WipEout HD – It’s Good

So, we got our hands on the final review code for WipEout and as far as we know we’re free to discuss it, which is good because it’s stunning and keeping the thing to ourselves would be impossible.  This isn’t a review, we’ll have that next week, but merely a taster for what you should be wetting your pants for come the 25th.

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Firstly, although we’re never going to get official confirmation of the story we broke regarding epilepsy dangers, it’s clear that the game has been toned down a little with respect to the on-track music visualisers, but not to the detriment of the game.  But don’t misunderstand, this is still a full-on assault of the senses, heightened massively by the fact that this is in full 1080p HD and running at a rock solid 60fps.  To say it’s a beautiful game is an understatement: it’s breathtaking.  No amount of online videos can prepare you for just how amazing this thing looks in motion on your own TV set, and coupled with some bass-heavy sound effects and nine music tracks (in full 5.1) we can’t wait to hear what you think of it for yourselves next week. 

Essentially a remake of the recent PSP games, WipEout HD takes six tracks from Wipeout Pure, and two from the later Pulse.  All the tracks, however, have been completely remastered for the PS3 game, and look the absolute business, plus each can be played in both directions and via the frighteningly cool Zone mode, which thankfully has survived the seizure scare mostly intact.  The tracks from Pure are Chenghou Project, Sol 2, Vineta K and Sebenco Climb from the disk, plus Anulpha Pass and Ubermall from the expansions. The tracks taken from Pulse are Moa Therma and Metropia.  It’s a good balance and all still seem really fresh, but we’re sure SCEE are planning downloadable tracks for the future.

Also taking its cue from Pulse is the single player mode, which returns to the hexagonal grid format meaning that you don’t need to complete every race mode in each class to proceed, but highlighting each and every cell in gold is clearly the only way for purists to complete the game.  New to HD, though, are the controls.  Naturally we all fear when someone mentions Sixaxis controls (with acid-type flashbacks of Lair) but WipEout HD is probably the first PS3 game to do this properly, giving the player two distinct control modes (of course, you can also opt for the traditional stick controls too): pitch, or pitch and steering.  The pitch-only option is cool, as it still requires the use of the analogs to actually steer the craft but gives you some flexibility in the air, but pitch and steering is where the hardcore will live – do this in first person mode and we’ll send you a cookie.

Photo mode is another way of showing off your spoils – the various camera options and the ability to save the photos directly to your PS3’s hard drive in full 1080p resolution is welcomed, despite a slightly clunky interface, but given the fun we had with the much more basic Pulse photo mode we’re looking forward to seeing some crazy shots.  Pilot Assist is a new feature, but it’s really for the newcomers and the way it pushes you back from the edges won’t be of any use at the higher speeds.  Still, it’s another way of ensuring that less-able racers get the most from the game, and we can’t fault the inclusion of such an option.  We’re slightly concerned by the lack of the better online modes from Pulse, with HD only providing single races and basic tournaments, but again we reckon that given enough demand we’ll see plug-in downloads with additional game modes soon enough. 

So, this is WipEout: the PlayStation brand’s key title in its early years, and one that we think will be just as important this generation too.  SCEE has really ploughed blood, sweat and tears into this one, and it shows.  The lack of a Blu-ray release is baffling, and utterly unforgivable, but given the recent trend of PSN-only downloads we’re sure someone, somewhere knows the reason for it.  That aside, it’s a staggeringly attractive game, as hardcore as it’s ever been, cheap as chips (£12) and hitting at absolutely the right time.  We’ll have the full review once we’ve finished the game next week, and spent more time with the online mode, but rest assured this is one game you can’t afford to miss.

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