HD is the new 64, as WipEout returns to a home console in this high definition homage to the WipEout PSP titles, Pure and Pulse.
WipEout has not appeared on a home console since the controversial WipEout Fusion on the PlayStation 2, so it’s great to see the series back where it originated. WipEout HD is basically a high defintion compilation of WipEout Pure and WipEout Pulse, with tracks and teams introduced in each game, and the return of the ‘grid’ system from Pulse.
First things first, the game looks absolutely gorgeous. The vehicle models are incredible, the textures look fantastic, and there is a wide array of vibrant colours that absolutely overshadow the muddy brown colour pallets of a lot of recent games. The tracks have been beautifully remade, with a particularly noticeable point being near the beginning of the Pure track, Sol 2. Coming around the first bend you make a majestic left curve off the boost pad, and the rest of the track sprawls out below you, with clouds lazily floating through the twists and turns. A nano-second later, you’re being pelted with missiles and bashed into by hover cars and crashed back into reality.
Speaking of reality, the game gets very, very fast, even on the the third speed class, Rapier. By the time you’re up to Phantom class, you have barely enough time to think between dodging ships, setting up for the next curve, and deciding whether to use your weapon or drop it in favor of shield energy.
The game mechanics remain true to the WipEout series. Air-braking is absolutely pertinent to flawless track navigation. The faster the game becomes, the more you’ll find yourself reaching for the air-brakes, handily located on the shoulder triggers. Being analogue, this lends itself well to precise movements, and the sensitivity of the triggers can be dialed down from the default setting to suit your tastes.
Along with the normal controls, Studio Liverpool has shoehorned in some motion controls for both steering and the pitch when you’re in the air, with the pitch controls being usable without the steering. Both seem a bit like an afterthought, with the steering controls having the same problem as all other racing games. As there aren’t any neutral or end points like in a steering wheel accessory (or an actual car), you have to invest some serious time learning the nuances of the motion controls before they’re any fun. At 600 kilometers an hour, this is quite difficult.
The weapons are the same as the PSP games; mines, bombs, leech beams, avalanches, and so on are littered as pick-ups throughout the courses. None of them are overpowered or game breaking, other than using the boost to get through or jump over large sections. Usually, said track jumping antics are reserved for time attacks, as you cannot count on getting the turbo at the right point in other modes.
The music is worth mentioning, the traditional techno techno is present and accounted for and sounds great, but you can also use custom playlists from your PS3. So don’t worry, you can listen to your favourite 80s power ballads, because everyone listens to 80s power ballads, right? Either way, the game by default will affect the music when you’re flying through the air off a jump, which is a subtle but appreciated touch.
Regarding online, lag is not apparent, and players are ‘ghosted’ for the first few moments of a race. The latter feature is likely to combat lag and instant deaths at the beginning of the race. There’s still the general online racing game problem of people leaving if they’re losing, but there’s not much the developers could have done about that. Even with the prior problem, online play is still an enjoyable and appreciated aspect of the game.
One thing that is absent from the game is four-player splitscreen. This absence has been attributed to the developers not wanting to sacrifice the overall graphical fidelity for smooth framerates with more then two players racing together locally. F-Zero X and F-Zero GX had similar problems, with X infamously sacrificing track side scenery for stability. GX got around the four player problem by removing the track side scenery only in four players, but obviously the developers did not want to do this. Thus we’re left with two-player splitscreen, which is admittedly still great fun with a friend.
The review set up for this game was a 60-inch, high definition projection running at 1080i, with a 5.1 surround sound system, so the experience was epic. But the game works just fine on bog standard TV with normal sound, although like most next-gen games, a high definition set-up does the game proper justice.
Overall, WipEout HD is a fun, reasonably priced game that shows how much the series deserved a new console outing.