WipEout HD features a selection of the best tracks taken from previous versions of the series, meticulously crafted and fully reworked to showcase the power of PS3. Available exclusively as a download on PlayStation Store and featuring 1080p High Definition visuals running at a breathtaking 60 frames per second, WipEout HD represents the future of the iconic anti-gravity racing series.
No of Players: 1-8
Review – November 2008 by Keith Murray.
When WipEout was released on an unsuspecting public back in the 1990`s, it proved to be the flag bearer for a bold, new 32-bit era. The stylised Designers Republic logos adorning sleek Anti-Gravity ships introduced people to the Sony PlayStation brand and gave rise to a long standing cross pollination of games with dance music. After building on the foundations laid by developer Psygnosis (now Studio Liverpool) with numerous sequels, the maiden voyage on the PlayStation 3, WipEout HD, has finally arrived.
For those who don’t know, WipEout is a futuristic, Anti-Gravity racer with as much focus on the perfect racing line as taking down your opponents. The original and subsequent titles were always so wilfully stylised and HD is no different. With its minimal interface and clean, razor sharp lines it exudes confidence and a certain style, but it’s not a case of form over function. Everything is impeccably placed and easy to find, so navigating the various options is a joy.
The game itself is made up of eight different events, with the races unlocked once a set amount of points are achieved within each event. These take the form of straight races, time trials, tournaments and Zone Mode. The latter, introduced around the time of the PSP releases, involve your craft continuing to automatically accelerate without any assistance from the player. The idea is to navigate the designated course as the speed continues to build and until the player is quite literally `in the zone` with their racing machine, backgrounds undergoing a mesmerising colour change to indicate the level your process.
A new addition to HD is Racebox. This mode allows player to practice different tracks, events or work on whatever part of their racing needs improving, away from the demands of the actual events themselves. And doubtless they’ll need to make good use of it. Like previous titles HD starts out gently, but ramps up the difficulty in a short space of time. The line between that elusive gold and bronze medal is often tantalisingly close, while still managing to avoid frustration.
Piloting your craft, whether using the d-pad, or the sticks themselves, offers just the right level of control and never feels anything less than responsive. A racing assist option is available which will stop people bouncing off the walls too much, but it’s always best to turn off any aids and hone your skills without mechanical assistance.
Even the much derided SIXAXIS motion control is given a opportunity to shine in HD. Resisting the temptation to use fast, jerky movements, replacing them with small, graceful motions, ensures that the craft glides around the track. The realisation soon dawns that Studio Liverpool are probably the only developer that has managed to bend the controls to their will, without making them awkward.
Tracks, while numbering a little on the light side, are nothing less than spectacular. Whether it’s the jaw dropping views of Sol2, the tight demanding turns of Chenghou Project, or the visual splendour of Ubermall, they all have their own particular feel and layout. With the addition of the expansive photo mode, which allows you to take pictures from many different angles, a race which should only last a few minutes can end up becoming an extended photography session.
Thankfully audio has been given as much attention as gameplay and visuals, with a licensed soundtrack mixed in 5.1 surround sound. While the quality of the music is of the highest order, they feel slightly muted when placed in the context of the racing. Thoughtfully, Studio Liverpool has included a Custom Soundtrack which lets the player choose exactly what they want to hear.
Like the single player campaign, online mode plays host to single races or tournaments, accommodating up to eight players with no hitches. That everything online runs at the same, 1080p and 60 fps is an astounding feat for a title that comes in a relatively small, 900mb download. The only thing more impressive than the games stunning looks and wonderful controls is the price point. At £12/$20, this really is the bargain of the generation. The hinted DLC will make the package all the more appealing while keeping it fresh & relative for a long time.
WipEout HD really is the complete package. It’ll appeal to those curious about the series as much as the hardcore who have stuck with the games over the years. It’s a must-have for the PlayStation 3 which will be used as a yardstick for any developer on what can be delivered on the PlayStation Network.