When the original PlayStation landed in Europe back in 1995 one of the best launch games was a strangely capitalised title from Liverpool-based Psygnosis called wipEout
. With its combination of Designer's Republic-styling, dance music soundtrack and speedy game play, wipEout
was an instant hit, topping sales charts and gathering critical acclaim.
Unusually for a Sony-owned studio, Psygnosis published wipEout
on the Sega Saturn as well as PlayStation and PC. The follow-up game, wipEout 2097
(known as wipEout XL
outside of Europe) was also released on Saturn, PC, Mac and PlayStation. A version of wipEout 2097
was even released for the Nintendo 64 as wipEout 64
with added split-screen multiplayer.
All subsequent games were published only on Sony-owned platforms; wip3out
outside of Europe) on PlayStation, WipEout Fusion
on PlayStation 2 and WipEout Pure
and WipEout Pulse
on PlayStation Portable. Now we have WipEout HD
on PlayStation 3 which is a combination of the best parts of Pure
, with a few tweaks, delivered at an eye-watering 1080p and 60 frames per second, exclusively available on the PlayStation Network Store.
As you would expect, WipEout HD
sticks quite firmly to the winning game-play formula that its predecessors have established. You race around tight tracks in high-speed hover vehicles, using weapon pick-ups and speed pads to try and make sure you finish first out of the eight racers. Points for gold, silver and bronze medals open up new events and speed classes.
There are, of course, events that stray from the simple single race concept. You can enter Tournaments of multiple races that use F1-style points in the races to place you in the tournament standings. There are Time Trial and Speed Lap events in which you must complete a number of laps in an allotted time or set the fastest single lap time you can in order to earn your medals.
Then there is Zone. Hang on while I calm down enough to describe this game mode to you...
...OK, here we go.
Zone is based on a very simple concept; you are placed in a ship that moves up a speed class for every ten second zone you complete. You have no say over your thrust at all, only steering and air brakes fall under your control. Since your ship takes damage as usual, your destruction is inevitable. Medals are awarded for completing certain numbers of zones.
Zone is the single most frustrating game mode on the planet. You start off in the slower speed classes where you will over-anticipate the corners and crash. Next you will briefly flit through the class you are currently playing in the rest of the game where your reactions will serve you well. Then you keep ploughing on through the higher speed classes where you can't judge the corners well enough and will crash by under-anticipating them. And because you move up a speed class every 10 seconds, you never get a full lap in any class to properly get used to it.
Somewhere in Liverpool, a game designer is missing their true calling as a sadistic torturer.