Monday, 26 December 2011

Wipeout HD and Fury [PS3]


A fun, frantic, furious racer that requires skill, lightning-reflexes and a thirst for revenge!
Super visuals and polish make this a true high-definition experience
There are plenty of explosions and crashes to enjoy/avoid/photograph

His name was Ernie, and he drove the fastest rocket ship in the West
This is the world of Wipeout - about a dozen race teams get together on ridiculously enormous tracks to race, battle and....er.... play 3D space invaders to show who is the best.

There are a small handful of fairly similar-looking rocket cars to razz around in, and sticking with one particular race team earns you "loyalty points". 

What are these for? Not a clue.

My favourite ship models at the first play were exactly the same as on the last play

You can unlock indistinguishably similar versions of other ships and new chrome paint jobs and blah blah blah - this isn't the fun bit of the game. Don't go hoping for cool upgrades and unlocks because - basically - you don't get any. You just need to get better at the racing as you progress through the game. In doing so the "speed class", which race speeds are set at, gradually increases from slow to oh-my-god-where-the-*SMASH* speeds.

The meat of the game is learning your way around each of the twisting, turning and looping tracks at each of the different speed classes. Earlier on you can generally pick up a lot of the boost and weapon pads scattered around the tracks, but at higher speed classes and with tougher opponents this can turn into a tense crash-fest. 

Crashing, taking damage and using special moves loses you energy
 Hit Zero and you explode, which is game over and means starting the race again

Break it down. Stop! Picture time.
As you will notice, and as you can see from the presence of pictures on the blog - there is a full photo mode for the game which gloriously automatically saves as high-definition jpegs on your hard drive. 

Bravo, Wipeout. Nicely done. 

As you can see from the statue and explosion image sets below, you can change various image settings before taking your shot - leading to a vast array of clever, confusing and trippy options on these futuristic HD tracks.

The soundtrack complements this perfectly - trance, dance and drum and bass anthems aplenty - that not only fit the atmosphere but truly enhance it. The Zone and Zone Battle game modes in particular seem to be made to go with the big bass tunes in the game.

An explosion set off just behind my ship, with super motion blur in image 1 and focus switched and colour dulled on image 2

A statue on the track side with contrast, colour intensity, saturation, motion blur and focus settings adjusted, with original below.


Mummy! Look at me! I'm riding with stabilisers on!
The difficulty level is notoriously high in Wipeout games - I remember some of the earlier incarnations on PS One actually made me weep as I came in mere hundredths of a second too slow.

In Wipeout HD there are 3 difficulty levels - novice, skilled and elite - which can be viewed as - easy, challenging, god-like. Each of the parameters for the race gets modified to be more of a challenge - enemy AI, lap times, lap requirements etc.

The novice missions can be achieved with gold medals in the first play through, then the skilled missions make you work for bronze medals, taking several tries each. The elite missions are just that - frikkin' hard - and I doubt I'll be getting all gold medals on those any time soon.

The only way that I found I was able to get myself up to speed with all the game modes - both on and offline - was to use Pilot Assist, a new feature where the ship is automatically adjusted away from the track sides - greatly reducing the amount of times that damage is taken. This is about the only way that I found I could get to grips with the difficulty curve, and even then it was damn tough to move through the skilled races.

The difficulty curve here is pretty steep
The new Pilot Assist feature eases this considerably

Campaign medals and Online cred
Streaking round the corner and knowing my opponents are about to blow themselves up  makes me happy

There is a nice variety of tracks and game modes available across WipeoutHD and the Fury add-on pack. In single player you get the chance to try out missions against progressively better AI players on game modes ranging from basic missions like Races and Time Trials to awesome modes like Detonator (akin to a side scrolling shooter) and Zone/Zone Battle modes (trippy races which I still don't fully understand the rules of).

Getting all golds on novice difficulty will give you enough to take the game online - where you can try your skills against real players. I'm not sure if I'm just not very good at this but it took me absolutely ages to get my first online win, and a further dozen races to get my second. 

The achievements for this game include things like "Win 50 online races" and I just don't think I have enough time left in my life to get that sucker. The people that I have raced against are just too damn good for me. It's not so much of a criticism as it is a backhanded compliment: it shows that you can hone your game to get much better at it but you may not have the patience in order to achieve that.

In all game modes, the tables can turn on you in an instant

Get your money for nothing and your kicks for free
And the final bonus in this enjoyable, lasting and polished experience was that it was FREE! Good old hackers for shutting down Playstation Network for a month this year, Sony gave this as one of the free games as part of the "Welcome Back" grovelling package.


Yes, it was annoying at the time. Yes, I felt my trust was violated by Sony. 


But just look at it!


Surprisingly enough, this massive blast did very little damage to me
It's futuristic, gorgeous and runs beautifully - even during 8-person online tournaments


Conclusions

Pretty much everything you knew and loved from the old Wipeout games, now in glorious High-Definition and with plenty to keep you entertained.

It's difficult - really difficult at times - but that only serves to highlight how tight and clever the controls and track design are.

Earn some shiny medals offline, play with different game modes to tune your skills, take it online to test your mettle and take pictures of your adventure. It's like if GT5 was set in space in the year 2048.

Even if you can't get it for free, this is worth £20 of anyone's money - if you need any more convincing then just take another look at the screenshots.





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