Destruction AllStars will be responsible for setting the tone and tenor of PlayStation's 2021. It's the first PS5 exclusive to launch this year, a new generation of vehicular combat that will serve as an early indicator of the quality Sony is pursuing through this launch window and beyond. Destruction AllStars will also be our first opportunity to see whether the pervasive power of PlayStation Plus, a kingmaker for fledgling online communities, has made a successful transition to this new generation. Developer Lucid Games is hoping that it has.
After all, the small studio had to make a big sacrifice to ensure Destruction AllStars had a position as part of the subscription service. "It's a rare opportunity, to work on a new IP. It's even rarer to work on something for launch, because that opportunity comes around even less frequently than new IP does," Colin Berry tells me, a game director with enough experience to know that this confluence of events comes all but once a decade for some teams, and never for most. For Lucid and Sony XDev Europe, the branch of SIE Worldwide Studios that works with external partners, the exchange of prestige for the potential of prosperity in a crowded live-service landscape was one it fought to make.
"We are really pleased that we're launching on PlayStation Plus. It was something that the team wanted and it was something that Sony XDev wanted for us as well; we pushed for it quite hard. We managed to finally get agreement that we could launch on PS Plus, but, because of scheduling, February was the earliest possible time that we were able to," says Berry of the delay from November 12 to February 2. "I'm excited and I'm nervous, you know? We're gonna have a huge audience, the biggest audience that we could hope to have because of being on PS Plus on PS5."
Stars and cars collide
The success of Destruction AllStars is dependent on the sustainability of its online community. This is a madcap vehicular combat game that has echoes of Destruction Derby and Twisted Metal, racing games that were among the most legendary of the original PlayStation era. It's designed with 16-player online carnage in mind, launching with five arenas, four game modes, and a desire to grow that offering over time.
But on day one, Destruction AllStars is concerned with one thing and one thing only: destruction. Lucid wants you to create carnage and endure damage in the Global Destruction Federation Championship. It's a game that's designed to offer explosive entertainment and free-flowing action, with Destruction AllStars utilizing the ultra-speed SSD of the PS5 to get you into the arena with near-instant load times. With every warped chassis and broken axle comes the roar of the crowd and the flash of cameras, Lucid wants to make stars out of all of us.
"Your goal is to get inside a vehicle and cause as much carnage as possible," Berry teases, "but there's depth in the destruction." There are 16 different characters to choose between, all equipped with their own special abilities and hero vehicles, each of which are engineered to give you new and improved ways to wreck your friends and master the mayhem of Destruction AllStars' high-octane action. While you may recognize individual elements of play, it's the way everything comes together in Lucid's offering that sets it apart from the pack of vehicular combat games that have graced PlayStation consoles over the years.
Before Destruction AllStars, Lucid Games wanted to resurrect an old PlayStation franchise. Click the link to learn about the origins of the first PS5 exclusive of 2021.
Making Destruction AllStars a distinct offering for the PS5 launch window was important for the team, because it knows just how rare of an opportunity it has on its hands. "The best time to launch a new IP is in the launch window of a new console because people want new things. You don't necessarily want to just play the game that you were playing on the last-gen looking a little bit prettier. People want something new, a new experience, and that was important to us" says Berry.
As a result, the team has spent years prototyping to "prove where the gameplay and where the fun was". Berry, who has worked on five iterations of WipEout in the past, is in a team composed of alum from Bizarre Creations (Project Gotham Racing), Evolution Studios (Motorstorm), Studio 33 (Destruction Derby), and Psygnosis (WipEout). Lucid has decades of experience in the racing genre, and it's bringing it all to Destruction AllStars to ensure that it reflects the ethos of the PS5 – new, unique, fast, and exciting.
"I think that when people get their hands on it, they'll find that it isn't quite what they expected," says Berry, adding, "There are influences from different games and different genres in here, but there isn't another game where you can go 'oh, it's like this game but they are doing it in a different style'."
Wreck and Eject
Destruction AllStars creates some distance between itself and the vehicular combat games gathering dust in Sony's archive in a big way: it lets you step out of your vehicle and into the arena itself. "Early on, we began thinking about the worst things about taking damage in car games. And the answer was when you've only got three wheels. When you're limping around in a race and you're just trying to finish but you're dead slow," McLaughlin begins, and he isn't wrong there. "We knew from early doors that we wanted our cars to always be fast. We wanted to encourage wrecking and we wanted to encourage people to be wrecked as well."
As the team worked to find a solution to a problem that has impacted every racing game that has featured a damage model, somebody in the room flirted with danger. "What if you could get out of the cars," McLaughlin recalls, only too aware that this line of thinking has had disastrous results for plenty of other racing games in the past. But the longer Lucid and XDev considered its options, it began to realize that its broader concept – 'a spectacular prime-time sport for dangerous drivers' – would allow for players to step out from behind the wheel without sacrificing any of the energy generated by the thrill of twisting metal in 4K.
"We call it Wreck and Eject. When your car gets wrecked, you get ejected out of the vehicle and then you're on foot. We quickly realized that if it was just you or me in this arena with all of these cars, you're gonna get hit," McLaughlin laughs. "So we started looking at parkour – those people are almost like real life superheroes, and some of the abilities they have is ridiculous."
Destruction AllStars is a game built to last. With that in mind, we spoke to Lucid about its decision to bring free characters and game modes to its vehicular racer in the future because it "doesn't want to fragment the playerbase".
Losing your wheels isn't the end of your race, but the beginning of another. You'll be able to dodge out of the way of other vehicles, wall-run across the arena, vault up onto platforms, and take command of other cars – there are 28 in the game, split between three common vehicle types and the signature set of wheels that each of the 16 AllStars have access to that can help turn the tide. "You will never, ever stay in the car and come out of a game without getting any damage or without getting wrecked. You will get wrecked and we encourage that!"
"One of our key pillars was always 'momentum'. So you have momentum in a car, of course, but even when you hit a hard stop and get wrecked, that momentum continues. Once you land on the floor, you can roll and carry on running with that momentum and begin looking for opportunities to get into another vehicle as soon as you can," says McLaughlin. "We want people to be in and out of the cars. And once you're out of a car we want you to have the confidence and the abilities to get yourself out of sticky situations, take over other vehicles, or climb up onto platforms before getting into another vehicle.".
The opportunity to get out from behind the wheel is the wrinkle that will elevate Destruction AllStars' action. As fun as it is to engineer mayhem at 100mph while a crowd cheers on the carnage, the drama is accelerated somewhat as soon as you find yourself dodging between cars on foot and doing your best to navigate the arena in search of your next opportunity. Berry believes that "the interplay between the characters and vehicles will create so many cool moments", enough so that it will force one of your fingers to be hovering over the Create button at all times. "I was running towards a vehicle and two others crashed right in front of me. The engine of one of them flew out and smacked my character in the head, knocking him over. That was awesome," he laughs, speaking to the kind of emergent carnage we should expect from Destruction AllStars.
Evolve over time
Destruction AllStars is designed to evolve over time. This is a new experience for Lucid, and while the studio anticipates some growing pains, it's excited by the prospect of growing this game long into the future. "It's a weird one launching the game as a live-service because in the past you used to launch a game and then it was like, right, the games out, sit back, put your feet up, read reviews, wait, muck around for a few months, and then start thinking about what you're gonna work on next," Berry says, laughing.
"That's what we did back in the days of PS2 and the PSP as well. Whereas now it's like, right, the game is launching and we're currently knee deep working on updates, with different people working on different streams and different things, and you never truly just 'launch and that's it' anymore."
"But, and this goes back to the value of creating an original IP, that is a cool opportunity. As a service, we are able to update the game and add loads of extra content to it," says Berry, giving him a second to get excited about the future. "We can find out what the community likes and react to that, and kind of steer the game – and allow them to help us steer it – towards where we want it to be and where they want it to be as well."
From Destruction AllStars to Twisted Metal: A brief history of PlayStation's vehicular combat games