The first Wipeout game, developed by Liverpool-based studio Psygnosis with a team headed by lead designer Nick Burcombe and artist Jim Bowers
, was a trailblazer when it unleashed upon the scene in mid-1995. More specifically, this period is right
when the PS1 unveiled itself, with the game’s launch being day-and-date in PAL regions and only two months after for Americans, to prominently exhibit what Sony’s latest 3D console was capable of. Stunning art/color direction and pristine modeling with aplomb, alongside other showings such as its different yet similar approach of the racing scene at the time thanks to influences from titles like Jim Bowers' own Matrix Marauders, Michael Powell's Powerdrome, and of course Tadashi Sugiyama & Hideki Konno’s Super Mario Kart; Sheffield’s Designers Republic-aided art decos
and other projected adverts such as an infamous magazine page concerning DJ Sara Cox
; a helping hand under a CGI quasi-promo showcase found in the cult film Hackers
; and being yet another stepping stone for the bustling, increasingly reaching techno music from Europe/Midwest America largely composed in-house by Tim “CoLD SToRAGE” Wright
, was one of several sparks to drum up and lure consumers onto the new kid in town, even after ports to other systems such as Windows, Saturn, uh Windows, again,
and oh hey it’s on the web too
, all coupled by unearthed development turmoils from the past
and the now
. It’s not quite
the must play racing title amongst its contemporaries, its contents rather meek with physics to grow inure unto and obstacles to endure over, but its credit is fully earned while still delivering some solid racing experience today.
Wipeout XL, or Wipeout 2097 for PAL peeps, came out about a year later and really amped it up: tighter controls alongside a more sensible “beginners to pros” outline of team selections, a fair bit more content for single or multi action, more licensed songs from heavy hitting artists such as The Prodigy
, Future Sound Of London
, and Chemical Brothers
just to name but a few, and a much, much more potent and stronger line of courses to cruise and ram yourself into. If the first game was “merely” good, the second one’s just an all-out heavy hitter that’s able to stand toe-to-toe even today. Something something Wipeout 64 yadda yadda interesting idea to remix the prior entries with subpar execution blah blah not worth it and also F-Zero X came out much, much
earlier. Close to a consolidation change into becoming Studio Liverpool at the turn of the millennium, we focus our eyes on the sublime, the third game now being handled from newish branch Leeds Studio where designer Wayne Imlach led production
An immediate alteration at first blush is the change between XL’s charged, in-your-face presentation to a more minimalistic approach befitting the Y2K aesthetic that was taking off at the time. UI and icons sprinkled onto the raceways are much more low-key in their nature, a design philosophy artist Nicky Wescott has unveiled as intentional to befit that of a fashion statement
. Tracks still harken to a colder feel, although this time it’s all set within a singular metropolis with different quadrants each track is regulated under, such as the docks of Porto Karo, the industrial-fueled Hi-Fumii, and the rooftop-run skyline under the moonlight courtesy of Manortop. It’s not just the UI, tracks, the boxart, or even being one of a handful of PS1 entries that support widescreen that forgoed the bombastic look of before, even the soundtrack has accommodated unto the stripped-back approach, now organized by rising DJ Sasha. Though the hardcore loops
and big beat cold cuts
have remained, it’s now living in coexistence amongst tracks that opt to delve into melodic trances
and progressing more on the House side of electronica
. It’s been expanded, yet never letting go of its marked influences. Truthfully, I can’t tell you whether or not this is an improvement from the sounds provided by XL. They aim for different appeal, and in both cases they hit the target with precise ease. Forced to pick, though, and I’m going with the trances.
In terms of the presentation’s other facets, this should be brought up in terms of the best looking and best sounding PS1 titles in the console’s history. I understand a lot of the heavy-lifting is due to its late release, but seriously, I adore how the team managed to utilize the minimalistic UI and aircraft designs with ambitious scale and detail. You got Mega Mall with its multi-level complexes and onlooking pedestrians as you go through a downward corkscrew and other opened facilities, Stanza Inter’s grey-splotted district juxtaposed by its yellow-lit tunnels with blues and reds pointing towards the buildings and adverts, the afternoon bliss of P-Mar Project with trees having their petals fall as you screech towards its four banks, there’s just so much put on display and making the most out of the hardware I’m shocked I haven’t seen anyone point it out before. That’s not even mentioning the harsh thumps on the walls, or the scrapes that occurs when just barely
making it around the obstacles that lay before you, or the boosts and weapons hitting their mark, or even the sound of the menu being affected by where you’re currently at
. Special points goes to the announcer lady, hearing her lowly hum ENGAGED
, and more is sweetly therapeutic.
Purely on feel, all the anti-gravity crafts have been tweaked to perfection when compared to previous drivers, carefully balancing their heft as well as the ability to smoothly swerve around corners, heightening the sensation factor of going as fast as you possibly can before someone or something sends knocks your kilos off. Air drifting has been the slickest it’s been as well, always consistent with the amount of taps I bring to the shoulder buttons to narrowly shift weight before coming into contact with the rails and bumpers. Being able to obtain a faux-damage boost from hitting the wall in just
the right angle never gets old, as is using the hyperthrust feature in exchange for lowered shield energy to speed by foes right when they least expect it, or gaining major air bonus in either legit manners
or in attempted humor
. Shifting the nose up or down for either a slow brake to prepare for ramp jumping and angling, or perhaps crashing on down back to the road and using downward slopes to get a bit of a rush. It also helps that the four starting teams with four unlockables coming out are tuned to such a degree that I have no doubt you’d be able to find a favorite somewhere here. Personally, I’m a Qirex, Icaras, and Pirhana (yes that’s how it’s spelt here) type of guy; just the right amount of weight for each needs with a lower-than-average shield count, all made up thanks to quick acceleration and record-high km/h. Getting all of this right takes some practice - you WILL continuously bump into walls and fuck up corners, trust me - but after time you’ll be zooming through those that gave you trouble with relative ease, and it’s always such a good comeback feeling.
While I mentioned the look of the courses, their layout is addictive and easily the best roster the series has dished out up to this point. I don’t think I’ve been so motivated to improve my time and find all sorts of little saves since I touched Jak X last year, which was already a damn good title on its own
. I already mentioned most of them, but even my lesser favorites such as Terminal and Sampa Run have their own appeal in either look or adrenaline-pumping draw. And that’s just the main courses for general singles and challenge tourneys, there’s also the prototype ones to uncover that I plan on doing myself. There’s a lot on offer and honestly, I’m tempted to get them from this point forward, albeit on my off days and not as a continued manner.
The scale doesn’t stop there though, because after the initial launch it’s got two sorts of revisions. Of the two is the more popular Wipeout 3 Special Edition, released in 2000 only in PAL regions, containing minor stat and visual tweaks, AI bugfixes, streamlined menu navigation along with autosaving and autoloading, four-person multiplayer action with the Link Cable peripheral and the necessary two PS1 + two TV set combo, plus more courses, even containing three from the first game and five from XL. There is, however, an important info to share: aircraft physics have been significantly overhauled to be even faster and looser than before, and while it’s appreciated in making Vector class races dart by quicker, it becomes way more troublesome on Rapier where the Pirhana team vehicle reaches breakneck speed, requiring more practice and finesse before you can really handle it. This also means having to adapt the old tracks with W3SE’s vehicle physics, putting more time and effort on deck in order to hit those golds and attain a satisfying time trial clock. Not that it matters, though, since the track lineup for this mode is hit-and-miss; I rushing through Gare D’Europa, Talon’s Reach, and Odessa Keys is still just as compelling, and Sagarmatha feels even better to blitz over, but Altima VII, Arridos IV, and Terramax haven’t quite been accommodated with the new physics even on Venom class, with Phenitia Park being even worse off with its annoyingly sharp turns and tight roadways allowing for bumps against the opponents. It’s still doable, no doubt, but if you’re playing this for the first time, I suggest instead going through the initial PAL launch or NA versions, or as a personal recommendation and the version I spent the most time on when writing this review, the Japanese release. No, legit, released prior to SE but after the PAl and NA copies, it was the one that first introduced all the benefits SE sans the throwback courses and some visual tweaks, plus the physics is the perfect middle ground between float and heft instead of leaning towards one or the other, making it a smoother transition from XL
and 64 for those that have been dipping in, or just the series in general for newcomers. No matter which iteration you settle on, though, I have no doubt you’ll be under its spell as one of the best racing titles you’ll ever get to experience.
It’s a shame the IP more or less got treated as a B-grade hitter for Sony, ever since 3 received comparatively low sales likely from launching right at the end of the PS1’s lifespan, and Wipeout Fusion being treated with mixed reception from fans. There’s also the fact that Sony didn’t uh, really market it following those two entries. I certainly didn’t know this franchise continued on growing up, having missed out on the ACTUALLY RATHER POPULAR
PSP titles Pure and Pulse, the digital-only (with a lone physical release in Europe) Wipeout HD which is a collection of the prior two on the PS3, and Wipeout 2048, the Vita title that I think is self-explanatory as to why that one didn’t do so hot. All of this, unfortunately, has culminated in the collapse of Studio Liverpool
in 2012, throwing two shared ideas in the bin
as well. Not helping was, from what I can look into, the dwindling spotlight on the arcade racing genre as a whole, with several franchises either becoming MIA like F-Zero, Project Gotham, and Outrun, or beginning to fade away like Ridge Racer, Burnout, and Midnight Club, with each new attempt to revitalize the genre being overlooked (I believe Blur would be a good example, quickly becoming a cult classic due to various factors). Admittedly, I’m just becoming a racing fan myself after all these years, so I’m still pretty green around the ears in some regard, but I also don’t think it’s all that
wrong to note how sim-style open world laid racing titles have become for several years, especially with Forza and Gran Turismo hitting the charts as strongly as ever. To ease up on the bitterness, it’s not like I can really blame them
for the shifting change of the landscape - especially since I have a couple of GT and Forza titles myself to chew on - and if nothing else, there was a bit of a miracle release made for the PS4: Wipeout Omega Collection, containing Wipeout HD, its DLC expansion Fury, and 2048. I’ve only lightly invested my time into this release, but it’s definitely an interesting release that I can’t wait to sink into down the line, especially in 1080p/60fps, even reaching up to 4K on the Pro… huh? A recent title came out and it’s for mobile devices? Nah man that can’t be right, you’re pullin my leg here! Next you’re gonna follow up by saying it’s some weird card management game with microtransactions and a rarity system, that sounds really dumb.