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Following on from the PSP's Wipeout Pulse at the end of last year, the series is now set to make its debut on PS3 with Wipeout HD...
The Wipeout series is synonymous with Sony's PlayStation consoles. Following its heyday on the first PlayStation console, the series' birth on the PS2 wasn't quite as warm. Nevertheless, since 2005 the franchise has made a home for itself on the PSP, topping a list of fairly average launch titles for the handheld with Wipeout Pure, while Wipeout Pulse followed just a few months ago.
In many ways, Wipeout HD is a culmination of what these two titles offered on the PSP, spruced up with sharp HD visuals that at least stretch the muscles of the PS3's fearsome capabilities. There are the same event types on offer, the usual style of tracks, and more or less the same weapon inventory that we've seen previously. These are then packaged into the usual single-player Campaign, an online multiplayer offering, and the rudimentary custom event option.
In terms of originality, Wipeout HD certainly doesn't appear as if it's anything to write home about. The event types take the form of single races, two types of time trial (one with a total accumulated time for a number of laps, and another where the fastest lap counts), and finally the exhilarating Zone events where your speed increases on each completed lap and you have to survive as long as possible before your craft takes too much damage. However, all of these event types have been offered in one way or another on the PSP games.
Nevertheless, this lack of originality doesn't make the game any less fun than it previously has been. At this stage in development, the visuals certainly appear to up the ante where sheer enjoyment is concerned, while a couple of other gameplay tweaks work alongside the graphics to make everything feel that little bit smoother. One example of this is the airbrakes, which have been gradually improved since Wipeout Pure to offer a slightly less jarring experience. Nudges of the airbrake now move your craft into a much more gradual breaking move. As a result, it now banks smoothly into the corners, thereby drawing a line under the overly sensitive airbrakes of previous iterations.
It's a shame, however, that Studio Liverpool haven't yet decided to provide the option of grafting airbrake controls onto the SIXAXIS' motion controls. Instead, the only motion control option in the preview build we've played is for steering and pitch, which has the usual dire and instantly ignorable effects. We really hope that more developers will start using the SIXAXIS' motion controls for secondary, rather than primary controls at some point during the PS3's lifecycle. The SIXAXIS' sensitivity to motion is simply too high for a primary control such as steering or aiming, for example. The motion controls have worked really well with less important commands (such as the aftertouch in Heavenly Sword), so why not try using them for features like that more often?
Other than that it's the usual weapons (guns, rockets, earthquakes, temporary shields, bombs, mines, and boosts etc.) and the same gameplay dynamics that have now become established in the series (e.g. imparting mid-air barrel roles over jumps to get a boost). Again, these are rollickingly good fun all the same and it has been genuinely exhilarating to get back into the sweaty seat of a Wipeout craft once more, but we always like to see new and original features in a game here at TVG and we haven't seen any in Wipeout HD so far.
The tracks are as vibrantly colourful and insightfully futuristic as we've come to expect from Studio Liverpool. The speed that your craft veers through them is also the same adrenaline-pumping affair. Once again, however, there's every chance that Wipeout HD will be about the same speed as its PSP predecessors unless Studio Liverpool increases the pace at a later stage in development.
The game is shaping up to set itself apart from Pure and Pulse with its graphics, although to say that they are "next-gen" would be a little bit of an over statement. They don't look as if a team of developers has vomited blinding HDR lighting and other next-gen visual effects all over the place before sitting back to admire their handiwork. However, this doesn't necessarily harm Wipeout HD, which is looking stunning enough with the much crisper HD visuals and the enhanced environments that the PS3 can offer. At one point, we circled a loop-the-loop that let-off small bolts of electricity to stick us on the track - it looked damn cool.
Sound has always been a strongpoint of Wipeout games and Wipeout HD is no exception. The preview build we played pounded out an array of trance tracks that had an uncanny knack of always being in time with the pace of the race. Forget nightclubs and recreational drugs... the adrenaline rush of Wipeout HD and the accompanying soundtrack are certainly enough for us.
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