From Psygnosis to R8 Games – A Wipeout Retrospective

Those who are old enough will remember Psygnosis fondly, as a developer and publisher who brought us games such as the Formula 1 series, Lemmings, Rollcage, Colony Wars, Destruction Derby, G-Police, Shadow of the Beast — the list is endless! But what sticks in the minds of many is the Wipeout series.

Wipeout 2048

Psygnosis was known to be a publishing giant in the 1980’s and the early 1990’s. Sony wanted to enter the console market and push into the European market so they acquired Psygnosis. An unusual relationship with Sony allowed Psygnosis to continue to publish games for other developers, however during this time they created a new game for the PlayStation One which had similarities to F-Zero. In 1995, the first 3D Anti-Gravity title, WipE’out”, was born.

This retrospective will purely focus on Wipeout for PlayStation consoles, why the team started a new studio, who R8 Games are, and how they’re new game plans to continue the Wipeout legacy.


In 1995 WipE’out” took the AG racing genre to another level. Each track was fully 3D with undulations forcing players to plan ahead and truly get to know the courses; not only that but because of the AG mechanic, the tracks were able to twist and bend like no other racing game before it. Only 1988’s Powerdrome (the first AG racing title) had undulating tracks, but due to limitations in processing power they were only loops.

Wipeout PlayStation One

The tracks weren’t the only thing to make players gasp at the amazement of the overall design, the vehicles were also extremely well designed and handled very differently from one team to the next.

While F-Zero and Powerdrome preceded WipE’out”, those two titles were just pure racers. WipE’out” added a feature that truly added a new dynamic to the AG racing genre: weapons. Perhaps borrowed from other racing games, the weapons were very inventive ranging from Shields and Rockets all the way up to an Auto Pilot and Missiles.

The game unfortunately suffered from a limited amount of tracks (seven in total) and teams (four in total). You were able to choose a pilot, however the stats were always based on the team’s vehicle. Another issue with the game was that it was very unforgiving; if you happened to hit the side of the track then your vehicle would often go to a complete halt. Other than that the game itself was a massive success.

What made the racing even more fun and heart pounding was the soundtrack. CoLD SToRAGE did the majority of the soundtrack and from then on the WipE’out” series was expected to produce a soundtrack that rivalled the previous instalment. The soundtrack was so popular that the game was set up in nightclubs across the land!

This would become the start of something special for years to come.


WipE’out” 2097

Only a year after the original was released, WipE’out” 2097 had a lot to live up to. Many improvements were made over the original and the game became much more forgiving, but that also brought with it a new dynamic.

Wipeout 2097

Instead of unforgiving track walls, this time the vehicles did not slow down as much unless you really clattered them, instead you would skim off the sides allowing for a smoother racing experience. This allowed for the racing to be much faster and fluid. And what happens when the racing is much faster and you approach a corner? Well, you’re going to hit the wall dead on.

Unlike before where the air brakes weren’t very useful and only slowed you down significantly, this time the airbrakes were more effective when turning your vehicle. While turning (if you hit the respective airbrake) then your vehicle would do a much tighter turn whilst keeping a lot of the speed before you reached the corner.

A new weapon was introduced into the series called the Quake Disruptor. This weapon would send shock waves all around the track starting from your vehicle and slow everyone down to a crawl. With the introduction to damage in WipE’out” 2097 (absent in WipE’out”), this made racing even more tactical and knowing when to use your weapon, but with the Quake Disruptor.

Much like F-Zero, if your energy reached zero then your vehicle would be destroyed. To regain energy the player must move into a certain path or lane before entering the start and finish straight, here the player flies over a recharging station and the longer they stay in this station then the more energy they are given back.

Also added into the game is a challenge mode where the player must always finish first in order to continue to the next round with the ultimate goal of winning on all of the tracks by placing first. To prevent the player repeating the tracks over and over if they failed, they were given lives to make the challenge even more difficult.

CoLD SToRAGE returned to the soundtrack of the game but with much less influence. On PlayStation the soundtrack only had two tracks from CoLD SToRAGE, however for the Windows and the Saturn release the entire soundtrack was produced by CoLD SToRAGE. What was included in the PlayStation release were bands that were topping the charts in the UK such as Underworld, The Chemical Brothers, and Prodigy.

Much like the first game, WipE’out” 2097 also did not incorporate a split screen multiplayer mode which is lauded as the only negative problem for the game; instead multiplayer was handled the same way as before via a link up cable.

WipE’out” 2097 is still widely regarded as one of, if not the best, futuristic racing title to date.


Coming off the back of WipE’out” 2097 and wipeout 64 (for the Nintendo 64), Wip3out took another leap forward for the series, but this time instead of gameplay mechanics, it was made to really push the graphical fidelity of the PlayStation.

Wipeout 3

The developers took the game much further in terms of content than ever before too. There were three new teams making a grand total of eight, six secret prototype tracks and 16 main tracks, giving a grand total of 22 tracks!

A new gameplay mechanic allowed players to race in cockpit view too, while past iterations only allowed for a front mounted camera. This camera would tilt with the vehicle and you could see inside the cockpit, and would also slightly point in the direction of the corner too to create an authentic feel to the races.

But what really pushed the boundaries was The Designers Republic’s fusion of their unique art style and Japanese pop-esque visuals mixed with the raw metal of the urban environments that really made the game and tracks feel more believable than ever before. Not only that but the crisp visuals in both the menus and the game itself showed what Wipeout really wanted to be. The much higher resolution also helped with the clarity of the visuals and that extra sense of speed too.

The gameplay itself never changed much from WipE’out” 2097 and this was the biggest criticism of the game, but as the controls were largely similar to WipE’out” 2097, it made getting into the game much easier than before and allowed others to simply jump straight in. However, the game also became more punishing than ever before. As Sony released the DualShock controller, Psygnosis decided to use the analogue sticks in order to control the movement of your vehicle with more accuracy.

While this did take some time to get used to, it allowed for a more streamlined experience with even more fluid flying than before.

Going through the campaigns became much harder because of the Artificial Intelligence, during each campaign. It started off easy but then you suddenly hit a cliff of difficulty forcing players to practice each vehicle and each track until they truly perfected it.

The game was not well received among critics and did not sell very well, possibly due to the difficulty of the game?

Despite these two issues was it such a bad decision to keep the game generally the same as WipE’out” 2097? Considering that it handled so well and forgave players more than in the original, you would have thought that sticking with the WipE’out” 2097 handling would have sufficed. Some reviewers actually did like that fact that it was more of the same WipE’out” 2097.

Whichever stance you took, the game was extremely well put together and one that really pushed the boundaries of an ageing system while incorporating the best parts of the originals.


The Formation of R8 Games

In 2000, Sony finally dissolved the publishing portion of Psygnosis by merging it into Sony Computer Entertainment Europe, and only a year later the Psygnosis branding eventually disappeared along with that famous owl logo we’ve got to know. Sony renamed Psygnosis into Sony Studio Liverpool which is where the remainder of the Wipeout games were developed until Sony Studio Liverpool’s eventual demise in 2014.

During the takeover in 2001, the feel of the company changed to become a lot more corporate thus creating an uneasy atmosphere. This is something that seems very common when development studios are taken over, and it seems that it was no exception at Psygnosis. When the Psygnosis staff were thinking that some of the decisions were a bit crazy, they used a codeword as “awrate”, thus whenever it was said the management didn’t understand their sarcastic comment.

As Sony were culling staff (as what often happens with takeovers), some of the original developers decided to turn “awrate” into “R8” so that they had a small extended family in order to keep in touch with each other. As a new development studio naming themselves as “R8 Games”, they had a new IP with Acclaim Entertainment as the publisher, however Acclaim declared bankruptcy in 2004 leaving the studio without any money to continue the game.

The team was eventually split up and they ended up working on other unrelated projects, however last year they decided to reform the R8 Games team. With Sony closing Sony Studio Liverpool in 2014 and the last Wipeout game being in 2012 for the PlayStation Vita, now was the best time to have the revival of the AG racing genre with the original team behind the Wip3out tracks.

Thus Formula Fusion was born.

Formula Fusion the next Wipeout?

With such a well-known pedigree already involved with R8 Games, including CoLD SToRAGE and The Designers Republic, you can be rest assured that they will continue to bring you the next AG racing game including spectacular visuals and a futuristic electronic pumping soundtrack.

Starting from that interview and promotional video from last year, Formula Fusion has changed in a way that it will please those wanting another Wipeout experience, but this time for all platforms. The game will go much further than Wipeout ever has and will do.

Formula Fusion is being built from the ground up with eSports in mind. What does this mean for the multiplayer gamer? It means that you will most likely have a larger player base with multiple tournaments, leagues, and perhaps even some competitions. For those that have played iRacing then you might understand the scale of some of these tournaments; this can only be a positive.

Unlike iRacing, Formula Fusion will not be a subscription-based title, it will be much like any other retail copy with the user only needing to purchase a copy instead. What will this mean regarding updates such as new tracks and vehicles or other things? I would imagine a good old fashioned expansion pack. Being an eSports game will mean that Formula Fusion will need to be frequently updated and have frequent content packs available.

As R8 Games heralds some of the original designers from the Psygnosis Wipeout games, the track selection, ship design, and core gameplay will be on par with what we remember.

There is something that people need to keep in mind, even though this game is using Wipeout as a spiritual successor — the game is not Wipeout. The universe is different, the tracks are different, and everything is different. This allows for a nice clean slate to work from and allow for the designers to look at more fresh ideas for the genre.

The game is currently being Kickstarted with a realistic initial goal that will shortly be met, however for those PlayStation fans wanting a similar Wipeout racing experience then the stretch goal will need to be met, which is currently set at £350,000.

R8 Games will be starting their Test Pilot Programme pre-alpha release shortly so we will soon know what their potential vision for the game will be. Stay posted as I will be bringing you as much footage as possible.

Also on May 19, R8 Games are holding an event at Teesside University which is open to students, the public, and press. Some of the key developers will be there too which will mean that you possibly have the opportunity to get to speak to them directly. You can purchase tickets to the event here.

The event is said to be broadcast as well. There will be multiple PCs set up so that attendees will be able to test out the game on a first come first serve basis (it will be limited). So, if you want to try out the game then make sure to get there early!

Stay tuned for more updates on everything Formula Fusion.

Formula Fusion Kickstarter
Formula Fusion Reddit
R8 Games Facebook
R8 Games Twitter
R8 Games Website
R8 Games and Formula Fusion live event (Eventbrite)