Review: Wipeout HD
The game that, inexplicably, put consoles in nightclubs in the 90s is back.
Back in the mid nineties Wipeout helped make Sony great, back in the day it brought edgy club culture into the living room and revolutionised what people could expect from videogames. It was an unreserved success and managed to etch a special place in the hearts and minds of the gamers of that time. As such it’s with much anticipation that I turn to review this new entry into the Wipeout series.
This series has always been achingly cool when it comes to the art direction and craft design, full of clean lines and geometric shapes. WipeoutHD carries this over in spades with an efficient menu and a great looking front end, the shift to HD really has benefited this game as all the lines are now sleeker and the edges razor sharp. This game has a consistency of design that many other games lack, from the menus through to the loading screens and finally onto the tracks themselves, this game demonstrates a convincingly futuristic style.
Initially the racing seems slow and the looseness of the PS3’s analogue sticks do the game no favours whatsoever. However switch to the D-pad, and progress past the opening speed class and you soon find that old groove again, swinging your craft round corners to flow back into a straight and go powering over a jump. There still is no game around which controls like Wipeout, the crafts are simultaneously crisp and responsive yet light and buoyant, and every collision is hard and visceral. The screen shakes and blurs when you land badly from a jump or get hit by any of the well realised weapons.
There is a loyalty mechanic behind the use of the craft as the more you use them, in any mode, the more loyalty points you gain. Accrue enough of these loyalty points and you’ll unlock new skins for your crafts, new tracks and in a nice touch new HUD’s from the previous games in the series. And you will be earning lots of loyalty points as you’ll inevitably find yourself replaying the same courses over and over to get that gold medal because this game is difficult, almost remorselessly so.
Wipeout has always been about learning the tracks and in this regard the series is more akin to a twitch shooter than an average racer. With any impact reducing your speed dramatically and even the slightest of grazes slowing you down somewhat, it really pays to learn these courses. There is the option to turn on pilot assist in the menu which is a kind of auto pilot that gently steers your craft away from walls if you are straying too near, this is a nice addition but to really get the fastest lines it’s best turned off.
The game is split between a campaign mode which sees you competing in various tournaments to unlock additional courses, an 8-player online mode and a free race Racebox mode. Campaign has eight events which are made up from multiple races and time trials, which get progressively quicker and more difficulty the further you progress.
I’m not really a fan of racing games; it usually takes something special to keep my interest. Priced at £11.99 on the PSN store I decided to take the risk with this. This was the first time in years I had played a Wipeout game, the last one I gave a proper go was 2097 but I’ve also briefly tried the PSP versions. The main lasting memory I have of them is my ship ricocheting of the sides of the track from start to finish, something which I was dreading in this.
Thankfully the driver assist option is a great help for people like me who have appalling driving skills. It doesn’t really become an issue during the race events due to the over-aggressive enemy A.I. smashing you from side-to-side which can be really frustrating at times, although not as much as the time trial events which require you to hit pretty much every speed boost pad to get at least a bronze. Annoyingly those events have stopped me progressing any further in the campaign thus far â€“ practice makes perfect, I suppose.
One of the main stand-out features for me was the ability to use custom soundtracks. Not just because this is a rare occurrence with PS3 games to actually have this, but because of the way the music is handled and how it dynamically changes as you race. Travelling through a tunnel causes it to echo and hitting a jump causes it to fade out and fade in again when you hit the ground. It really is one of those games where having a good sound system really pays off. It also looks as good as it sounds, running at a constant 60fps despite all the action on screen, you really have to see it in motion to appreciate it.
Despite containing no new tracks (only remakes from the PSP version) this is an absolute bargain for a game of this quality.
Secondary Score: 8/10
Zone mode makes a triumphant return with its minimalist colour scheme and thumping scenery. This mode sees you piloting a craft which is constantly accelerating and you have no way to stop it. After ever ten seconds your top speed increases and your chances of surviving that corner get slimmer and slimmer. It’s easy to loose yourself in this mode and keep playing repeatedly as the urge to go that one more Zone becomes almost hypnotic and add to this the minimalist colour scheme which changes the faster you go and it’s very easy to loose yourself.
At the time of writing this review the online racing is suffering from server problems, however when you are able to get an online game it’s great. It changes the dynamic of the racing and the hustle and bustle of the pack fighting is truly exhilarating. Racing with human opponents raises questions about how you race do you go for an all out aggressive stance and risk blowing up or do you try and conserve your shields and concentrate on getting as far from the pack as possible. Once the servers get sorted then this will become an essential part of the game.
The tracks on offer are of a generally high quality with some nice mixes of wider tracks and some more technically demanding narrower tracks. Some of the fan favourites make a return and it’s nice to see them updated in crisp HD. Also making a return is the mag strip which attracts your craft to the surface of the course and allows the course to twist and turn in gravity defying manner. There are only eight tracks, which initially seems to be a bit of a cop out but given only these few tracks you soon grow to memorise them. And you will need to memorise them as at the faster speed classes your craft goes flying round the tracks a frankly blistering pace which the game constantly manages to run at a solid 60fps with no slowdown even in the most hectic of gun fights.
The music of this game is again drawn from the club world, although with a slighty weaker choice than seen in the earlier games. Although it’s a personal taste I found none of the songs were particularly memorable and was even interested to see that some are even re used from previous games. But the music does fit the game well and no song will have you reaching for the mute button. And that’s a good thing as the rest of the audio effects are great in particular the way the music is muted you activate a shield, or faded out when your energy is low.
This is a great new addition to the series with crisp visuals and even crisper racing, while it doesn’t add anything significant to the series it doesn’t do anything to break the formula either. For a ridiculously low price this is a bargain of a game which I heartily recommend.