Review: Wipeout Pure (Sony PSP)

Genre: Racing
Platform: PSP
Rating: E (Everyone)
Publisher: SCEA
Developer: SCEE/Studio Liverpool
Release Date: 03/15/2005

The Wipeout series has always been a stalwart of the Sony realm. With three games on the PS1 and one on the PS2, it was high time for a new title in the scifi racing series, and Studio Liverpool delivers with Wipeout Pure on the PSP. The game launched with the new handheld, alongside a bunch of other racers…but what makes it the cream of the crop?


STORY

The tale of the FX300 Anti-Gravity Racing League begins in the year 2197. Taking place a century after Wipeout XL (which is often considered to be the top entry in the series), anti-grav racing has just begun to regain its former popularity, and many classic teams are once again ready for action. Auricom Industries, Feisar, Qirex R&D, and more are all here, and a few new companies have their racers prepared to hit the track and smoke the competition.

While the storyline here is nothing mindblowing, Wipeout Pure deserves a good amount of credit for actually having a solid story, something many racing games lack. If you check out the official Wipeout Pure website, there’s even more story details that really flesh out the background of anti-grav racing and the various teams competing in the game.

(Rating: 7/10)


GRAPHICS

Wow. Just wow. Out of all of the PSP launch titles, Wipeout Pure easily has the most impressive graphics of the bunch. Mere screenshots can only begin to describe how amazing this game looks in action, but here’s a few anyway!

Even the last outing, Wipeout Fusion on the PS2, didn’t look this good. There’s not an iota of slowdown, and the various lighting and particle effects in the sprawling cities are jawdropping, to say nothing of the explosions when weapons fire successfully hits other craft.

(Rating: 9/10)


SOUND

As with Wipeout games in the past, the soundtrack is comprised of various songs from across the electronica spectrum. Artists like Aphex Twin, LFO, and Ming + FS are represented here, and the tracks provide a perfect match to the scifi setting of Wipeout Pure without distracting from the intense racing action.

The sound effects are somewhat generic, but nicely mixed, with no scratchiness. The female computer voice is pleasantly reminiscent of the computers on Star Trek (though it’s obviously not the voice of Majel Barrett Roddenberry). Pay attention to the computer’s warnings, though…if you hear “Missile,” you’d better move, otherwise you’ll get an explosive shoved up your exhaust.

(Rating: 8/10)


CONTROL

The gist of Wipeout Pure is the same as any other racing game; speed around the track for a certain number of laps, and try to place as high as you can. In addition, the vehicles in Wipeout Pure are hovercraft outfitted with shielding technology and the ability to grab weapons and other powerups. Each craft has a certain amount of shield energy, and once that’s depleted, you’re immediately disqualified from the race. (Considering that your racecraft explodes when you lose your shields, I suppose disqualification is only fair.)

While controlling a high-speed racecraft may seem overly complex, it really isn’t. In fact, not only do you have two control schemes to choose from, you can also completely customize the button layout to your liking. The two standard control schemes deal with the braking system on your racecraft; single or dual airbrake. Single airbrake is the preferred scheme for beginners, while dual airbrake is a better fit for advanced players. With either scheme, you’ve got the same amount of control and functions, so it’s really up to you as to which one works better. Both schemes are available on all teams’ racecraft.

While the different racecraft vary in terms of speed, handling, thrust, and armor, they all share the same basic functions and weapons capability. Missiles, turbo boosts, mines, and other items are picked up by flying over certain spots on the track. Not only can you use these powerups to hassle your opponents, you can also choose to absorb them in order to replenish your shield energy (after all, pit areas have been eliminated in Wipeout Pure). Another nice touch is the barrel roll. When flying off of a jump, a quick left-right-left movement on the D-pad or analog stick will execute a barrel roll, and if you pull one off and land successfully, you’ll receive an immediate turbo boost.

Now, let’s look at the staggering amount of modes found in Wipeout Pure:

  • Single Race – Pick any available tournament and track, and just race once. This mode’s great for getting the hang of track layouts, so you can go back and kick some ass in the real tournaments later. This mode has seven computer opponents, just like in the tourneys.
  • Tournament – This is the real meat and potatoes of Wipeout Pure. Tournament mode is broken up into five speed classes (Vector, Venom, Flash, Rapier, and a hidden fifth class), each with four track classes:
    • Alpha – Just a basic assortment of tracks, which help you get used to the tournament structure.
    • Beta – More advanced tracks, with pitfalls and deadlier curves.
    • Ascension – Try handling the Alpha and Beta tracks back-to-back! (Don’t worry…there’s no Ogre or Stan Gable.)
    • Classic – Some fan favorite tracks from previous Wipeout games appear here.
  • Time Trial – As the name implies, you’ve got time limits on all of the races here.
  • Zone – For the masochist in all of us, we’ve got this little gem. In Zone mode, you race as long as you can survive. The catch? You continually accelerate.
  • Free Play – This is essentially Single Race mode, but without the computer opponents. If you’re a Wipeout newbie, then this is your training ground!

As you can see, there’s quite a rich assortment of gameplay options in Wipeout Pure, even if you haven’t yet unlocked the advanced material.

For those of you that want to grind your friends into the dust, Wipeout Pure supports up to eight players via the PSP’s built-in wireless system. There’s no internet multiplayer, but the internet function does have other uses, as you’ll discover in the “Miscellaneous” section of this review.

(Rating: 9/10)


REPLAYABILITY

With loads of races and tournaments, Wipeout Pure will keep you occupied for quite some time. And even if you somehow manage unlock everything, there’s still more to do, as you can try for better lap times with all of the various teams and racecraft. Plus, there’s another great feature to Wipeout Pure that extends the replay factor even further…but again, I can’t tell you about it we get to the “Miscellaneous” section. Patience, patience…

(Rating: 8/10)


BALANCE

With five speed classes and multiple ways to practice, the balance couldn’t be better in Wipeout Pure. Series veterans can immediately start with a dual airbrake control setup and begin on the Venom class, which newcomers can play around with various control schemes and practice every track to the heart’s content. Wipeout Pure does get more difficult as the races progress, but it’s a nice smooth curve, and very satisfying.

(Rating: 9/10)


ORIGINALITY

Sure, you could say that since Wipeout Pure is part of a long-running series, it shouldn’t get any points in this category…but you’d be wrong. Wipeout Pure was named “pure” for a reason; the game gets rid of the extraneous crap that’s infiltrated the series over the years and brings the gameplay back to its roots, while simultaneously tweaking and adding a few new features that perfectly compliment the racing action.

(Rating: 7/10)


ADDICTIVENESS

Like other good racing titles that have come before, Wipeout Pure is a game where you’ll always be playing “just one more race.” Even if you complete all of the tracks…you’ll still want to go back to get the gold medals, or better times, or try them out with different racecraft. Since there’s so much to do in Wipeout Pure, continually coming back to play the game is very enjoyable.

(Rating: 7/10)


APPEAL

Wipeout Pure is heavily marketed towards the racing fans, but the use of weapons will also draw the attention of car-combat freaks. Even science fiction fans will appreciate the rich story and attention to detail. Finally, since it’s a launch title for the PSP, it’ll get attention simply because it’s part of that roster, and not another generic sports game.

(Rating: 8/10)


MISCELLANEOUS

As one of the few titles that makes use of Internet connectivity at launch, Wipeout Pure offers downloadable extras. These include new tracks, new racecraft, new background songs, and more. Sony has gone on record saying that plenty of new content will be constantly added for at least six months following the game’s release. Wipeout Pure fans had better buy a larger capacity Memory Stick Duo, though, as downloading everything> Sony will have to offer will rapidly outgrow the paltry 32MB Stick included with the PSP.

(Rating: 7/10)


Final Scores:

Story: 7/10
Graphics: 9/10
Sound: 8/10
Control: 9/10
Replayability: 8/10
Balance: 9/10
Originality: 7/10
Addictiveness: 7/10
Appeal: 8/10
Miscellaneous: 7/10

Overall Score: 79/100
FINAL SCORE: 8.0 (GREAT!)