January 17, 2008 – The wipEout franchise has graced the videogame scene since its 1995 release on the original PlayStation. Since then it has established itself as one of the premiere racers available. The futuristic Earth-based setting appeals to many gamers; hence the series enjoys an entrenched fan base that spans the globe. The first release for the PSP, wipEout Pure, was met with rave reviews. After just the first five minutes I spent with wipEout Pulse, I can see why.
wipEout Pulse is going to be another amazing version of the racer from developer Studio Liverpool. The sheer beauty of the title is unparalleled. The menus, race-craft, and tracks all look incredibly crisp. Moreover, the high-speed gameplay not only looks great, but also fluid and glitch free. The sense of speed conveyed while racing is second to none. The game design and careful attention to detail really lends itself to the futuristic feel of the title.
In addition to the fine-tuned look of the game, the original score really enhances the setting. Music tracks include songs from artists such as Mason, Loco Dice, and Stanton Warriors. Speaking of tracks, the developers have included 12 new racing tracks that can be run both forwards and backwards. This provides a lot of racing for both rookies and veterans of the series.
Gameplay is very intuitive. I never played wipEout Pure and still was easily able to negotiate the miniscule learning curve. The game will pit you against seven other racers in a championship series that will have you unlock new tracks and new competitions. The statistical tracking while you’re racing is excellent. I thought it was phenomenal to know not only lap speeds, but also race-craft loyalty and how many laps I’ve raced at specific difficulty levels. This may all sound like simple details, but the details are what will set this title apart from other racers out there.
If you already own wipEout Pure, expect much of the same. However, this time around track design has been modified in some crucial ways. There are now magnetic portions of track that will hold the racer snug to the surface. This allows for greater variety in track design. For example, the developers have introduced new track features such as loops, vertical drops, and 90-degree angled sections. Even if you think you’ve got the wipEout series figured out, wipEout Pulse should keep you guessing.
I was able to try out the Race Campaign, Racebox, and online features. Within these overarching options there will be seven different modes from which to choose. According to SCEA these single and multiplayer game modes will include Single Race, Tournament, Time Trial, Speed Lap, Zone Mode, Elimination, and Head-2-Head.
I really enjoyed the Race Campaign which put me into the middle of a racing championship run. This career mode seems to be very deep with 16 racing grids and two difficulty options including Speed Class and A.I. Difficulty. The speed classes are divided into Venom, Flash, Rapier, and Phantom, while the A.I. difficulty can be set to Easy, Medium, and Hard. The racing grids are subsequently divided into constituent parts. For example, you will race a particular grid that encompasses several tracks. In order to advance out of the grid you will have to compete in a number of competitions. You’ll have to win a few Single Races, beat the Time Trial and the Speed Trial, and take on the Zone Mode. This makes for varied and challenging gameplay.
The Racebox allows you to hone your skills by not only setting race parameters, but also allows you to design and modify your own grids. You can choose from the unlocked tracks available to you, the A.I. difficulty, the speed class, and the race type. Essentially, this means that you’ll be able to create custom content that is incredibly difficult, and then have your buddies try to beat your best times and medals.
Multiplayer competitions will be made possible through a dedicated server as well as through local Ad Hoc and Infrastructure modes. That means you’ll be matched to unknown racers quickly and easily, or you can keep the experience local and take on your friends. In addition to online matching, you will also be able to download content directly to your PSP. You will be able to head to the developers webpage and grab skins, wallpapers, tracks, ships, and more. There’s no word yet as to how much of this content will free, but at least you’ll be able to purchase additional playable content to keep your game fresh. You’ll also be able to enter the Photo-Mode during and after races in order to take a snapshot of your ship and upload it for all to see. The sky’s the limit with this title.
All in all, this game is shaping up to be another classic. The intuitive controls, sleek visuals, futuristic beats, and wide variety of racetracks are sure to please gamers throughout North America when the title ships later this year. This game looks, sounds, and plays like a full-fledged racing title for one of the major console platforms. Thankfully, I’ll be able to output the video signal from my PSP Slim into my flat screen and get big boy enjoyment out of a handheld racer. Look for wipEout Pulse to knock your socks off later this year.