture swap and there’s a little bit of damage. You look at what we can do now with our crumpling effects and our deformation tech, and it’s online as well. We couldn’t have done that, to that level, without what’s in the box to enable us to do that.”
Both John and Colin were hugely taken with the DualSense as well, (and if you’ve had the chance to experience Sony’s latest controller you’d also know that this is really where the new generation starts). Colin talked me through the range of things they’ve been able to do with the controller to really bring Destruction AllStars to life in a way that simply weren’t possible before, “What we’ve been able to do with the haptics is great, because we’ve got directional haptics in there. So when you get hit from the right, you feel it on the right, you feel on the left, and it flows through the hand. It just puts you more in the world, weights you more in the world.” He continued, “DualShock’s great, but it’s motors that are spinning up. There isn’t the range, and there isn’t the subtlety and nuance that you can get with the haptics. They’re awesome.
“And then the triggers are just like nothing people have got home, really, unless you spend a hell of a lot of money on expensive racing wheels with force feedback or stuff like that. We do things like, the more damaged the car is, you can feel it on the brake and a little bit on the accelerator, depending on how it’s damaged. When you launch your car off a spawner, it’s like firing a gun so there’s a bit of resistance on trigger. It’s not intrusive, it’s so subtle and nuanced, but if you turn it off it’s like, ‘Oh, it doesn’t feel right!'”
PlayStation 5 owners don’t have long to wait, with Destruction All-Stars launching at midnight tonight on the 2nd of February, 2021. You can be sure that you’ll find plenty of the TSA family there for the launch, so we’ll see you in the arena!