Wipeout HD – Frustratingly beautiful

October 7, 2008 § Leave a comment

Wipeout HD is fast. It’s fast, and it’s colourful. In fact it’s so fast and colourful that the game warns you to take breaks every fifteen minutes to avoid epileptic seizures. That’s fast.

Those present at the beginning of the Playstation saga will remember the original Wipeout as the first game to be released on the system outside of Japan. Since then the series has gone from strength to strength (aside from a blip in the PS2 years) to emerge on the PSN as Wipeout HD, taking the best tracks and ships from Pure and Pulse – the two PSP titles – as well as shoving the graphics headfirst into the current generation. Fans of the PSP games therefore, will find little new in the series’ current-gen debut, but the ability to play on a big screen with a proper controller may be enough reason for some.

The gameplay from previous Wipeout’s has remained largely unchanged. You take control of a ship and can compete in several gameplay modes such as races, time trials and a zones, the latter placing you on a race course with an ever-increasing speed, tasked with simply staying alive. Speed pads and weapons can be found at regular intervals on the track, the former essential for staying ahead of the pack, and the latter providing you with some firepower should you fall behind. All the weapons present in the game are very well balanced, with no one weapon that will give you any significant advantage. Your craft is also equipped with air brakes which differ from standard brakes in that they slow down only one side of your ship. These are extremely important at higher levels, when you’re forced round tracks at breakneck speeds. The combination of the above gameplay elements amounts to an extremely tactful game, where a knowledge of the speed and handling of your craft, the twists and turns in the track, and the locations of speed pads and weapon pickups, are essential to succeed in the main career mode, and to avoid becoming a smouldering pile of wreckage at the side of the track.

The sole addition to this game from the PSP version is motion control support thanks to the PS3 hardware. Although it defaults to off, a quick trip into the options menu will reward you with the best implementation of Sixaxis controls yet, which although difficult to get to grips with at first, soon establish themselves as a real alternative. Playing with them enabled allows you much greater control over your turning angle, and serves to smooth your racing line, and make you look better in the process. These controls aren’t for everyone, but there’s a trophy available for completing a race using them, so it’s worth a try.

On the subject of Trophies, Wipeout HD is one of the first major releases to support them with a full roster of awards, including the obvious ‘Get gold on everything,’ challenges as well as more specific requirements such as completing a barrel roll on a more or less flat track. Trophy integration is good, and there’s a wide variety in their requirements, so no one has an excuse not to get one or two.

Custom soundtracks come completely supported, with the ability to play any albums you have saved on you hard drive. More impressive still is the effects the game puts on songs as you race. Going over a big jump will cause a phase effect to be placed on the track, or through a tunnel an echo. Unfortunately you’re only able to play music from one album at a time, so those looking to randomise their entire music collection will be left disappointed. For those with no music at all on their hard drives typical techno tunes are provided for your listening pleasure, which although generic, fit well with the overall mood of the game.

Wipeout HD is a hardcore game, and newcomers to the series may at first be put off by the steep learning curve. Although the game provides you with an in-game manual, you really need to get stuck in to understand how everything works. The game also provides you the option to play with “Pilot Assist” which prevents you from killing your speed and destroying your ship by keeping you away from the sides of the track, allowing newcomers to slip in with relative ease.

Wipeout HD isn’t the perfect continuation of the series. It falls into the easy trap of giving fans exactly what they want, which essentially equates to more Wipeout. Whilst this may satisfy some, others may be frustrated with the lack of change from previous games. Aside from updated graphics there’s little reason for you to return if you played the PSP games, but if you’re completely new to the series, then Wipeout HD is a game that should at least be tried, even if initially it takes some getting used to.

NB: All images in this post were taken with the in-game camera

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