Now, this is an interesting game in the Wipeout franchise. As its title suggests, Wipeout 64 is an N64 exclusive, and marks the last time the series would appear on anything but a Sony console. It's also not really a sequel or a port, and it alters some things and adds others. So, leaving a trail of breadcrumbs behind us, let's venture down an unfamiliar path.
Set in 2098 (basic math shows us that's one year on from Wipeout 2097), on the surface, little has changed from the previous outing. The weapons remain (mostly) the same, pit lanes are still here and the general look and atmosphere returns. There are a few significant differences however. 64 marks the first use of analog control in a Wipeout game and dismisses digital control completely, there are team specific 'super' weapons such as the Energy Sphere (2097's Plasma Bolt), Cloak and Energy Drains (which would feature in later iterations).
The tracks in Wipeout 64 are modified versions of those in the previous two titles, be it a reversed version or one with other alterations. It makes the game feel like Frankenstein's monster, a chop 'n' swap mash up of the first two instalments, but with the look and feel of 2097. This is still a complete game, but some new circuits would have been nice (the only new track is Velocitar, which has to be unlocked).
The major upheavals here come in the form of challenges (such as destroying a set number of enemies), which expand the single player game significantly, and split screen multiplayer. The previous entries in the series only allowed for two player system link games, which proved unfeasible for many. Psygnosis has taken advantage of the N64's four controller ports, allowing four player split screen (this is the only game in the series to do so), which makes it stand out from its forebears. It's not bad, either. The major problem is with pop-up and a slow frame rate, but the gameplay itself still stands out. Get three like minded friends round and an entire afternoon can be lost.
In moving Wipeout from its natural home, Psygnosis has managed to retain much of the style and playability of the first two games. A few concessions have been made due to the storage media and the music takes one for the team. While the tunes are still great, hearing a couple of segments from Bang On! looped over and over again can grate. The graphics have the blurry filter of most N64 titles, but still look as good as before (bar some awful looking explosions), and provide a gritty alternative to Nintendo's own brightly coloured F-Zero X.
It would be fair to say that Wipeout 64 is the black sheep of the family – Nintendo exclusive, four player mode, remixed circuits – but it is distinctive. Being marketed to a Wipeout starved Nintendo audience it does its job very well. For existing fans of the series it offers multiplayer and challenge modes not found elsewhere and as is essential.
Written by Dan Gill