|System: PS3 (PSN)||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: SCE Studios Liverpool||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: SONY||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Sep. 25, 2008||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-8||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Everyone 10+||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Jason Lauritzen
The WipEout franchise is synonymous with Sony. Sure, a quick fact check of the series' history will turn up platform excursions - the futuristic racer made appearances on the SEGA Saturn and Nintendo 64, for example - but ever since the 1995 PlayStation original made a lasting impression, with its super-clean, European aesthetic, memorable techno soundtrack, and weapon-filled racing, gamers have associated it with Sony's gaming box.
Instead of churning out a direct sequel, Sony Liverpool took a different approach: WipEout HD is a download-only remake on the previous two PSP games. It may have met constant delays during its development - ranging from the typical, such as fine tuning code, to strange epilepsy concerns - but it is finally here. So, here's the question: Does this digital title deliver? At $20 it is easily the best value on the PlayStation Network and a marriage of stellar presentation and addictive gameplay.
Campaign mode is where you'll spend the majority of your time. Circuits are split up into a series of challenges that range from speed and time trials, to zone mode and single races. Earning medals at each event will net you unlock points that then go toward unlocking the next circuit as well as new ships and tracks. True to WipEout style, you'll find it smooth sailing at first. Grabbing gold and silver medals over the first two circuits is quite easy, but once you hit the third circuit, you'll find that the understandably crushing difficulty that marked past entries in the series is still alive and well.
One reason the difficulty is understandable is because it is an outcome of track design. You will play tracks over-and-over again in an attempt to learn every winding curve and boost pad location. Early on you can slam into the occasional wall and even miss several boost pads and still grab the gold. Later on this is unacceptable; the difficulty skews toward the veteran who has invested time in learning the lay of the land. Miss just one boost pad and you'll sink to the back of the pack.
Track memorization is just an aspect of the difficulty equation - putting the proper ship mechanics into play is what separates the pros from the newcomers. Using the airbrakes - which don't actually "brake" you but rather sharply change your angle of approach - takes some getting used to. To accommodate newcomers the developers included a pilot assist option. If your ship gets too close to a wall the system engages and guides your racer away from dangerous curves. The inclusion of this option, in effect, puts an easy toggle on the racing - at least from a navigation standpoint. Seasoned players will find themselves turning it off, as it removes some difficulty and makes sharp turn approaches an impossibility.
It wouldn't be a WipEout game without an impressive set of futuristic weapons and HD is no exception. Series staples like autopilot, shields, rockets, and missiles all return. They don't come across as recycles because if they were taken out, the weapon set would feel incomplete. Plus, they look visually impressive and are part of the overall strategy. Nailing an opponent with a missile right before he jets over the finishing line still is satisfying and firing off a quake, letting it ripple through the track like a tsunami, is an impressive sight. You can absorb weapons and gain shield power and the nice thing is that the system is adaptive, based on your current armament. If you pick up the cannon (which holds 30 rounds), you can fire off 15 and absorb the other half, putting them toward your shield power.