Release Date: March 15, 2005
Buy 'WIPEOUT PURE': PSP
WipEout Pure for the Sony PSP is the latest installment of the WipEout series, a franchise which extends back to the launch of the PSX. While the PSX games where highly acclaimed, the PS2 version did not live up to the hype, and while still a good game, it differed quite a bit from the core gameplay that made the original WipEout so fun.
Thankfully, Studio Liverpool has decided to go back to the game's roots and get the series back on track. Many of the new additions that made their way into Wipeout Fusion on the PS2 are now completely gone, replaced by many of the core gameplay elements from the first WipEout. The ships now control much like they did back on the PlayStation version, which was one of the key areas of the game that was lost in the transition from 32-bit to 128-bit consoles. The tracks are also narrower, just like they were in the good ol' days. The weapon collection system has been altered, and you can run over weapon strips on the track and get new weapons and power-ups at the touch of a button. What this all boils down to is that all of the elements that made the first WipEout so addicting are back.
However, just because WipEout Pure is about getting back to its roots doesn't mean that there have been no new innovations. One of the best new additions to the series is the Zone mode, which is a great example of when less is more. In Zone mode, you have no power-ups on the track, which means that there is no way to recharge your power shield, but there are speed boost areas that will help you blow past other racers for a few seconds. The goal is to get to new "zones" of the track, and when you reach one of these new zones, your vehicle's top speed is raised by a little bit. As you continue to work your way up to higher zones, your ship starts to fly around the tracks at incredibly high speeds, which makes controlling it increasingly difficult.
Since you have no way to recharge your shield, you will take too much damage at some point and explode. The goal is to get to the highest level possible before your ship bursts into a ball of flames. Zone mode is fantastic and a real blast to play, especially when you get burned out on the standard race modes and need a change. My only problem with this mode is the lack of courses: there are only four tracks right now, which is a little disappointing, but hopefully we will get some more in the near future, via downloadable content.
Complementing Zone mode is the standard array of race modes such as Single Race, Time Trail and Free Roam modes. Tournament mode will be the main mode of play for most gamers, where you fight your way through a series of races and place well in order to move on to the next group. I had a blast with this mode, but it was not without its flaws and suffered from what is known as "rubber band AI," which means that no matter how well you do or how far away an opponent may appear, they are never fully out of the race and can always catch up to you. While this can make for some pretty intense showdowns between you and the game's AI, it also can get pretty annoying, as you never feel that you really have a fair chance against the computer. Overall, howeer, this does not impact the game too much in a negative way.
The controls for WipEout Pure are very well done, and for anyone who has played the original, they will quickly bring back fond memories. On the combat side of things, you have a very nice assortment of missiles, guns, mines and other weapons that will do great damage to opponents. The combat is fast and simple; you fly over one of the weapon strips on the track to get a weapon, and now all you have to do is find a poor soul to use it on. While the racing by itself is fun, the combat really adds a whole other level of depth to the gameplay and is where the most fun is to be had.
Visually, WipEout Pure is one of the best looking PSP titles out there, and I was blown away the first time I played this game, as it easily has the most impressive effects ever seen on a handheld. The ship models are very nicely done with a good amount of polygons, as are the tracks. The level of detail is quite stunning and is on par for what you would expect on lower-end console games. The textures are nice and crisp, but the real sight to behold is the game's stunning particle effects, especially on the weapons. Explosions from rockets fill up the entire screen with color, and some will even cause screen-warping effects that most console games do not even use. To get all of this out of a first-generation PSP title really shows off the power of Sony's new handheld. It really feels like you are playing a console game and the graphic quality is just slightly below what most PS2 games are achieving these days.
Overall, I was blown away by WipEout Pure, and it appears that Studio Liverpool has done an incredible job with bringing this title back to the series' roots. From the way it controls, to the way it looks, to the wonderfully designed tracks and ship models, WipEout Pure is futuristic racing at its finest.
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