The finest Anti-Gravity racing game on the market
The Wipeout series has long been around on PlayStation consoles. From the game’s beginnings in the mid-nineties on the original PlayStation, to the more recent editions on the PSP, Wipeout has always combined state of the art graphics with fun and challenging gameplay to create a terrific combat racing experience. The release of Wipeout HD on the PSN has pushed the series to a whole new level; it’s hands down the best game the PlayStation Network has to offer.
Wipeout HD is a combat racing game. Like in any other racer, the goal is to cross the finish line before everyone else. Where Wipeout differs from every other racer is in the fact that you’re not piloting cars, rather anti-gravity crafts that fly over the track at breakneck speeds. In addition, the tracks are littered with various speed boosting pads and weapon pick-ups. The various weapons you acquire can either be used to attack the opposing race crafts, or absorbed to replenish your own ship’s energy. As you fly around the track, your ship takes damage from a variety of sources including mild damage from hitting walls and light weapons, to heavier damage from the more powerful weapons. Let your energy level fall to zero, and your ship explodes, taking you out of the race.
The challenge in Wipeout comes from managing your strategies on the fly. You’ll often have to choose between hitting a speed pad or picking up a weapon, and you quickly have to decide which is going to help you move up the pack. Maybe you’ll end up with a weapon that debilitates the field ahead of you (like the destructive Quake) or maybe it’s wiser to take the sure speed boost to outrun everyone else. You’ll need to make wise choices to overcome the aggressive AI; unlike in the PSP versions, your computer controlled opponents are very skilled, especially on the highest “Elite” difficulty level. Complete mastery of the controls, specifically the twin airbrake system, is vital to your success. WIpeout uses two brake buttons as opposed to one; a left brake and a right brake. This allows you to navigate the usually tight corners on the race tracks with precision, but it does take a little while to learn the subtle nuances of good cornering. You’ll be able to slide by on the two lowest speed classes, Venom and Flash, while you’re learning. The faster Rapier and Phantom speed classes will brutalize gamers not up to the task.
Wipeout’s main offering is the surprisingly robust Campaign mode. Each section of the campaign (there are 8 in all) is divided into a grid containing a number of cells, each of which contains a challenge. Only two of the cells are playable at first. The rest are unlocked by completing the challenges given to you in the available cells. To complete a challenge, you have to earn a medal. For a Single Race or Tournament (a series of 4, 8, or 12 races), that means simply placing in the top 3. For a Time Trial or Speed Lap, it’s beating the assigned time. The Zone races are the most challenging of all. In Zone, you have no control over the accelerator. Your speed increases progressively as you make several laps around the track, and you just keep going until your ships sustains too much damage and explodes. Sounds easy, right? It is until you reach zone 15 or so. Then enjoy as you try to corral your ship off of the walls to boost your zone total as far as you can. Wipeout veterans won’t have a lot of difficulty through most of the campaign sections, but as you progress, just getting bronze medals won’t cut it. You’ll be required to get more silver and golds to get all the way through. All of the race modes are available in single play form as well.
While the computer is a formidable adversary, nothing is quite as fun as competing against other human racers. Thanks to the online multiplayer, you’ll rarely have to suffer from not finding anyone to race against. Single races or Tournaments can be held online against up to 7 other opponents around the world. I’ve competed in many online races thus far, and I’ve yet to see any lag or slowdown during the race, a huge plus. The only problem I’ve seen so far is that it can be tough getting into a race. By that I mean that since the lobby’s host is solely responsible for starting a race, you’ll often be sitting and waiting as a host waits for every slot in the room to be filled. It’s very frustrating waiting for 3 minutes or more for a host to realize that his room is not going to get 8 competitors in it, and that a 4 or 5 person race will do just fine.
Upon their release through the years, the Wipeout games have been some of the better looking games on their various platforms. To say that about Wipeout HD would do it a disservice. The graphics in this game are amazing. I’ve said before that, after Metal Gear Solid 4, Wipeout HD’s graphics are the best the PS3 has seen yet. No game is going to make you run out to buy an HDTV if you don’t already have one, but this is one example where it’s almost necessary to have one to fully appreciate how good it looks. The other huge deal graphically is the fact that the game runs at 60 frames per second consistently. The only time I ever saw a hiccup was in a split-screen mutiplayer game. Otherwise, it runs very smoothly. The music is typical of a Wipeout game: constant driving techno music that matches the game’s futuristic theme. Many swear by the game’s soundtrack; I, however, am glad that I can instead import my own custom playlists off of my PS3.
Wipeout HD is a great game, but it isn’t perfect by any means. The biggest problem comes from the fact that we’ve seen everything in the game before. All of the game’s 8 race tracks (16 if you count the mirrored versions) are copies of the better tracks in the PSP games. This isn’t a big deal if you don’t have a PSP, but if you do, chances are high that you own at least one, if not both, of the Wipeout games. If that is indeed the case, you’ve raced these tracks before. A lot. Also disappointing is the lack of any new race teams. It makes the game feel sort of like GT Prologue in a way; meaning that it feels like Studio Liverpool is saying, “Hey, when we make a full Wipeout game for PS3, this is what it’s going to look and play like, but take this to tide you over until then.” If Wipeout was priced at $60 (USD) or, like GT Prologue, $40, it may have left gamers feeling a little ripped off. The fact that it only is going to run you $20 makes it feel not only priced correctly, but maybe even a little bit of a bargain given the hours of play time you’ll get out of it. Also, there’s no reason that downloadable tracks and ships can’t be put out down the road to boost the game’s value. Wipeout also contains a ton of trophies to unlock, some of which are really, really tough to earn.
Despite the lack of original content, Wipeout HD still stands out as the best game on the PSN. The landmark graphics combined with the high replay value should make this a must buy for most gamers. Casual gamers may find it a tad difficult, as it’s not a very forgiving game. Practice will payoff though, as few gaming moments are as rewarding as winning that first race on Phantom. Overall, you’ll be hard pressed to find a better value for your $20 on any download service.
Absolutely stunning HD graphics, the best looking PSN game by far.
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Controls take some getting used to, AI keeps game challenging.
Licensed techno beats for some, custom soundtracks for others.
Campaign mode and online play will keep most busy for quite some time.
A great game at a great price, should be a staple in your PSN collection.