The Wipeout series has been quiet of late, but it's roared back into life on Sony's new handheld. Wipeout Pure takes the best of what Wipeout has offered in the past and wraps it up into an eye-pleasing package that should easily impress even the most jaded PSP cynic.
Wipeout has always been about insanely cool hovercars racing on insanely designed tracks at insanely unsafe speeds, and Pure is no exception. Races take place on futuristic tracks that dip, curve, turn, corkscrew and more -- and while there are only eight tracks available initially, there are a total of 16 to uncover by winning races in Wipeout Pure's tournament mode.
The game's single player campaign features options such as single race, which allows you to race in any track you've unlocked; tournament mode, which is a series of races in different speed classes; time trial and free play. Zone is the final mode available, and is basically a test of your nerves as you attempt to last as long as possible on a track with your speed constantly increasing.
You'll begin the game at the lowest race class, which thanks to it slower speeds and easier track design serves as an ideal introduction for Wipeout initiates. As you improve, higher classes become open -- higher classes mean faster speeds, more laps and more difficult opponents. You'll need to have the tracks and all their turns memorised at these higher classes as any slip will surely cost you a place -- the sense of speed at these levels is also noticeably ramped up from earlier classes.
If you're a newbie to Wipeout, it might take some time to become accustomed to the series' particular type of racing. As befits hovercars, the vehicles will feel particularly floaty for the uninitiated -- you'll definitely need a bit of practice to get the hang of the vehicles. Control is fairly simple -- X is for accelerate while L and R are the air brakes -- which ones you use depend on which direction you're turning. Double tapping on the brakes will also sideshift your vehicle -- handy for taking corners at high speeds. Steering is handled either via the PSP joypad or analog control stick.
The Square button uses power-ups racers pick up while on the track -- these power ups can range from speed boosts, to better shields, to powerful weapons, auto-pilots and more. The Circle button can convert a power up into shield energy. As with previous Wipeouts, your vehicle's shields deplete with every hit against the track barriers or opponents, so maintaining healthy shields is crucial for winning a race. The circle button adds a small degree of strategy to the game -- do you use that power up to blast the opponent ahead of you, or do you play it safe and add to your depleted shields?
By far Wipeout Pure's most apparent positive is its graphics -- the game looks stunning and joins Ridge Racer as ideal show-off games for the new PSP handheld. The design of Wipeout Pure retains the futuristic look of the series, with the tracks themselves looking amazing in detail and scope. What's most impressive are the little touches that catch your eye occasionally -- things like sunlight reflecting off your vehicle and the track, and water droplets gathering on the screen when you're racing in the rain, give the game an extremely polished look. The game's sound also excels, featuring some great electronic music that has become a hallmark of the series.
One of the main criticisms we have with Wipeout Pure has to do with its load times, which can be quite long particularly leading into a race. Another frustrating thing is that you can't replay a race in a tournament -- if you stuff up, you have to exit, then reload the race again.
But it's a minor quibble in an otherwise impressive package. Wipeout Pure has made the leap to the small screen in style and revitalises the franchise for a new legion of fans.
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