Back in 1995 a friend of mine bought a brand new gaming console called a PlayStation.
The following night he invited myself and a mutual mate around to show it off. One of the games he showcased that night was WipEout.
I literally sat there with my bottom jaw on the floor. Not only were we sitting in a lounge playing high quality games without having to insert $2 every minute, but here was this game with ships racing at breakneck speed with graphics never before seen outside the arcade.
The very next day I shelled out about a thousand dollars for a Sony PlayStation and the game WipEout.
Since that memorable first release from Psygnosis, there have been several incarnations of WipEout including one on the PSP. But what’s noticeable about the whole series is that apart from faster, flashier graphics, the game has remained exactly the same. This rings true with the latest release, WipEout HD, available only by download from PlayStation Store. That’s right – you cannot buy this from a retail outlet. The best thing about this concept is, providing you don’t mind the 1GB download, the bargain price – a third of the cost of a retail BluRay disc. Considering this is also one of the finest looking PS3 games to date – well, you do the math.
The game looks incredible and runs at a blistering 60fps even at 1080p. There was no need to have any motion or blur effects here – you can run over three speed boosts then hit your turbo thrust with several other ships on screen with weapons going off and the graphics are crisp, clean and it doesn’t skip a beat. The fact that it’s reading off the hard drive probably helps this a lot.
The futuristic presentation and soundtrack is typical WipEout. I would love a boxed set of all the tracks featured in the WipEout series – it’d be better than many of the compilations released these days.
Unlocks and progression in WipEout HD are easy to begin with - which draws you into the game and the difficulty gets tweaked as your skills supposedly increase, then it gets really difficult to progress unless you get everything perfect by hitting every speed boost and utilising the air brakes properly on the tighter corners.
Progression is linear, but is laid out in a way (a grid system) that gives you the illusion that you're making your own path through the game. Race types too are varied so the racing doesn't get stale.
New to the series is the ability to absorb weapons rather than fire them. You always used to be able to dump them (or just use them anyway), but being able to absorb them replenishes some of the valuable energy of your ship - a good option when you pick up a crappy weapon like the machine gun for example. Later on in the game, absorbing weapons for that extra bit of energy replenishment becomes very handy indeed. There is also a new weapon called the Leech Beam which drains the energy of any ship it meets.
The SIXXAXIS control method comes into play if you feel inclined, and works well on some of the cruisier tracks, but any with multiple tight turns or high density traffic prove easier with the standard control method and timely taps of the air-brakes.
The tracks in WipEout HD are taken straight from WipEout Pure and Pulse - which is both a shame and and a bonus at the same time. Any true WipEout fan has played them before, but it's also awesome to experience them in HD with such speed and responsiveness. Knowing the tracks somewhat makes getting into the game just that much easier.
Online is excellent for up to eight players, although early on I had trouble finding players regularly. The race options are limited, but it all works brilliantly without any slow-down. This game has been made to work properly in all facets of gameplay. Watch out too for plenty of upcoming downloadable expansion packs.
It’s easily one of the better PS3 games to date and for the price of three blocks of cheese is well worth adding to your collection.