03 Jan Gaming: Wipeout HD
Category: Gaming

Wipeout HD is an exclusively downloadable title for the PS3. I think that it’s actually the first title of such a large franchise to hit the Playstation Network (PSN in short) Store while not being available in regular brick-and-mortar retail outlets. You’d start to wonder why exactly, as there’s people like me who’d certainly pay for Wipeout HD on shiny Blu-Ray, the PS3’s defacto disc format.

Wipeout HD is an extraordinary title. As a fan of role-playing, tactical strategy and shooter games, I tend to shun all sport and racing titles. Wipeout HD, however, is not like any other game. Not just because of its sublime graphics, that are rivaled by practically no other title on its platform, but also because of the general attention to detail in the design and UI, the addictive gameplay, and even the sheer atmosphere that it contains. Although the title is criticized for ‘only’ having 8 racing tracks, which are re-made versions from the earlier Playstation Portable titles, it really feels like no other title previously released under the ‘Wipeout’ moniker. Never breaking a sweat or dropping framerate, and best enjoyed on a massive LCD or plasma TV, Wipeout HD convincingly puts you in the pilot’s seat of some of the fastest racing machines ever conceived.

Powered, as usual, by great electronic music by the likes of Kraftwerk, Booka Shade, and NOISIA, the game sucks you in immediately. It offers a sharp, minimalist UI that is perfectly futuristic. After a few taps on your controller you can select a track from the campaign ‘grid’ (an arrangement of hexagons) and get racing. Going from Venom, the slowest speed class, to Phantom, the fastest speed class, is like switching to a wholly different game. Without a firm grip on the game’s complex ‘flying’ mechanics and fast reflexes, Phantom is completely impossible (assuming you disable the newbie-friendly ‘pilot assist’ feature, which steers you on-course automatically but also reduces your speed).

With the recently-introduced ‘Zone’ mode, you can even race against your own reflexes, as the game landscape switches to a digital neon-glow, covered in throbbing equalizer visuals that respond to the music playing and you get tasked to steer your way to the highest possible ‘zone’. Each minute, the speed increases as the zone counter is incremented to the point that you have no way to respond in time and destroy your craft. It’s stunningly exhilarating, and I found myself playing it for a few hours while first playing the game with the sweat dripping off my hands. It’s still my favorite playing mode.

To illustrate my point, here is a video that works towards the higher ‘zones’ in Zone mode. I suggest turning off sound as the author has what’s now being referred to ‘Youtube syndrome’, characterized by the insurmountable urge to put loud, obnoxious music tracks on videos.

Also a shining light in the dark cesspool of commonly screwed up features in console games is the multiplayer feature, which works quite well, and allows up to eight players to butt heads without latency issues. Since the latest patch, the issue of hanging around in a lobby forever while waiting for a game host to start the races has also been resolved. It’s a real joy to cut off and crash your opponent’s Assegai craft into the towering skyscrapers of the grand Chengzou Project dive while barrel-rolling into the narrow tunnel opening. But of course you’re also free to stroll around the drop-dead gorgeous tracks with some friends at a lower speed class.

The best part? Wipeout HD is only 20 bucks. If you have a PS3 and a credit card, you owe it to yourself to simply get it to check it out. If you like a good high-paced game, you simply cannot go wrong with this one. If you are up for playing a little tournament, my PSN ID can be found in the blog sidebar. Happy flying!

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12 Responses

  1. 1

    Wow! those are some sweet images.

    makes me wish I had a PS3

  2. 2

    Cool to see some posts on gaming from you. Never thought you had these kind of faced-past action titles in your collection :D I make it to Zone 41, how about you?

  3. 3

    I love this game. Bought it when it was released and have played it on and off since. Nice review! Let’s have a race sometime!

    – Kiro

  4. While Wipeout HD is a great game in its own right, I’ve never understood why some people liked it so much as if it’s the only game of its kind when there was a better game in many ways: F-Zero GX. Especially its sense of speed and track design.

    Check this article which pretty much summed up my feeling: http://www.gamesradar.com/f/wipeout-hd-vs-f-zero-gx/a-20081002161350156096

    I consider Wipeout HD as a decent simulation game but not the fastest or funnest game ever. It clinches to true physics a little too religiously and level designs wasn’t memorable. I own the game and play it on/off but ultimately I would prefer to play F-Zero GX on Wii over Wipeout HD even with inferior graphics just for the sheer fun of it.

    One thing I really like about Wipeout HD is as you said, its UI which is pretty sleek. Also the facts that it’s downloadable over PSN for just $20 and has online multiplayer, are awesome. If you happened to have a Wii (which is backward compatible with GameCube games), I would highly recommend giving F-Zero GX a try just to get a taste of what made it so great :)

  5. 5

    The video made me excited! It’s amazing, wish I could play it right away!

  6. The video kinda reminds me of Code Lyoko when the world’s hue turns blue. Anyhoo, this seems like a pretty cool game, very fast-paced. I prefer Burnout but I’ll definitely check this game out.

  7. 7
    Devon Shaw 

    I wholly concur with this entire post, which is exactly why I had my credit card at the ready the very day this came out. I’m a lifelong F-Zero evangelist and didn’t cross over to the PSX side until the latest generation, but this little gem alone made it worth the transition. The Zone modes are addictive as hell, the gameplay is crisp, and I was shocked at how well-done the game’s UI and overall heads-up navigation was. Easily one of the most polished pieces of work in quite some time. Call me shallow, but I hope they put the same effort into other HD revamps. This gives me faith.

  8. 8
    Max Weir 

    Wipeout 2097 was the best version I’ve seen, it had a massive lineup of music tracks from top artists and for a PSOne game it was amazing for its time. I feel after that its kind of lost the plot a little with too much focus on trying to create roller coaster style rides with over the top dance tracks that make your head spin.
    I dont own a PS3 so I cant really comment on the game itself, I did see a glimpse of the PS2 version which I thought was horrible.
    Wipeout HD’s Hud looks really nice and clean with what looks like a scoring system based on technique, this is a nice addition as I remember having challenges with my brother and trying to complete the tracks in the fastest time without hitting anything.
    The craft design has been a mix of good and bad over the series, I’d really like to see the craft’s overall build improve with more focus on vehicle damage and track damage, seeing small bits fly off your craft from a collision or a large smoke/fire trail would be awesome. Also when your ship explodes could be improved with some impressive crashed, seeing the ship roll/flip into a flaming mess would add more feel and depth. There’s one image in the post with particles of dust spraying up as the ship flies past, this is really nice if its part of the game, having little bits of dust or dibree blowing or swirling around the track also having an effect on ship control and speed would be a nice touch.

  9. 9
    Mr eel 

    Definitely one of the best iterations in the series.

    My personal favourite is Wip3out — it took the better controls and approach to track design in 2097 and polished everything to a high sheen.

    The PS2 iterations were forgettable.

    The Pulse and Pure games were a solid step in the right direction, but frankly were hampered by the god awful controls on the PSP and the size of the screen — it just didn’t give me the immersion that the previous games did. A real shame, since the track and craft designs were brilliant and I particularly enjoyed some of the downloadable tracks in Pulse.

    However the UI design and the graphics in general were fiddly and inconsistent. They were obviously a hodge podge of elements from the previous games, which no overarching direction — poor emulations of The Designers Republic’s work.

    Wipeout HD fixes all this. A beautiful, consistent UI — I particularly love the animated panels when selecting a competition — solid controls and running on a big HDTV rather than a little PSP screen :)

    I’m hoping that in the future we’ll see some DLCs with more tracks. I’d particularly like to see some of the tracks from 2097 remade in HD. It’d be pure Hi Def nostalgia for me.

    Basically, I bought a PS3 to play this game. No regrets. It’s beautiful, unremittingly difficult and awesome fun.

  10. 10

    Reguards to the zone video, I posted/made that and firstly, it was ingame music, using the custom soundtrack playlist, and not just dubbed over (notice the pulsing track?). Secondly what the hell is ‘YT syndrome’. Something you just made up? It’s fantastic music btw, stop being old about it, but thanks for using the video anyway.


  11. 11
    Devon Shaw 

    Okay, I know this is old… but since the original post, I’ve spent a considerable amount of time rediscovering F-Zero GX and engulfing myself into Wipeout HD. It’s a topic worth revisiting, since the Wipeout HD Fury add-on just hit a few weeks ago (for $10, it basically doubled the size of the game… an even better bargain than the original $20 price tag!). Here’s what I’ve basically discovered (partially echoing Adam’s initial thoughts):

    1. Unlocking everything in F-Zero GX is more difficult than collecting all the trophies in Wipeout HD. It’s not a landslide by any means, but it’s definitely a noticeable difference. I’ll also add that unlocking additional parts and ships is infinitely more fun than simply getting achievements. Sure, there’s skins to unlock in Wipeout HD… but that’s about it.

    2. F-Zero GX is a pure racer. If you’re looking for different kinds of races, Wipeout HD will keep you going for a LONG time. Eliminator mode is deliciously evil, and Zone mode is tons of fun, especially with custom soundtracks. GX is Texas Hold ‘Em… solid, reliable, great for everyone. Wipeout HD is your Omaha, High & Low, etc. Lots to do, lots of fun to be had, and requires learning different sets of strategies. This breathes life into the game and I love it.

    3. F-Zero GX’s overall sense of speed kicks the living crap out of Wipeout HD. The latter doesn’t actually begin to approach the former in terms of raw track speed until about Zone 50. In standard races, Phantom speed is really quite slow (though not the Mario Kart-crawling speed of Venom).

    4. The airbraking and shifting systems are drastically different, and really depends on your preference. Personally I love the physics system in F-Zero GX – it may be arcade-y, but it feels solid and learning how to master L+R curves is one of the game’s finest and most hidden secrets. Wipeout HD’s airbraking system on the other hand, drives me to drink. I’ve experimented with all levels of sensitivity to no avail. I’m not sure what they did to it, but it feels simultaneously too sensitive, and not sensitive enough.

    5. Wipeout HD has a rubber band AI. If you finish with a 2:16, the computer will get 2:12. If you get 2:12, it’ll get 2:07. Eventually you get lucky with a quake weapon and steal first place. I won’t elaborate on how big of a pet peeve this is in general for me, no matter what game I’m playing. (It’s a logical progression of the ever-popular “Computer Assistance” on NES and SNES, and it wasn’t cool then either.)

    6. I’ve struggled almost my entire time playing to remember what tracks are what in Wipeout HD, because the’re virtually indistinguishable from each other. F-Zero GX, on the other hand, has an instantly-identifiable palette of track styles and running themes (like Big Blue, Aeropolis and Lightning).

    7. Cool as F-Zero GX’s music is, Wipeout HD’s is deliciously awesome, especially after the Fury add-on. But then again I’m a whore for half the electronic groups on the soundtrack. :)

    Bottom line, they’re both amazing racing games that are well worth the time to explore. Wipeout HD + the Fury add-on is hands down the best modern racing experience you’ll find on any current-gen console.

    * Additional tip: If your Wii is connected via digital out, F-Zero GX was actually engineered in 480p 16:9, and will display as such if played on a widescreen HDTV. It was initially intended for digital out -equipped GameCubes, but those are few and far between, and cables for it even harder to find. This alone makes the entire game worth replaying from scratch.

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