Reviewed on PSP
More surprises incoming! I’m actually a pretty big fan of racing games, especially the ones that are less simulator like and just straight-up racing through beautiful environments. I started off pretty early with playing some on the PlayStation 1, like Destruction Derby and Road Rash Jailbreak. As you can see, both of them are racing games with a twist, and so is the topic of today’s article: WipEout Pure. I have played Wip3Out on the PlayStation 1 as well and figured that I should give this one a shot as well as I have fond memories of the franchise. Fun fact: this is also my first review ever on a racing game! Let’s see and hope I can meet the expectations set for racing reviews.
WipEout Pure was a launch title for the PlayStation Portable, released in 2005 and developed by Sony Studio Liverpool. It is the sixth instalment in a series that has been running since 1995 and is still running to this date, albeit having a short break due to Studio Liverpool closing. And believe it or not; the European version is actually the best version this time around! Since it had a delayed launch in Europe, we got additional features like playable demos, game sharing and an exclusive DLC pack. WipEout Pure was the first PSP title ever to support downloadable content such as extra vehicles and tracks, though have fun trying to get them now outside of actual piracy since Playstation Network is down on PSP. The development for WipEout Pure was not a smooth one, originally starting with just two staff members working on the game before growing into a bigger team. To get the game out in time, they created new user interfaces and other algorithms and make it in time for the North American release, without losing any quality as the title has received very favourable reviews on launch.
WipEout Pure takes place in the futuristic year of 2197, 25 years after the sport was on a hiatus due to a controversial disaster known as ”The Fall of the F9000” which involved illegal activities including murder. The controversy was too big to the public that the sport would disappear in 2170. Now in 2197, two new teams joined the fray and anti-gravity racing was revived. Why I’m telling you all this I have no idea since there is no story- or campaign mode, neither is a story really important to a racing game but hey.. here you go I guess. I still need to get used to racing game reviews okay.
All tracks take place on the man-made Hawaiian island of Makana, which must be truly huge since it houses a mountain and multiple cities. Don’t know what technology they used to build that island but I am interested. Global warming is also confirmed since there’s a snowy track as well, curses. The futuristic theme is obviously one that is the main focus of WipEout, and it’s always represented well with futuristic environments such as cities with several landmarks. There are a few beach- and aquatic-like tracks as well to give that Hawaiian feeling. And Chinatown, because China invades everything. After a while, it does get repetitive because there are only eight initial tracks, so I definitely recommend checking out the DLC if you’re able to because it brings a lot of diversity. Four of the stages take place in the city, and the other four on other parts of the island.
Before you start a race you can choose from a collection of different vehicles. Initially, there are only eight different vehicles with two unlockables. I would have preferred to see a bigger amount of unlockables even if it costs me a slight amount of initial vehicles but hey, this is fine too. One of the unlockables is a reference to a game I may or may not review soon when a certain remaster comes out. The DLC adds a serious amount of vehicles as well but like I’ve said before, the only way to get them nowadays is through piracy yarr. While you can choose your vehicle based on what design you prefer, the more obvious way would be to look at the stats. There are four different stats to take into account: Speed for.. well, speed. Handling for making tough corners easier to manoeuvre through, Thrust which is basically acceleration and finally Shield for the amount of damage your craft can take before being completely destroyed.
The races at minimum have three laps, with more laps being added on higher speeds. Initially, you only have the lowest class unlocked which is the Vector class. The race tracks will stay the same the entire game, but your speed will be increased significantly with each new class, making your reaction time and ability to take corners more demanding. Though funnily enough, I had more trouble taking corners on the lowest speed. But hey, I have reverse difficulty syndrome anyways. The enemies are the other half of the higher difficulty however, as I swear they love reserving their weapons for you and you alone. I can’t count on four hands the number of times I pass an enemy just to have them finally fire their weapons they’ve been holding onto for a while.
While the WipEout franchise is a series known for their speed to reach the finish, the other obstacles are your opponents who are out for a massacre. Your vehicle has a health bar—or rather a shield bar—which makes you unable to continue racing when the bar becomes empty. Your bar can deplete from almost anything except racing like a gentleman, like hitting the sides of the circuit or an opponent. The ”barrel roll” mechanic while in mid-air also hurts your bar in exchange for speed. But the most damaging of all are weapons made for mass murder: Rockets, bombs and a huge earthquake to name a few. They can be gained from the ”Rainbow X” marks on the ground, and all have different effects. Though there are a few like auto-pilot and a shield to protect you from harm, most are out to make the lives of enemies a living hell. Weapons are completely randomized and not dependent on where you’re placed in the rankings at that very moment, which is good but you can’t shoot behind you unfortunately except for dropping mines or a bomb. Fortunately, you can consume items to gain back a bit of the shield bar in case you’re low, which is a great mechanic since you get the choice between deleting others or saving yourself. It’s also a big improvement over the older pitstops if you ask me.
WipEout Pure is a game that heavily relies on going at full speed, while also being able to drift corners and avoid crashing yourself. But to do that, the gameplay needs to give you the ability to be agile as well. Fortunately, it does so with spades as it is really easy to take corners with airbrakes for both sides with the L and R button. Just press the button, move the directional keys/analog nub and probably slow down a bit to achieve success. I still hit walls myself in some stages cough Citta Nuova cough but that’s probably because I suck or something I dunno, but I still managed to get gold on the first three classes on all modes so don’t let yourself get down if you hit walls every now and then. There are enough ”dash pads” on the ground to get you up to speed quickly again. Pressing the up or down directional key will either give you speed or more control over your vehicle as well. It’s also very easy to change the controller configuration, so mess around a bit with that as well to make life easier for yourself, as well as multiple view modes like first- and third-person. Aside from that, there are a few special abilities like the BARREL ROLL in midair and a speed boost at the start of the race. You can also side shift to another lane pretty easily. Master all of these mechanics and you’ll start having more and more fun eventually.
There are a total of four modes. You have single races with just one race, and four different Grand Prix (eight with DLC) of which two are unlockable for every difficulty class. Each also consists of four races with the exception of Ascension which is unlocked after beating the initial two Grand Prix. There’s also time trial and free racing where you don’t have to worry about a rocket being shoved up your bottom because there are no enemies. Each of the modes speak for themselves and don’t really need any introduction. First appearing in WipEout Pure however is the Zone mode; four different races where your speed increases gradually and it’s your job to avoid crashing. It’s a fun albeit short mode because after you beat the four races with the highest medals, there is little reason to revisit the mode other than your own enjoyment. Don’t get me wrong however, the enjoyment is definitely there so if you’re not a completionist autist like me, you might get a lot of fun out of this mode.
When it comes to WipEout Pure, I’d say that it has the perfect difficulty most games should follow: easy to play, but hard to master. The first two or three difficulty classes might challenge you but with a bit of practice, you’ll eventually beat them. I got gold on every single race, Grand Prix and time trial for the first three classes and didn’t have too much trouble with them. It also helped that because of the relatively small pool of stages, I learned them better the more I went through the game and as a result, I felt like I got better at the game over time. I probably could have at least gotten a bronze medal on the final two classes but I felt like I had seen enough of the game at that point. Reason being that after 70 gold medals, there are no further unlocks so the only reason to continue playing would be strictly entertainment. Which I had, but if I would continue playing I’d never drop it and finish a review while working on others. Hey, the life of a reviewer is tough alright, especially when you also check out the DLC which doubles the game time easily. While there isn’t really a time to beat here, I would say getting the 70 medals sound like a good ”beat time”, and completion obviously all the medals. Surprisingly I already ”beat” the game in 7 and a half hours, which does include some messing around with the DLC. From that, I can use my mad mathematics skills to calculate completion taking around.. 15 hours, and probably 25 hours with DLC included. Don’t take my word for it, though it doesn’t sound too bad. Maybe I’ll get back to it after I got some time off again from reviews.
Graphically WipEout Pure is impressive, especially for a launch title; everything looks crisp and clean. There are a few framerate drops, especially on higher difficulty levels, but I am not really going to complain about that given the presentation we have here. I’m not too big a fan of the User Interface however, specifically having to go to your profile to see what medals you have on what races. Especially for an amnesiac person like me, that ment a lot of hopping menus to check if I completed that race yet or not. Aside from that however, the menu is well structured. But now we get to the toughest element of this review specifically: the soundtrack. I am absolutely not a fan of Electronic music so for me to judge this soundtrack isn’t really an easy job. To me it all sounds like trash and hey, maybe it does but I can’t give you a professional opinion about it. I even heard some trashy Dutch music in the DLC and that triggered me ree.. which I surprisingly couldn’t find anywhere on the internet. Rightfully so perhaps. Also no music today, not just because I don’t know any good track and it’s better to avoid copyright than to trigger it.
It’s almost hard to believe that WipEout Pure is a launch title for the PSP, as it holds up seriously well even today. The game makes you feel that you get better over time and that’s always a plus in my book, especially when at the same time it being accessible to everyone with the lower difficulty classes. Getting full control over your craft might take some time, but there are enough different ones to try out and you’ll eventually get used to the great combat-heavy drift-based gameplay. The newly-introduced Zone mode in this game was interesting as well and I loved playing it, but unfortunately it was over before you know it with the few stages it had. I would also have preferred it if the unlockables were more evenly split over the course of the game, as you can technically get everything before even unlocking the two final difficulty classes. Especially if you also own the DLC which—if you are able to—you should absolutely get, it’s free (or rather, was free) and brings a huge amount of content. All the online features are down and were not taken into consideration when making this review. And with that, here is my final verdict for WipeOut Pure:
I hope you enjoyed my first Racing review ever! I still have ways to go since—despite me loving the genre—I’m not really an expert. But hey, we live to learn and hopefully someday in the future they will be on par with my other reviews! As for WipEout Pure, it is only available on the PSP and of course the PS Vita digitally. It’s not an expensive game at all so if you got a few bucks to spare and like racing games, definitely a recommendation. All the online features are gone however, so don’t expect to make use of it.