It sounds like the perfect match, the WipEout series – itself an uber-cool franchise of the future – making its way onto Sony’s sleek and sophisticated PSP, and it’s exactly that. WipEout Pure is entirely complementing of the console it plays on; they work off each other to create a truly enjoyable experience. This is classic WipEout in its purest form, this is handheld nirvana.
The WipEout series essentially proved that games weren’t just for geeks – the bedroom coder, the sweaty acne-ridden teenager – but everyone. The techno soundtracks and neon racetracks brought gaming to the mainstream; it gave video game culture the edge it so desperately needed. As you would expect, Pure is as cool as ice, and with the PSP’s extremely vibrant screen and fine exterior mixed with Pure’s superb presentation, it’s also the perfect poster boy for Sony’s system.
Theme WeekThis review is part of our inaugural “theme week” of content. Please click this link for more information!The aesthetics hit home immediately with a slick movie that reminds you what makes WipEout so unique. Geometric shapes and patterns fill the screen, with bold lines of colour covering stunning race-crafts, all while a techno track blares through the speakers – this is as close to 2197 as it gets, and this is before you’ve even touched the gameplay.
The menus are artistically reminiscent of a kind of cyber culture, with inspiration it seems drawn from Tokyo in Japan, and Manga/Anime. Vector shapes and text contrast with a pure white background in a colour scheme of light indigos, candy pinks and bright oranges, it makes selecting an option simple and effortless, just like it should be. Of course there are more skins available if desired, downloadable online, with a range of customisable options to make the game your own.
Options are aplenty, with a range of different single and multiplayer variations on racing. There’s ‘single race’ for if you’re feeling particularly pick up and play, ‘Tournament’ for a more intense race schedule, ‘Time Trial’ for the ghost hungry track perfectionists, ‘Zone’ for a survival based race around a track at ever-increasing speeds of death, and finally ‘Free Play’, a mode essential for if you want to perfect your racing line on an unlimited amount of laps, it’s an ideal place to start. Wireless multiplayer for up to eight players is also in the package, though Pure doesn’t support internet multiplayer.
The actual racing is stellar, and almost exactly the same as the PlayStation iterations. The eight ships all handle with the utmost authenticity, the hovering is as real as can be – you really feel you are racing on air. With every twist and turn your ship floats effortlessly, this really is the product of a confident developer with years of experience. The eight ships are each tuned with specific strengths and weaknesses (Feisar, for example, is more balanced and user-friendly, while ships such as Piranha sacrifice handling for high top speeds.) Each ship handles completely different to the last, so you can be sure you’ll find your perfect partner.
Competition is fierce on the tracks, so every race is filled with excitement and tough rivalries. Studio Liverpool have woven the racing with the gunplay supremely well and there’s a fine balance that doesn’t part Pure into being a weapons heavy racer or, put simply – a racer. The power-ups to be used are varied, in both effectiveness and nature. There are the offensive power-ups such as rockets, or the devastating quake, and then there are the defensive ones like the shield, or mines, not forgetting the essential turbo and autopilot power-ups. If you’re not too happy with a power-up you’ve acquired you can always absorb it into your ships health, which is often necessary – it is a generally vital addition to the gameplay, a small but fantastic feature.
There are eight new tracks to race on, with four more tailored specifically for Zone mode, and then another four – Classic – tracks modeled on those from previous WipEout games. With sixteen tracks in total it’s hard to feel disappointed; however more in the vein of new tracks would have been superb. Downloadable content, however, should easily satiate those who have exhausted the game and are hungry for more.
The tracks are not as geometrically abstract or gravity-defying as those found on the less well received WipEout Fusion, but are nonetheless filled with flair and appeal. They seem to focus more on sharp corners and sections rich in chicanes. The eight new tracks are all uniquely designed, with the settings for each hugely different. The locations include mountains, a coastal city, an urban, cyber-punk inspired metropolis, and even a track that runs in the sky. Tournaments take place over either four or eight track formations, so it’s refreshing to see such changes in course dynamics as you play through. WipEout Pure rarely suffers from repetition; this only goes to highlight the excellent and inspired track design. Unfortunately there’s no ability to save for when you’re in the actual tournaments – an option solely missed, especially in the eight track tournaments.
The classic tracks are decent, but the graphical style of them feels like an opportunity missed since they’re all presented in a Tron-like style to act like the virtual equivalents of the original tracks. It would have been more effective – if only for nostalgia – to keep the original track’s landmarks and environments as they were in their first incarnations, or perhaps include both the original and the re-visualised style tracks. The Zone tracks, meanwhile, feel new and refreshing, with them optimised to be raced through at insane speeds. The visual style is intoxicatingly bright yet minimalist, with a white to cool blue colour scheme that is the very essence of ‘cool gaming’ – in every sense of the word.
The unlocking of new classes to use in the game mean you’ll be revisiting all of the eight new tracks many a time, yet each class makes for a completely new and refreshing race, which now can completely eliminate any fears of repetition. There are five classes – Vector, Venom, Flash, Rapier and Phantom, with Vector the opening class, home to the slowest speeds and simplest competition, and Phantom representing the fastest and most challenging class of the game. There really is a world of difference between each class, and it’s genuinely great fun racing through the courses time and time again but in completely different settings.
The graphics are crisp and detailed, and the PSP’s bright screen makes sure every pixel stands out to perfection. The areas the tracks run through are made alive with excellent lighting and some weather effects like stunning rain that leaves drops on the screen. Neon pulsates in the background of most courses in almost edible candy colours, and animations and explosions are effective. The ships are expertly crafted on-screen, and each ship’s aesthetic is perfectly realised, they all have individual flare in their design. The visuals are so accomplished that they easily compare to most PlayStation 2 games.
The audio is similarly decent, with a great line-up of licensed music from the likes of ‘Tiesto’, ‘Aphex Twin’ and ‘Röyksopp’. The soundtrack delves into the realms of techno, electro and drum and bass, and accompanies the futuristic racing really well. There may not be many well known names in the mix, but the songs do well to create a specific WipEout ‘mood’. The sound of humming engines, blasting missiles, and a robotic voiceover all contribute to evoking this WipEout ‘feel’, the audio is undoubtedly a success.
Like all good franchises, there’s usually a defining factor to them that makes them stand out in the gaming universe. The ‘WipEout’ factor, as it were, is definitely in its sheer style and effortless cool. WipEout Pure is a masterclass in handheld racing, and essential for any PSP owner. Through fantastic visuals, engaging gameplay and some fine audio, Studio Liverpool have delivered a game of remarkable quality. In execution and clarity, WipEout Pure is supremely confident. In sheer levels of enjoyment, it’s a winner through and through.