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Retina busting racing returns to the Playstation in lovely crisp HD...
Following numerous delays and dogged by suggestions of failed epilepsy tests, SCEE Studio Liverpool's Wipeout resurrection on the home consoles is finally upon us and will be hitting the PlayStation Store this week exclusively.
Attributed with making the first PlayStation a success and in no small way making videogames cool, in recent years Wipeout has fallen somewhat from its once lofty perch. Reserved for handheld outings in the last few years and facing little in the way of competition in the futuristic racer stakes, we eagerly took to the track hoping that the Wipeout magnetism still manages to keep us hooked to the track.
Quite quickly the memories come flooding back and it's like 1995 all over again. The crucial necessity to memorise each individual track layout, the delicate touch on the airbrakes that's required, leading into corners ahead of the actual turn... it's all still as good as it was back in 1995.
Out of any of Sony's first-party titles Wipeout is perhaps the most deserving of a HD remake. The stylised futuristic designs, the neon traces, the smattering of modish logos all look exceptional in crisp clear HD and perhaps results in the most stylish evolution of a series we've seen that has graced all PlayStation generations (just don't mention Fusion). That clarity also benefits the game as it's easier to recognise the track that lies ahead of you - a key technique to master if you want to get anywhere with Wipeout.
Wipeout HD is unashamedly hardcore. If you're fed up to the back teeth of nice and simple games that your granny can play, than Wipeout HD is really what you need. There's a zone that certain games require you to enter before being able to master them, Wipeout HD defines this zone and with some of the most trip-inducing visuals and unwavering gameplay we can easily see why Liverpool Studios might have had a problem or two with epilepsy concerns. Don't play this game before trying to get some sleep, like a good double-shot espresso, Wipeout HD keeps your pulse thumping and your mind stimulated.
Grouped into eight different stages each comprising various different events, Wipeout HD employs the grid structure used previously in Pulse. All of the events that feature have made an appearance in previous Wipeout titles, which ensures there's a satisfying sense of variation. For some reason Eliminator hasn't been included, although this is offset slightly by the fact that the ultra-cool Zone is present in all its ever-increasing tempo glory.
On the weapon front Wipeout HD sees the return of many fan-favourites and staple classics. Thankfully the balance between combat and racing is skewed towards the latter, which means unlike the Mario Kart series weapons won't necessarily be the cause between winning or loosing an event, it's more about your skill as a pilot. The exhilarating and brilliantly implemented Barrel Loop makes a return, allowing you to gain a small speed boost after a jump by sacrificing a small amount of energy. In addition a double tap of the airbrakes allows you to jump lanes with the Side Shift manoeuvre. On face value it's a good idea, but if you've grown up with Wipeout you may find yourself completely forgetting that it even exists and rueing the missed opportunity as you slam into a series of mines or loose the last smidgeon of energy by crashing into the back of an opponent.
Given that Wipeout HD is a PSN title and a tidied up compendium of the previous two PSP titles, it's not too disappointing to find that the eight tracks are all remastered versions of those featured in Pure and Pulse. Besides, track designs are still some of the most inventive you'll find in a racer and take full advantage of its futuristic setting with plenty of jumps, zero-g loops and sheer vertical drops thrown into the mix.
But... something has changed and we feel a little deflated that Studio Liverpool had to include it.
Wipeout has always been a series that prides itself on its blistering sense of speed and intense difficulty. Although that's there and present, particularly by the time you've reached the Phantom levels and you're travelling at speeds in excess of 700km/h, the inclusion of Pilot Assist is laughable. Essentially working in the same manner as the gutter barriers in 10-pin bowling, Pilot Assist is for those that have no skill whatsoever. Nudging the player away from the catastrophic edges of the track, you can tell that some bigwig at SCEE has insisted that the Liverpool team follow the trend of making games more "accessible" to a wider audience in the hope of selling a few more copies. The effect is, as we've said pretty lame for anybody who enjoyed the series. It detracts from the very core of what makes Wipeout what it is, but on a positive side at least it's an option and you can enjoy Wipeout HD in beautiful ignorance that the option even exists.
Using their past experience with Wipeout Pulse, online play makes an appearance in Wipeout HD. Offering support for up to eight players there's little that's particularly noteworthy, but provided the same level of quality can be maintained after release than this option really does make Wipeout HD an essential PSN purchase. Studio Liverpool has also used the time during the many delays to include an offline two-player splitscreen mode, which should please a lot of PS3 owners who never bother to take the console online.
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