Such was the quality of Wipeout HD on the PSN store, Sony could have put it on disc, doubled the price and it still would have received a rapturous reception. With the Fury expansion, the developers at Studio Liverpool look to improve the original and add a lot of new content to the already impressive package.
Are the new tracks, ships and game modes enough to warrant a gold medal on the podium of PSN games? Or does it crash and burn on the first corner?
After installing the update, the first noticeable addition is the new “furious red” menu system and music. It immediately tells players that the ante has most definitely been upped. Anger, speed and violence all permeate from the colour scheme. The second thing that you’ll notice is that a brand new Fury campaign is available, which consists of a massive eighty events. Many of these events make use of the game’s three new game modes.
The first of the three new game modes, Eliminator, is clearly based on the three principles mentioned before. This is deathmatch racing Wipeout style. Being the fastest here means nothing; it’s all about getting weapons, quick reactions and taking out your opponents. Racing around the circuit, players accrue points for each successful hit. The first player to reach the target score is the victor.
To add a little variety to the normal “shoot at the ship in front” mechanic, Studio Liverpool has introduced a 180 degree sweep move that is exclusive to Eliminator mode. Pressing the L1 button flips your ship around allowing you to take aim at anyone coming up from behind you on the track. Being peppered from behind with machine gun fire, only to spin round and exact sweet missile vengeance is supremely satisfying. It turns a feeling of vulnerability, where an opponent has you in their sights, into sheer joy as you spin and fire off your own weapon. Online Eliminator matches can often be determined by using this maneuver at critical points.
The next of the new modes is Zone Battle. This builds on the solitary experience of the original Zone mode, by adding a full grid of opposing ships for the player to contend with as they race around the track. Zone Battle can be seen as the antithesis to Eliminator, with speed and manoeuvring being of the utmost importance to your success. One similarity with the previous mode still remains: it is a race to the target number set. In this instance, the goal is to reach a certain zone speed before the rest.
To get an advantage over your opponents, there are zone pads, which give a speed boost. If you go over enough of these pads, a zone boost will be granted, which will increase your top speed giving you a handy little advantage over the rest of the field. The zone boost also leaves a barrier at the point on the track where you hit square, slowing down whoever has the misfortune to hit into it. To protect yourself from these zone barriers, you can choose to forfeit a zone boost for a temporary shield. Tactical use of the barriers can be the difference between a win and a loss on the harder difficulties.
Initially, it is confusing what to do, but after a few races, the mechanics of zone battle will just click and hitting the pads or dropping barriers in your wake will become second nature. It all comes together to evolve the zone mode nicely.
The final part of our mode trifecta is Detonator. It receives the honour of perhaps being the least “Wipeout-like” of any game mode in the series’ history. Playing more like a shooter than a traditional racing game, the primary aim is to shoot the mines that populate the track.
Much like Zone mode, each lap completed equates to a level up, making your ship faster, while more mines appear. The cannon equipped on your ship only has a set number of rounds and needs to be reloaded periodically, to get you out of sticky situations there is an EMP, which appears like a blue-tinted version of the quake weapon in the race modes. The EMP will instantly cleanse a whole track section of mines. Howerver, it is to be used sparingly because hitting the boost pads will cut down on the otherwise very slow recharge time it has.
Once per lap, a bomb will appear; if you manage to shoot it, then it will explode into a rainbow of colour that is so beautiful it cannot help but be distracting. The distinct minimalist-neon art style combined with the thumping trance soundtrack induces a zen-like state on the player. The colours on the track, pulsing in time to the music, heightens the feeling.
Just as I did with Geometry Wars, I couldn’t help but become a victim of “just-one-more-go syndrome” as I tried to better my previous score. It may not be to every Wipeout fans’ tastes, but to those who enjoy it, Detonator mode will become an addiction.
With a new campaign, modes, tracks and ships, Wipeout HD Fury comes close to doubling the content that was available in the original. While the tracks have all been plucked directly from the PSP versions, they are all gorgeously rendered. As for the PSP iterations, the Wipeout team has perhaps hit the bottom of the barrel for track selections giving hope that any future update will include tracks from even further back into the game’s history or risk being completely original.
In the racing sub-genre titled “futuristic racers”, Wipeout HD Fury is miles ahead of anything released on any format this console generation. Its predecessor showed that downloadable games can be indistinguishable from their disc based counterparts. From visuals to gameplay to longevity, simply put, Wipeout HD is untouchable. This new update doesn’t just reinforce this accolade, it smashes it into your face with fury.
*Reviewer’s note: All images were taken using the in-game photo mode.
HD 1080p and running at 60fps is the benchmark for how to present a unique visual style. Because it's so lush, it actually makes you sad OTHER games don't look this good.
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Ships handle beautifully, the AI can be very devious and the diversity is top notch.
A thumping dance soundtrack that has become a series staple, however custom soundtracks can be used.
Eighty new events in the Fury campaign, online leaderboards along with three new modes, two of which can be played online. This will keep you playing for months.
The most complete and polished downloadable content yet released on Playstation 3. A nigh on flawless racing package.