Final verdict: A-
Final playtime: Ongoing
Hot DAMN this is a game. I recall spending weeks playing the original WipEout on the PlayStation Demo One disc, beating that same race over and over again. That shit was ballin’. It was so simple and so well balanced a game that I couldn’t help but get completely sucked into it. I even wasted dozens of sheets of paper designing my own WipEout ships.
Now, after several sequels on several consoles, we have WipEout HD, a PS3 exclusive available only from the online PlayStation Store. It’s straight up classic WipEout, as pure, simple and addictive as it could possibly be. All the original teams are there, plus a couple of new ones, and the ships have undergone some design improvements over the years, but their shapes and color schemes will be very familiar, even to those such as myself who only played the very first WipEout game.
The teams are all extraordinarily well balanced. Each ship has its own stats for top speed, acceleration, handling and shields, making every one a unique experience to pilot, and every race a matter of skill rather than luck. I’m glaring at you, Mario Kart. Fuck your rubber band AI.
WipEout’s weapon and pickup system is a shining example of how to do pickups right in a racing game. I’ll be comparing it to Mario Kart because that’s an example of how to do it completely and utterly wrong.
In Mario Kart games, if you’re winning, you will get bananas (used as mines) and only bananas, to slip up the people behind you. Bananas are practically useless and easy to avoid, so these do you little to no good. However, the person in last place is guaranteed to get Stars, Bullet Bills, Lightning, and the ever infuriating Leader Shell, all of which will FUCK your shit up.. So, right off the bat, the Mario Kart games reward the players who suck the most, and punish those who dare to be learn how to play it well. This makes it indescribably frustrating to play Mario Kart in any competitive sense.
In WipEout, however, all pickups are entirely random. You could get something defensive, or offensive, regardless of whether you’re first, last, or somewhere in the middle. If you decide that the item you got is useless to you, you can choose to sacrifice it in order to recharge your shields, so if you get a Quake in first place, you can just get rid of it and recharge your shields to help you survive a few more impacts. I’ve never once gotten frustrated when playing WipEout, simply because it has a fair pickup system and the AI is consistent.
Alright, I’ve said my piece and got some shit off my chest about Mario Kart, I’ll get back to the review now.
It’s good to see that the WipEout franchise has stayed true to its roots and hasn’t changed much at all, apart from some simple fine-tuning. It still looks, feels and handles like the original WipEout, except now it’s in glorious 1080p resolution at 60 frames per second, which is the only thing I have ever wanted in my entire life. It’s safe to say it’s all downhill for me from here on out.
The game’s music is still all techno and electronica, which further adds to the futuristic and fast-paced theme of the game, and the tracks are still high-speed, sharp-cornered, bright, neon, epilepsy-inducing blurs that are the cause for the biggest, most intense and frankly worrying health warning message I’ve ever seen in a video game, which served only to increase my excitement when I first loaded it up. Here’s a photo I took of it (sorry, using my TV tuner is just such a hassle):
This game is so awesome it might make you convulse. I’ve heard the game was delayed because it originally failed epilepsy testing. In my opinion that only makes it more awesome. Any game with the ability to physically harm you must be pretty god damn intense.
It’s worth mentioning that any long-time fans of the WipEout series won’t really be getting anything new from WipEout HD. The game’s tracks are all from the PSP WipEout games (WipEout Pulse and WipEout Pure) and the teams and ships have essentially been the same ever since the very first game, with the occasional inclusion of a new team or two. However, the expansion pack WipEout Fury adds eight new tracks and new, improved versions of all the ships.
Still, WipEout HD felt new to me. Even though the controls and appearance were familiar, it had been so long since I’d played a WipEout game that I had to re-learn everything. It felt like learning to ride a bike for the first time without stabilizer wheels. A really bitchin’ bike with a jet engine that hovers and can fire missiles.
The only major change that I noticed was the addition of at least one new game mode since the original WipEout. There’s now a survival mode where you score points based on how long you can keep going before your ship eventually slams into a wall too hard and explodes, tournament modes, and of course your standard time trial modes. It also has 8 player online multiplayer. Yeah, I guess those are all pretty vanilla, but they’re still all fun in their own ways. The game’s standard campaign mode is pretty substantial and requires you to complete almost 90 different challenges across the game’s different courses, all with different goals. For any achievement whores out there, there’s a lot of different trophies to go for, several of which will take a lot of practice and skill.
I’d go as far as saying that, based on the price and quality of WipEout HD, it’s by far one of the PS3’s best available games. It’s less than half the price of most games, and in my opinion more than double the quality. You just don’t get value like this very often. If you’re into the racing genre, do yourself a favor and download WipEout HD. It’s worth it, and you’ll probably get months of fun out of it.
Final playtime: Ongoing, I’ll be coming back to this game for a long time.
Final verdict: A-