I have a confession to make: I never played the original Wipeout on PlayStation. In fact, up until Omega Collection I had never played a Wipeout game on any of Sony’s consoles. Instead, Wipeout 64 was my jam.
I was given a copy along with a beat-up Nintendo 64 in mid-1999, and for a few months before the console died an unsurprising and rather undignified death, I found something rather special its horrendously close draw distance and tinny techno soundtrack. Sure, there was Mario, James Bond, Diddy, and a flute-playing Link there to while away the hours, but it was Wipeout that kept me coming back.
Part of the reason was that Psygnosis had done with Wipeout what no other racing developer had managed: it gave its game a real sense of speed. I was hooked. Now, 18 years later, I finally got a chance to play Wipeout on the platform that was in part defined by the series, and it is glorious!
Anti-gravity racers have come and gone, but none have ever managed to recreate the sense of exhilaration that comes from the pure unadulterated speed of Wipeout. The genre is essentially Wipeout, and a legion of also-rans. Even the recent release of Formula Fusion by some of the original Psygnosis personnel failed to recapture the special magic that is Wipeout.
It’s not just about pushing polygons past the screen as fast as possible, it’s about smart track design matched with responsive controls, and a soundtrack designed to get the heart pumping. Omega Collection combines Wipeout HD and its Fury expansion pack with Wipeout 2048 to create a sort of Wipeout nirvana. Each game has been remastered and upgraded across the board, and they all look stunning.
Visually, the Omega Collection is almost in a class of its own. With a PS4 Pro there is a clarity and sharpness here that is nothing short of stupefying. If you can pair that console with a 4K HDR capable screen, what you have is video game porn. The big difference is it’s completely socially acceptable to sit in the dark playing with your joystick with this one, and even more so if you invite a friend to play with you.
There is an optional motion blur effect that drops the resolution down from 2160p, but it also adds some odd artifacting on some edges, so is best turned off. I have to give full credit to the teams at Clever Beans, EPOS Game Studios, and XDev for not skimping on the remastering, as textures, effects, tracks, scenery, and the racers themselves all look exceptional – even when stationary. But it’s when everything is in motion that the magic really happens.
There is no doubt that the Omega Collection is a technical achievement, but the real strength is built into the very DNA of the series. The fun in the game is blitzing through tracks, passing, and blasting opponents – it’s about speed and maneuverability. Tracks are varied, challenging, but also fair. The skill ceiling is high, but the barrier to entry is also very low, and it is this allowance for a breadth skill that I really appreciate.
Learning how best to embrace the curves of each course it important, as is becoming familiar with weapon and shortcut placements. The genius of Wipeout is that the tracks provide so many opportunities to improve or refine your run, they never get stale, even if there are few "ideal" lines that elite players will exploit.
Whether in the single-player campaign or any of the multiplayer modes, it is you as the player that is in control of your achievements. High level AI, and more skilled players will dominate initially, but the game never feels unfair or needlessly frustrating for it. A little practice and maybe a rocket or two up the exhaust can make a world of difference on your final placings for the next run. There is also the option to unlock better ships with bigger guns, better handling, or a stonking big engine to help level the field.
Omega Collection is something rather special, and I highly recommend picking up a copy regardless of the PS4 you’re packing. My only real concern is that longtime fans who’ve played the original versions aren’t getting anything new apart from the presentation overhaul, but perhaps that enough… for now.