When we think of Sony and their newly rebranded PlayStation Studios, we tend of think of prestige single player experiences. Genre-defining hits such as God of War, Horizon: Zero Dawn, and The Last of Us that completely defied a once-burgeoning notion that solo story-driven games were dying out.
This latest PS5 exclusive comes as somewhat of a surprise, then. A vibrant, vehicular wreck-a-thon with a predominant focus on network multiplayer. Destruction AllStars is a breath of fresh air in that respect, successfully modernising the car combat genre, though not without suffering a few bumps and scrapes along the way.
Tearing across the arena and watching your rival crumple as you land a devastating head-on slam, PlayStation fans will get immediate flashbacks to the once-great Twisted Metal. In many respects this feels like a spiritual successor to the beloved series, even as it swaps chainsaw-wielding clowns and sadistic wishmakers for a diverse cast of would-be world champions.
Destruction AllStars plays host to a gallery of larger-than-life characters who do more than simply serve as your in-game avatar. Each one has their own unique ultimate-style Breaker move and a Hero Vehicle that, when used effectively, can easily turn a match in your favour.
Before we elaborate, let’s take a step back. At launch, Destruction AllStars offers four competitive online modes which can also be accessed offline against AI-controlled bots. After a cinematic, gameshow-like intro, you and the other players will descend into the arena below… on foot.
This is where the game breaks away from your typical car combat mould with vehicles spawning around the map at regular intervals, allowing you leap from one to the other. This introduces an unfamiliar sense of expendability when playing Destruction AllStarsl whether your car is on its last legs or you simply fancy a different class of vehicle, you can take your hands off the steering wheel at any moment. You’ll find that each arena has its own network of walkways and platforms that can be navigated using smooth yet simple parkour manoeuvres.
As you do so you’ll gather energy drops to fill your character’s Breaker and Hero Vehicle gauges. Breakers triggers unique on-foot moves such as a stampede rush or invisibility while also making your AllStars more mobile with a handy speed boost and double jump. It’s the Hero Vehicles that really set the contestants apart, however.
In terms of handling, they act the same as normal cars (there are three weight classes of varying speed and control), but these ones come tagged with a special power. For example, Ultimo’s chunky truck will pop an impenetrable front shield whereas Lupita will leave a flame trail, Harmony shunting nearby foes with a bass overload.
The impact these have will largely depends on the game mode. As mentioned before there are four available on day one: Mayhem, Gridfall, Carnado, and Stockpile. Where Mayhem is your typical free-for-all deathmatch, Gridfall has a battle royale slant with the last AllStar standing being crowned the winner, the arena floor gradually falling away.
Carnado and Stockpile are the two team-based modes in Destruction AllStars, designed for 8 versus 8. Carnado will dish out points (or Gears) as you perform offensive actions, but you have to bank them for your team by binning your vehicle into the titular vortex occupying the centre of the map. Finally, Stockpile has both teams warring over three control points. When a player is wrecked they’ll dropped gears that need to be collected on-foot before being deposited at one of the three podiums.
It’s nice to have some variety, though each mode involves the same gameplay actions on a loop. Jumping into a vehicle, targeting a rival, then trying your best to wreck them, occasionally peeling off then trying again. The vehicle handling is reliably smooth and the on-foot sections do help spice things up, though I couldn’t help but feel myself settling into the same groove after a dozen or so matches.
You’ll find more variety in what Destruction AllStars calls the Challenger Series. Each one is its own series of challenges focusing on one of the sixteen characters, sandwiched between some light exposition. Throwing down against bots isn’t quite as satisfying as online play though there are some bonus solo game modes to sample such as checkpoint races and Crazy Taxi style missions. They’re pretty fun, but there’s a disappointing rub – all but one of the Challenger Series is locked behind a premium paywall. As a PlayStation Plus freebie you might say that’s fair enough, but it’s a shame that there aren’t two or three of these to whet our appetites.
Overall, Destruction AllStars is a great looking game and one that has a roster of visually striking characters and signature vehicles. A lot of care and attention has gone into each one, the sixteen AllStars having their own unique running animations and cheeky spread of taunting emotes. The game runs smoothly on PS5 and if there’s one area we’d criticise it would be overly similar environments, each arena decked with the same ramps, barricades, and billboards despite some of them having unique hazards.