Review by DemolitionFurby
Intro: Being a ten-year veteran of the Wipeout series, I'm always eager to get my hands on a new installment, but at the same time I'm weary since six years have passed since the last great Wipeout. Right from the get-go, however, this new Wipeout seemed different. Although it's completely new, the developer wisely chose to use Wipeout XL as a lesson on how to make a good Wipeout game. The title, Wipeout Pure, says it all. This is Wipeout how we all love it. With all the unwanted BS stripped away. This is pure Wipeout.
First off, the game is drop dead gorgeous. While most PSP games fall somewhere in between PS1 and PS2 when it comes to graphics, Pure somehow manages to look even better than many PS2 games. The colors, the textures, the particle effects, everything simply explodes off the screen. Many fans are still lamenting the departure of The Designers Republic, but believe me when I say that although they had nothing to do with Pure, the style used in it still fits Wipeout like a glove. I used to think Wipeout just wouldn't be Wipeout without tDR, but this game just breathes Wipeout. The attention to detail is particularly stunning in this edition - ships fly overhead, animated billboards line the tracks - there's always something new you'll notice when racing a track.
Of course, Wipeout isn't all about style and good graphics, despite what some zealots may tell you. First, you need some twisted track design, which Pure definitely has. Good track design is at the top of the priority list in any Wipeout game, and Pure has some of the best seen in the series yet. Years from now, Wipeout fans (myself included) will certainly include Pure in their discussions (and arguments) about the best tracks the series has featured. Getting rid of the pit lanes really helps to streamline the gameplay and fits in with Pure's "pure" ideals. (Health is instead gained by absorbing weapons, adding a whole new dynamic to the gameplay.) You've also got to have good control, and Pure aces this test as well. Although going from the extremely comfortable Dual Shock to the PSP is, at first, very awkward and disorienting for a game like this, you'll get your bearings after a few hours of play. Each ship handles uniquely and they're all balanced perfectly.
Let's talk weapons. Remember when I was talking about Pure stripping away all the unwanted BS? One of the problems in past Wipeout games was the presence of too many weapons and items, and thankfully Pure has toned it down to include only the most essential ten. As cool as the force wall may have seemed a few years ago, items like this would have just unnecessarily cluttered Pure up. And man do these weapons pack a punch; no tiny explosions are to be found here. When you foolishly slam into a bomb dropped by an enemy, you and any ships around you will know it. As far as the sound and music go, the sound effects (particularly the weapons) are the best heard in the series thus far. The huge explosions seemingly blow themselves right out of the speakers. The music has always been a huge part of Wipeout's atmosphere and style, and Pure's selection is, unsurprisingly, terrific. The choice of artists is less flashy than past games; there are less big-name artists just for the sake of having big-name artists. The producers seem to have chosen music that would fit the game best, regardless of the artists' popularity, and it works out wonderfully.
Pure is a fantastic game, but there are a few wrinkles in its design. First of all, it unfortunately doesn't run at 60 frames per second. It's disappointing that games like Ridge Racer can achieve 60, but of all the PSP launch titles, the game you would most expect to, doesn't. However, below-60 frame rates have never really taken away from the sense of speed in past Wipeout games, and it certainly doesn't in Pure. It's locked at 30 with only rare dips below. Secondly, although the enemy AI is good for the most part, it can be a little too perfect sometimes. Even in the lower classes, opponents will hit every speed boost pad, slam you out of the way to prevent you from hitting speed and weapon pads, and somehow always collect the weapon that suits their current needs best. These things are to be expected in the higher classes, but in Vector (the starting class), it's a little much.
The control may be an issue for some. As I stated above, the game controls wonderfully, but the PSP can never be as good as a console controller. Both digital and analog control are available, but the analog isn't as comfortable or responsive as a typical console's analog, and it's more difficult to control the pitch of your ship using the d-pad. There's also an issue with collisions; I don't think they've ever bothered me as much in any past Wipeout game than they do in Pure. I understand that being slammed by a ship moving at several hundred miles per hour is going to rattle you quite a bit, but these are relatively small ships, not dump trucks.
Although Pure's goal was to strip away all the unwanted features that have crept into the Wipeout series over the years, the inability to fire weapons backwards really irks me. If someone's riding your tail and you're carrying a forward-firing weapon, you're out of luck. One nitpicky flaw has to do with the announcer; she'll announce which weapons your opponents pick up, but never yours. You'll have to memorize every weapon icon, which will likely be tricky for new fans. One last nitpick is that the requirements for unlocking new ships and tracks are pretty steep, but the classic tracks are really meant for the fans, who should have little trouble meeting these requirements.
Nitpicky flaws aside, Wipeout Pure has completely won me over. I never expected any new installment to surpass Wipeout XL or Wip3out, but Pure has done just that. (In my opinion, at least; I'm sure some XL purists will want to hang me for such a comment.) I really don't see how anyone even remotely interested in racing games could not be extremely impressed by Pure. It's not the highest-rated PSP launch game for nothing. Buy it immediately.
Reviewer's Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Originally Posted: 03/29/05
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