The Wipeout series has always been one of my most cherished. From the pin-point control scheme to the ridiculous sense of speed there was always something that continued to draw me into the world of hover racing. After Wipeout XL on the PSOne though things changed; the series seemed to become less relevant and imposters began flooding the market. With the introduction of substantial games on Sony’s PSN we have been fortunate enough to experience classic franchises such as Warhawk and Socom for a fraction of what we would pay for a retail disc. WipEout HD is the latest in this trend and much like the aforementioned efforts it delivers one of the best bargains you will download this year.
WipEout HD isn’t entirely a new game; in fact most of the tracks and ships have been carried over from previous titles in the series. The biggest upgrade here is definitely the visuals. The team at Studio Liverpool has takes the slick visuals of the original games and pumped them up to eleven. Everything runs at a rock solid 60 frames per second without ever missing a beat, which will indeed be overwhelming to some players. The game also runs at the highest resolution possible with an insane amount of detail put into the tracks and vehicles. This game delivers a full price presentation for a third of the cost.
The audio is also exceptional with the same techno beats we have come to love about the series. Some of the stages even react in real-time with the music. The most impressive aspect about this game is that everything feels like a full-priced title. WipEout HD also supports custom soundtracks if you are not a fan of ’un-tis un-tis’ melodies. The music is fantastic, the visuals are polished and smooth and the game play is about as perfect as you could hope for in a game that moves this fast. This is truly a steal at twenty bucks.
Once you get settled into the game mechanics everything starts to come back to you. Using the left and right triggers to gently adjust each turn and finding the precise line on the track to achieve the fastest lap times is crucial when aiming for the gold medals in the campaign mode. There are several different race types found in the single player including standard race and time trials, fastest lap and the return of Zone Mode.
Zone Mode is probably the most interesting of the bunch in that it feels substantially different from everything else in the game. You begin moving at the slowest speed possible and with the passing of each zone increase your speed. The color of each zone changes and the speed becomes insanely fast slowly increasing your chances of losing control. It is a delicate balance of speed and control and works nicely in breaking up the monotony of simply racing over and over again.
However, any Wipeout fan will tell you that the most impressive addition to the game is the inclusion of online play. You can hop online with up to seven other players and for the most part everything runs smooth. If you don’t have access to online you can play some local racing via split-screen action, but the frame rate drop is noticeable and honestly playing a game this fast with only half the screen takes away some of its charm.
Thankfully all of these modes and features are accompanied by a rock-solid control scheme regardless of how you choose to play it. The default handling is spot-on, but will still take some time to adjust to the sheer speed. You can opt to turn on pilot-assist, which makes it much harder to slam into walls. I highly recommend this to players who have not played a Wipeout game recently as it really does aid the enjoyment. It can be frustrating trying to learn the nuances of every track when you are slamming into them every five seconds.
Much like other racing games on PS3 WipEout HD also supports motion control by means of the Sixaxis. There are two options and both work surprisingly well. You can opt to control the ship entirely with the motion control or simply the direction and use the joystick for everything else. Both methods are admirable and with enough practice could even become your preferred mode of play.
WipEout HD is like a familiar jacket that feels good to put on time and time again. When you first boot up the game everything you loved about the originals comes flooding into your mind and you are taken back to the days when disc size and textures were not positive points in a game. There is a lot to love about WipEout HD (outside of the incessant need for capitalizing random letters) and for twenty bucks it is hard not to recommend this game to just about anyone. This is easily my vote for best downloadable game of the year.