Wipeout Pure PSP Review

One of the original "wow" titles for the PS One upon its release was Psygnosis' "Wipeout." Its use of 3-D was unparalled and it set the tone for the rest of the series. Now developed by Studio Liverpool, a spin-off of Sony, "Wipeout Pure" does for the PSP was the first game in the series did for the PS One. This is one of the best futuristic racers of all time, establishing the series once again to its original luster.

From a gameplay perspective, not much has changed. Players careen down elegantly designed tracks at ridiculous speeds, each one more deadly than the last. There are pitfalls to be had and your shield needs to constantly be watched as opponents bombard you with firepower. Weapon pick-ups are of course available to fight back, but if your shields are low, you may need to absorb it to gain some protection. Also laid on the track are speed boosts, sometimes where you want them, other times they may send you right into a corner. It adds another layer of challenge and fun to an already deceptively simple racer.

It may seem odd at first that the game lacks a true career mode, especially if this is your first experience with the series. There's no money to be earned, no new vehicles to purchase, and you don't need to become part of any team. You simply enter into a variety of tournaments, pick whatever vehicles are available, and race. This is simplicity at its finest and it's far deeper than it initially appears to be. Once you start unlocking different brackets, things really branch out to show you just how much there is to do.

The most unique feature in the game is the "zone" mode. Here you head onto any of specially designed tracks as your ship slowly but surely begins to gain speed. It's simply a matter of staying alive as long as you can, fighting against an ever growing and usually unwanted speed boost. There are no weapons here so you're the only one in control of your destiny. Winning here unlocks more bonuses, adding more replay value.

One of the main complaints of the game is the weapon system. Picking one up, a small symbol appears in the top part of the screen. These are impossible to decipher unless you've spent some time (a lot, actually) with the manual or in gameplay. You'll waste countless shots or use a boost right into a wall while you adjust and learn what they stand for. The symbols are fine to give it a futuristic feel, but we don't live in 2197. We need text from 2005.

Controlling your vehicle will take some practice too. Of the 8 initial ships, you'll need to do some experimenting to find one that finally feels right to you. Braking around some of the banked curves properly takes some real skill. Besides the basics of turning and shooting, you can also perform a barrel roll once airborne to gain a brief speed boost. Missing it and landing wrong is going to cost you. It's a risky move with great rewards.

Much like everything else in the game, things don't look too spectacular initially, especially if you've spent time with something like "Ridge Racer." Where "Wipeout Pure" draws you in is with its color and background detail. No, the textures may not seem as sharp as some of the competition, but the sheer amount of buildings, shockingly effective weather effects, stunning weapon explosions (especially the warping effect), and decent sense of speed make this a nauseating experience, just like it should be. The frame rate is a little lower to compensate for everything, and it's worth it.

Packed with a variety of licensed techno music (a series staple), the music keeps with the rapid pace the game moves at. A little variety wouldn't hurt though. A female announcer alerts you to danger you otherwise might not be able to see. You can hear an opponent getting closer to you with a solid set of headphones, an important aspect that's handled quite well. The stereo effect is awesome too, especially as enemies start colliding with your ship.

This is a portable package that has more to offer than some home console games. There's a lot to love about this title and very little to hate. It was hyped as one of the premier titles for the launch and that was hype well deserved. It may not be your style of racing and that's the only reason for this game not to be purchased alongside the console.

Comments (1)

It is amazing to read this review six months later and see how well your thoughts hold up.

And you are right on about the weapon icons. I still to this day get a couple of them mixed up.

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