Review by King_Lueshi
"A futuristic racer that belongs at the top of the PSP launch crop."
When it launched, the PSP received a fair amount of praise for the flat-out quality of its launch lineup. There were many good games, from Ridge Racer to Lumines to Hot Shots Golf and more. However, few of the launch games could truly be considered "great". One of those few was Wipeout Pure.
The Wipeout series has been around since the launch of the PS1, and it's been a strong franchise for Sony (excluding Wipeout Fusion for the PS2) ever since. Wipeout Pure for the PSP is no exception to that: it truly is a pretty damn nice game. On to the review.
What is Wipeout Pure?
Wipeout Pure is a futuristic racing game. You race hovercrafts against competitors and attempt to finish first. Of course, once you factor in the inclusion of weapons, it can be enough of a challenge to finish at all. Wipeout Pure features 10 different hovercrafts and 12 different racecourses (plus four more, but I'll get to that later). There are five different difficulty settings for every race, and there are 144 different gold medals to be earned.
Did you say weapons?
Yep, weapons are one thing that set Wipeout apart from its main competitor in futuristic racing games, Nintendo's F-Zero franchise. There are ten different weapons, and most of them serve a purpose well. Many of the weapons have very cool graphical effects, like the Plasma and Earthquake weapons. None of them are terribly game-breaking either, because the more powerful weapons come more rarely, etc.
The new health system
Studio Liverpool decided to shake things up with their second attempt at a Wipeout game... In order to get health back, instead of using "pit lanes" like past Wipeout games, you can choose to "absorb" a weapon instead of using it, gaining health from the weapon. This actually works very, very well, since it almost adds a level of strategy to the gameplay ("should I absorb this shield or use it?").
Tracks and vehicles
The tracks are all incredibly nice. They all have some nice looks to them, and they're all fairly unique. Some feature beautiful weather effects like snow and rain. Of the twelve tracks, four are "Classic" tracks, lifted from previous Wipeout games. The Classic tracks all basically share the same artstyle, but at least it's a cool one. As for the hovercrafts, most all of them look cool. Also, they all feature different stats. The cool thing about them is that aside from the intended "cheap" craft, it's a toss-up as to which is the best; they can all be strong if you use them right.
The game presents you with five single-player modes: Single Race, Tournament, Time Trial, Zone, and Free Play. You can earn medals in all but the last one, Free Play. Free Play is intended to be the practice mode, though. Anyway, Single Race has you pick your class (difficulty), racecourse, and vehicle, and then you race against seven computer-controlled opponents. Tournament has you picking a tournament instead of a single course. You then race through four (or eight, twelve, or sixteen) courses, and tallies up the scores of you and your opponents at the end to determine the winner. Time Trial does the same thing as Single Race, only you have no opponents and you're racing for time. Pretty standard stuff there, which is a minor flaw of Wipeout: it's basically just racing, racing, racing with little variety. But wait: I've forgotten one mode, haven't I?
Zone Mode is a pretty major addition to Wipeout Pure. In it, you are placed on special Zone courses and forced to see how long you can survive. The accelerator is at the max the entire race, whether you like it out. At the beginning of the race, you start out with a slow max speed, but as you survive longer and longer (and complete "zones") you will speed up dramatically. It's absolutely mind-boggling how fast you are going at around Zone 35. Anyway, the Zone courses share a unique white-ish look, and they look nice, like the regular tracks. Remember when I said twelve tracks plus four? The four are the Zone tracks. Before I finish this paragraph, I'd like to mention that Zone sadly does not have any difficulty settings.
Yep, another big feature of Wipeout is its ability to accommodate downloadable tracks, menu skins, music, and vehicles. As far as I know, so far, something like twelve or sixteen tracks have been released or planned for release, as well as a bunch of skins and vehicles and a few music tracks. This is a VERY COOL feature... The downloadable tracks are all awesome, the downloadable music is pretty good, and the new menu skins give some much-needed customization in that regard (the game only ships with two), and the crafts can be as useful as any of the built-in ones. However, if you want all the content, the PSP's included 32 MB memory stick won't be big enough... You'll need at the least a 128 MB memory stick if you want all of the downloadable content, as the downloads by my count add up to about 62 MB of memory (just FYI, a 64 MB stick won't work, since after formatting and stuff, it only has about 59 MB of memory.)
Wipeout's graphics are absolutely JAW DROPPING. Seriously, this game can be considered one of the showcases of the PSP's graphical prowess. The game runs at around 30 FPS, and it stays like that almost all of the time, only dropping when you've got lots of weapon effects and opponents on-screen. However, it's amazing that the game runs at even that, when you consider that the game is absolutely beautiful. The weather effects are good; the weapon effects are cool; and there are some nice graphical flourishes to be had, like lens flare and a sort of "over-brightening" after your craft leaves a dark tunnel. Also, the art direction is fantastic. Overall, the graphics are some of the best the PSP has to offer.
Wipeout is known for strong musical soundtracks from respected techno-ish artists, and Wipeout Pure delivers. I'm not a huge techno junkie, but I did recognize a few of the artists, like Aphex Twin, Tiesto, and Photek. All I know is that the soundtrack is pretty good. The sound is good as well. Basically, everything is good here too.
At first, you will think the game is inherently designed to be unbeatable. However, as you play more and more, you'll get better and better, and one day, you might find yourself winning a few races on the highest difficulty. Basically, the game isn't too easy, but it isn't too hard either. Trust me, if someone like me can get 135 out of 144 medals, then the game is beatable.
But how long does it last?
A long time. For Time Trial and Single Race, there are twelve tracks with five difficulty settings... So that's 120 gold medals there. Then, there's four tournaments with five difficulty settings, so that's another 20, and then there's the four Zone tracks to beat. Now, this is excluding downloadable content, so factoring that in just about doubles the length. If you want a sort of time estimate, my game stats tell me that I've played for just under 40 hours.
+Weapons are cool
+Tracks are cool
+Hovercrafts are cool
+The new health system is cool
+Zone is cool
+Downloadable content is cool
+Graphics are cool
+Audio is cool
+Difficulty is cool
+Length is cool
Wow, my overuse of a certain word there wasn't cool. Anyway, basically, there are three minor, minor flaws that must be mentioned here, simply because it wouldn't be a review if I didn't throw in a little criticism: the frame rate will (very rarely) drop momentarily and downloadable content will require you to buy a new memory stick. However, those are, in my opinion, flaws so minor that they almost don't deserve mentioning. The only noticeable con in the entire game is the lack of variety, but the game still won't get old for a long time.
Rent or buy? I would definitely tell you to buy this game right now unless you have some sort of irrational hatred of racing games. Wipeout has enough in it that you won't get bored for a long time, and besides, the PSP doesn't exactly have a boatload of excellent games, so having Wipeout around will be nice. So, go buy it now.
FINAL SCORE: 9
Reviewer's Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Originally Posted: 12/08/05, Updated 04/12/06
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