Thursday, 18 October 2012

Wipe3out Review (Playstation)

We're now back on the main path of the Wipeout franchise, where we come to the hardest-to-pronounce game in the series (Wip-three-out isn't even in the dictionary, I checked). With Psygnosis now fully owned by Sony, the series began its exclusivity here. Another notable aspect of the game is that development duties are handled by Psygnosis Leeds, and not the Liverpool studio that developed the other titles in the series. It's also the last title to feature input from the Designers Republic.

As soon as it's loaded, it's clear there have been a few changes. Everything is so crisp and the menus are very minimalist with clear lines of grey and blue replacing any 3D track previews or craft models. There are also more options, some of which (such as Challenges) are transferred from Wipeout 64. This time the courses are hosted in one city rather than the globe trotting nature of previous entries. From the shopping utopia of Mega Mall to the peaks of Manor Top, everything feels more down to earth than the sometimes laboured futurism of the first three games (there are no bright orange skies or lunar surfaces here).

Backed up with an advanced game engine, the higher resolution gives everything more definition and the game moves along at a zippy pace. It stands as one of the PSOne's finest looking titles, even today.

It plays well too. By bringing analog control to the table with the Dual Shock pad, finding those tight racing lines becomes a joy, and demonstrates the perfect marriage of software and hardware. The weighty feel of Sony's sticks suit the handling of the craft more than Nintendo's pad did in Wipeout 64, and the Dual Shock rumbles as a Quake Disruptor is unleashed or a missile hits. It's a common feature in games now, but Wip3out stands out as one of the first titles to get it right.

The gameplay itself has also been tweaked, with some strategy added through the use of a 'hyper boost'. This – as its name suggests – grants a speed boost at the expense of your shield. It adds a nice touch of risk/reward to play, and keeps things fresh. A handful of new weapons have been thrown in too. Some return from the N64 instalment, but are no longer team specific (such as the Energy Drain). The more interesting consist of the Force Wall (clue: it's a wall which stops craft dead) and the Reflector (I don't think an explanation is needed). Rather than being hugely devastating weapons, they prove to be more non-violent and depend more on a lack of attention or slow reaction from your rivals.

Of course, trying out weapons on your friends is preferable to a CPU opponent. Finally, there is now a split screen multiplayer mode. The bad news is that it only caters for two participants but, with the limitations of the hardware and the new engine pushing the system as it is, it's understandable why the cut has been made. It's good too. There is minimal slowdown, and it still looks great. Wip3out ticks pretty much all the boxes. It's smooth, cool, fast, full of options, has a great soundtrack and effective multiplayer mode. The one thing it doesn't have is accessibility.

Those who are new to the series probably shouldn't start here, as the learning curve is pretty steep. The tracks can be tough and require extensive use of the airbrakes and careful use of the analog stick. If you are looking to pick it up, consider hunting down Wip3out: Special Edition, as it adds a few tracks from the first two games. Also, you'll need a Playstation or PS2 to play it, as it crashes on the PS3 (Sony, patch please). For the brave newcomer or the seasoned Wipeout player, Wip3out is a blast. This is still an essential game and a superb follow-up to 2097.

9/10

Written by Dan Gill

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