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Review: Wipeout HD

Saturday, August 28th, 2010 by

Despite being one of the PlayStation 3’s pricier downloadable titles, at $19.99 Wipeout HD is a ridiculous bargain considering it has as much content packed into it as one would expect from a retail disc. It’s an awesome technical achievement and fun as hell, making it an essential (if not the essential) PS3 experience.

You don’t need to be a race fanatic to appreciate Wipeout HD’s fantastic gameplay. The game is wickedly polished to boot; most aspects of the game are done to an extraordinary standard. While playing, you can really see and feel the developer’s desire to deliver something special.

Wipeout HD takes place in a presumable future, where racing has evolved into a cutting-edge contest of ultramodern hovercrafts racing through futuristic cities. You can align yourself with any of many manufacturers, each offering a unique vehicle with specific strengths and shortcomings. As you progress through the campaign you will be treated to a nice variety of events, ranging from weapon-addled races to blistering trials where your maximum speed is constantly on the rise. Let it never be said that Wipeout HD suffers from a shortage of activity.

The game guides you along at a great pace, and as you progress through the campaign you are pushed into higher, more difficult speed classes. You can score easy victories early on, but before long you’ll really have to step it up to compete. Wipeout HD takes great concentration to perform at the higher speeds, and gives you an immense feeling of satisfaction and reward when you’re on top of your game. Alternately, it can become fairly frustrating at times when perfect performance is practically demanded.

For beginners, Wipeout HD offers up an optional feature called “Pilot Assist”, which will automatically navigate you away from walls. You can turn it on and off at your leisure. For starting out, this is a great inclusion to the game, since collisions can be pretty commonplace while you are learning the contours of each track. Later in the game, though, as things get incredibly fast, Pilot Assist will only serve to hold you back. That said, it’s still a fantastic feature for younger kids or people who haven’t invested a lot of time in the game. It makes the game fun for the casual crowd.

Technically, Wipeout HD is a modern marvel (despite being a couple years old) and is one of the few games to really milk out the PlayStation 3’s capability. The game runs at true 1080p resolution and never dips below a silky smooth 60 frames-per-second, no matter how frenzied and clustered the action may become. It’s pretty awesome to watch, and even retains its constancy when you’re playing online. There are a couple tracks that, graphically, don’t seem to measure up to the rest of them, but that’s about the greatest complaint this humble reviewer can cough up regarding Wipeout HD’s visuals.

The game’s presentation is totally top notch. From the menus to the environments to the vehicles themselves, all are perfectly sterile and aesthetically awesome. The music stands out in a good way, too, meshing wonderfully with the futuristic theme of Wipeout HD. The intense, bass-heavy anthems and staggered electronic beats are sure to light your fire. Most of your time playing Wipeout HD will be spent at the edge of your seat.

The controls are simple to learn but a challenge to master. There is no straightforward brake, instead you are expected to learn to drift properly using “air brakes” that will pull your vehicle to either side. Most of your skills will be determined by air braking properly and having a good knowledge of the track you’re racing on. Knowing the track will help you to hit the boost tiles more frequently and also stay off the wall.

In most races, you will be able to pick up random weapons and deploy them at will. Stuff like homing missiles, mines, and machine guns. If you’re not careful or just the unlucky target of too many attacks, you can be forced to retire a race if your vehicle is destroyed. There is a small bit of strategy in how you choose to use your weapons, in that you can opt to “absorb” the weapon instead of firing it, allowing you to regain a portion of your vehicle’s life.

I would recommend Wipeout HD to anybody. It’s just plain amazing. Even beneath all the modern veneer, it’s got a beating heart of classic fun. Racing enthusiasts, hardcores and casuals alike all have many reasons to fall in love with Wipeout HD.

About the Author

Mark A. Brooks uses the A. initial in his name so as to seperate himself from the teeming legions of other Mark Brookses (there are at least 65,000 in the state of Michigan alone). Keep up with him on twitter, because why not. @unoriginalG

Mark A. Brooks has written 643 posts on Delta Attack
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  • Markham Asylum

    Sounds awesome and is now on my short list of PS3 games that I want to play when I eventually get a system. However, if, upon playing it, I discover that there is a little 9-year-old douchebag named Anakin who manages to consistently beat me by seeming to know what’s going to happen next, I’ll be paying you a visit and demanding $20 in retribution.

    • mulletsaurus

      It’s a pretty sweet game that I completely overlooked when it first came out. I was reminded of F-Zero in a way. Not that the games are all that similar technically, but spiritually they are brethren.