Developer: Studio Liverpool / Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment || Overall: 9.0/10
As one of Sony’s PlayStation Portable launch games, Wipeout Pure is an all-new made-just-for-the-PSP Wipeout game. With controls adjusted to compensate for the difference in the PSP to a traditional console controller, the transition appears to be a very well conducted one. Coming from a background of not playing too many of the futuristic racing games like the notable F-Zero series or even any other of the Wipeout games, I found myself amazed by how fun Wipeout Pure is. In all of its impressive beauty, Wipeout Pure is one of the most fun and addicting games I have played for quite some time, especially for a handheld.
Wipeout Pure is one of the sustaining reasons to own a PSP. Not only does it really show what the PSP is capable of in terms of graphics, but also shows how well the PSP does with franchises carried over from the console market, obviously allowing you to take games in your favorite series’ wherever you go. And because it’s not a direct port of any other Wipeout game, unique ships and weapons have been created for the PSP version, giving it a different feel than other games than the previous games in the franchise. With eight different teams (more simply, ships) to choose from, each ship has its advantages and disadvantages. Depending on the situations you face and how well you can maneuver your hover ships through race tracks, certain stats in ship performance will become a major factor in choosing which team you go with.
Wipeout Pure’s first impressions are that it’s a beautiful game, and can even compete with the graphics of games being released on the PS2. A pleasant part of the graphics and presentation Wipeout Pure emits is the attention to detail. Even while going upwards of 400 km/h on your hover ship, you can take some time and pay attention to the scenery around you as you blast by it. The frame rate stays at a good level for the most part, but if there are a lot of explosions and things happening at the same time on the screen (which can happen at times), the frame rate can go down a bit, but its nothing that really shouldn’t be expected for that kind of action happening. Of course, what enhances the graphics and the look of the game even further is the PSP’s beautiful LCD screen.
When starting the game for the first time, there isn’t a story sequence or back-story to read; you dive right into the game. While it’s not at all important, there is a small piece of background story given in the instruction booklet, mostly to explain where Wipeout Pure fits in with the rest of the Wipeout games. Most of your time will be spent in the single player mode, which gives you five different modes to play: Single Race, Time Trial, Free Play, Zone and Tournament. Single Race is a regular race in which you race against other racers for one race only. Time Trial allows for you to race the track and get the best time you can without any other racers in the way. Free Play is similar to Time Trial, but instead of having an amount of tracks to race through, you just keep going on the same track for as long as you want. Free Play will allow anyone to brush up on their skills and memorize each of the tracks included in the game to better compete against other racers. Zone is a somewhat out-of-place mode, in which you go as fast as you can in curiously bright white tracks in a unique hover ship. Zone is a different approach to racing, and can be most analogized to a Survival mode in a fighting game, basically going as long as you can and getting points along the way. More tracks in the Zone mode are unlocked when you achieve enough points in your trials. Tournament is obviously the biggest part of the game, allowing you to pit yourself against the seven other teams and their racers in an assortment of leagues. Beginner-level leagues allow for you to get used to the controls and the speed of the game. The real challenge doesn’t start until the more advanced levels, where you go faster and more laps are added to the requirement of completing the particular race. During the beginning leagues, each race seemed to be too short, but this is solved (and you even get a feeling that races can be TOO long, mostly because of the challenge of the other racers) as you get to the increasingly harder leagues. The game covers all the aspects of difficulty throughout playing the game, and it is really a good way to do it. Rather than having an overall difficulty, you can keep racing in the league that you most prefer for speed and lap amount, but that won’t allow you to unlock more things in the game. After getting so used to the faster leagues, it can be hard to race in the lesser advanced leagues because it is so slow in comparison. With each increasing level of difficulty, you have to adjust to the new conditions of speed and the amount of laps. Typically, it will take a few times to defeat a class tournament, just because of the different feeling of speed and reaction time that the game demands in the more advanced leagues. As you race through more and more of the leagues, more tracks and other leagues are unlocked for you to race in, giving an incentive to place in the top three by the end of a particular tournament so you can repeat the same process on a harder level.
When actually racing in a game, a big part of how you try and place is how many Jump Pads you can drive over as well as how you use the weapons that are given when running over Weapon Pads. Jump Pads are vital to winning a race, as they can increase your speed with a burst of energy and propel you forward, helping you inch (or centimeter if you want me to stay consistent) forward closer to your opponents. Weapon Pads also help a tremendous amount, because if you use your weapon with precision you can gain the upper hand over your opponents and slow them down. However, as the amount of speed increases in each of the leagues, hitting a wall or getting clobbered by one of your opponent’s weaponry can take a healthy chunk out of your ship’s health. Instead of using weapons only as a weapon, you can absorb them to charge up your ship’s shields, and avoid being disqualified by blowing up. This brings the possibility of having to make a quick decision about what you should use your weapon for most likely; whether or not it’s more worth it to possibly get in front of your opponent or to use the weapon to charge up your shields. The actual arsenal of weapons includes Auto Pilot, Shield, Turbo, Mines, Bomb, Rockets, Missile, Disruption Bolt, Plasma, and Quake. Auto Pilot, like its name suggests, allows the computer to take over your racer for a few seconds. Shield is a temporary energy field that takes place around your ship for a few seconds, making it impervious to damage. Turbo is a very valuable item because it can boost your racer to very high speeds for a few seconds. Mines and Bombs are backwards weaponry that stays on the race track to hopefully be hit by an opponent that is close on your tail or something of that sort. It can be annoying sometimes because you might hit a Mine or Bomb you left behind on the last go around. Rockets, Missile, Disruption Bolt, and Plasma are all forward shooting weapons that help in slowing down or disabling an opponent. Quake is a very powerful weapon, as it sends a shockwave through the track and slows down all the racers in front of the one that used it. The variety of weaponry included in the game is enough to keep the game interesting, but not too much to make any of them seem really unneeded or give the feeling that it is the main focus of the game. Sometimes when you launch into the air, you can have time to do a barrel roll, and while taking a risk of getting damaged if it isn’t executed by the time you land, it gives a boost of speed after you land.
There are a bunch of random things to mention about the game as well, some good and some not so good. Each league has its own time records because of the difference in speeds that are allowed in each class, so it gives a slight incentive to go and race in different leagues to try and get the best time possible. In Time Trial mode, you can save “ghosts” of yourself for you to race against at a later time. However, each race will take up its own save slot for a ghost, making it almost a requirement to have a larger memory stick handy to utilize the ghost feature to its full capabilities. During tournaments, there is always one or two racers that will always place in first or second, making it hard for you to win tournaments, many of these coming down to the wire and barely passing up your opponent for the win or having them pass you up at the last second for a lower placing. This obviously gets very frustrating when they pass you by less than .001 of a second. Also, sometimes you will have enough speed to fly completely off the track. Instead of flying into a blank void when taking your amusing detour, you can see more of the city or area that you are racing in, making it seem more like you’re actually racing through something rather than a floating road in the middle of nowhere. An autosave function is present in the game as well, which constantly saves your progress after each race, saving quite a bit of time from having to do it manually, and since it only takes a couple seconds immediately after a race, it doesn’t get in the way at all. Load times are also not horrible, only taking around fifteen seconds to load for each new race you’re about to undertake.
The sound quality in the game is excellent. All the weapons sound futuristic, just like they should. But the best part of the sound in Wipeout Pure is obviously the music. The music takes an electronic-oriented approach, with a quite impressive selection to choose from. You’re also allowed to customize your music preferences, whether or not you want to listen to it down to which songs you don’t want to play, though it is hard to get sick of them if you like the kind of music included in the game. Most of the time, however, you won’t notice the music because you’ll be so concentrated on the racing at hand. Downloadable content is available if you have a wireless connection point. At the time of the writing, there are Gamma Pack 1, 2, and 3 are available for download. Supposedly there are five to be released altogether, and they add various items to enhance the game from its retail version, most notably included new tracks to race on. The files are kind of big, though, depending on what is in them. Again, you’ll most likely have to have a big memory stick on hand to have enough space for all of your game saves, and the downloadable content that will eventually be released in Gamma Packs 4 and 5.
Wipeout Pure is a solid arcade racer that can be taken just about anywhere on a PSP, making it a very valuable game in its launch lineup, as well as part of its increasingly expanding game library. With its fun game play and beautiful presentation, Wipeout Pure is definitely a game that shouldn’t be passed up when being considered for purchase with a new PSP or even down the line.