Saturday, January 5, 2008
WipEout Pulse mini-review
WipEout Pulse is the eight Wipeout game to emerge from SCE Studio Liverpool (counting the N64 game developed when it was still known as Psygnosis) and is probably the best one, at least until the proper PS3 version emerge late this year or next year. It is the successor to the critically welcomed WipEout Pure. With two years to fine tune Pulse, you will find that latest Wipeout iteration has plenty of new content and most importantly, support for multiplayer via Infrastructure (online via wireless access point) in addition to Ad-Hoc (local wireless).
In addition to 12 circuits (24 tracks if you include reverse routes), a rather nice addition to the gameplay implemented is the new 'Mag-Strip' feature that allows ships to bind to tracks. This allows for tracks to feature loops and vertical drops, which gives a sensational high speed feeling. You can download new tracks and ships as well as customised ships from the Wipeout website, which should prolong replayability.
I won't bore you to death with the technical details of the game, those are best read at 'proper' gaming sites. You do suffer from load time issues when entering a race for the first time, so I guess SCE Studio Liverpool hasn't had time to take advantage of the PSP Slim's extra 32MB cache. But visually this is the best looking PSP game that I have had to honour to play. While it would look better with anti-aliasing filtering, the jaggies are not that noticeable during high speed racing, though at times they do stand-out. Ships are designed with detailed textures and suitable polygon count. The game does not suffer from slowdowns even during intense scenes.
Speaking of intensity, the A.I. ships are good. I spent a good one hour trying to get the hang of the controls and constantly getting my ass owned (didn't know I was playing it in 'hard' mode). It takes some getting used to because the analog pad control isn't as refined as I hoped. It is fortunate that mastering the controls on the d-pad was easy enough. Once you get the controls out of the way you will find racing an exhilarating event with places often swapping due to the intelligent A.I. ships as well as the return of the highly addictive Eliminator mode.
The soundtrack is made up of tracks by a variety of European electronica genre artists including Aphex Twin. This may disappoint some people, but part of the appeal of Wipeout has always been the electronic techno soundtrack. You can always pop in your favourite tracks (MP3 format) onto the memory stick and create a playlist if you prefer. Personally I am finding myself enjoying the soundtrack as it suits the very Tron-like psychedelic visual designs, but a couple of grindcore tracks didn't hurt.
As you would have probably guessed, I am loving my time with WipEout Pulse. It has finally displaced the two year old Mario Kart DS as my 'quick on the tube' portable racer of choice and that says a lot on the production quality, replayability and addictiveness of SCE Liverpool's latest evolutionary racer. Sure, it is the same old game we have all played a thousand times with not too many innovations, but what we have here is the definitive version and contains everything you could possibly want from a Wipeout game.
You can order WipEout Pulse from Amazon UK for a bargain bin price of only £18. Preorder for the US version is available here.