Reviewed: April 15, 2005
Released: March 17, 2005
Wipeout has been around since 1995 when the PlayStation first launched, and it was one of my very first games for that system. Since then the franchise has launched numerous sequels on several consoles. Even the N64 took a shot with relative success, but with each new release the series seemed to lose a little bit of what had made it special.
The last release, Wipeout Fusion, was visually stunning but the gameplay was hampered by narrow tracks and poor controls that had you bleeding off your shields and armor while grinding along walls at Mach 3.
Studio Liverpool has obviously learned from their mistakes and returned to the roots of what made Wipeout great nearly ten years ago. In essence, they have purified the franchise which makes Wipeout Pure a most fitting title for what is easily the best game in the series…ever!
Wipeout Pure succeeds as a whole because it succeeds at the most important of core issues, control. Racing games are all about control whether you are in a plane, car, boat, or hovercraft, and Wipeout Pure offers unprecedented control using, of all things, that troublesome analog pad. Finally, a game (or one of very few) that actually works with the A-pad.
Part of this control is due to the track design, which is now much wider than in previous games making it easier to navigate the winding courses. The pit has been removed and you can now recharge your energy by converting unwanted power-ups into energy instead of using them. This is an interesting trade-off that actually becomes strategic as the game progresses.
Tracks offer several opportunities to achieve some serious airtime giving you the chance to try the new barrel-roll move. If successfully performed before you land you will get a substantial speed boost when you touch down.
Wipeout has always been just as much about combat as it has been racing and Wipeout Pure offers a traditional set of weapons along with some new and updated items. Staples like direct-fire rockets, guided missiles, mines, and the awesome quake are just as fun as ever, and the disruptor weapon is always fun unless you are the one getting your controls scrambled. Bombs have been significantly improved, both in the way they trigger and their increased area of effect.
All of this racing and combat action comes at you in a variety of modes including the Single Race, Tournament, Time Trial, Zone, Free Play, and Progression. Most of these are self-explanatory, but I should give special note to the new Zone mode. This is insanely fun mainly because it’s an insane mode to begin with.
Basically, you are put in a ship on specially designed tracks and your speed is constantly increasing as you pass over speed pads. You have no weapons, and no pick-ups so there is no energy conversion going on. Your only goal is to stay alive for as long as possible while hurtling out of control going faster and faster. There’s something strangely satisfying knowing you are going to die…not sure when…but soon. There are also four custom tracks specific to this mode.
The Tournament mode is where you obviously spend most of your time; at least until you unlock everything the game has to offer. The tournament races are fun for the most part but the A.I. is a bit predictable. The same ships tend to finish in the same position all the time, so the point distribution generally favors the top two racers and unless you place in first or second on every race, chances are you will lose the event.
Multiplayer is supported for up to 8 racers in tournament, time trial and single race modes. Creating a game is easy and joining one is just as easy but the entire connection process and lack of any sustained connection between races means you have to restart and reconnect after each completed race.
Wipeout Pure streaks past the competition and leads the way as the best looking Wipeout game ever and the graphical showcase title for the PSP. If you own a PSP and want to dazzle your friends then pop in this disc and let the opening movie roll. Better yet, let them take a test drive and experience the intense racing and blinding combat visuals for themselves.
Track design is a marvel of ingenuity and architectural prowess, both in the design of the twisting tracks and the fantastic scenery that borders them. Whether you are streaking through cities, forests, mountains, or even through the clouds, the world is alive with activity.
Special effects are so insane they defy words. Racing beneath the ocean you get excellent water reflection effects on the walls of the tunnel. There are all sorts of interior lighting, glowing neon, not to mention sunlight, shadows, and brightly lit cityscapes. Even subtle effects are in place like a temporary blinding effect as you emerge from interior track sections into daylight.
Then you have all sorts of animated effects for the various weapons including the powerful quake effect that ripples the track with a violent upheaval. Rockets and missiles all leave trails and generate powerful explosions, and when you get hit the entire screen will get washed over in pink and red.
You can choose to race from third or first person views. Each has their own merits with the front view giving you an even greater sense of speed. The chase view allows you a bit of advanced warning since that view is higher and you can see further ahead on the track. It also helps you slide around those sharp turns more accurately.
The opening movie is a showcase for the PSP and simply breathtaking. I’ve yet to see anything close to this technical quality, even on the Xbox. The subsequent menus, animations, and ship selection screens are extremely pleasing to the eye and very high-tech.
Wipeout has always been known for great and often rare European techno music, and Wipeout Pure is no different with the exception that it has better music and more of it. There are 19 awesome tracks from numerous artists that you may or may not have heard of. Cold Storage, who did a lot of music for the previous Wipeout games, does one of my favorite tracks in the game, “Onyx”, and there are many other tracks that are just as good. There isn’t a single song in the entire play list that isn’t energetic or perfectly suited to this game.
Sound effects are intense, almost too intense for the built-in speakers and some of the bass effects in the explosions came dangerously close to overloading the headphones. I ultimately jacked my PSP into my AUX input on my Audigy control box and pumped the sound through my 1000w THX 7.1 speakers and there is nothing like it in this world. There is a lot of separation of engine noises and weapons fire that you can’t really appreciate with headphones; almost a surround sound mix.
This is racing at its finest and with 8 ships and 12 new tracks plus the four special Zone tracks. With all of the race modes, ship classes, and multiplayer opportunities, there is virtually no end in sight for this game.
Sony is also promising future content, ships, tracks, possibly skins and new music, who knows? Japan has already gotten their first update and it’s only a matter of time before we can start filling up our memory stick with new content.
We’ve played more than a dozen PSP games here at GCM since the system launched, and while there are a few shining stars, none shine brighter than Wipeout Pure. This game has it all; stunning visuals, crisp and powerful sound, finely tuned gameplay for single and multiplayer, endless replay value and the promise of future content via download.
Wipeout veterans will love the new features, especially the out-of-control Zone mode that will have you gripping your PSP with white knuckles as sweat pours down your brow. Wipeout Pure is the pinnacle of racing and the ultimate achievement in portable gaming, all in one sleek package. If you own a PSP then this game had better be in it.