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wipEout HD
Score: 100%
ESRB: Not Yet Rated
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment America
Developer: Studio Liverpool
Media: Download/1
Players: 1 - 2 (1 - 8 Online)
Genre: Racing (Arcade)/ Racing (Simulation)/ Shooter

Graphics & Sound:
Oh, my Lord! wipEout HD is what the wipEout series has been trying to be from the beginning. Imagine the same high-paced action and uber-chic graphical interface that the wipEout series is known for, but with ultra-realistic and very, very highly detailed vehicles and environments. We're talking 1080p, here... finally, a HD version of the game that has been begging for high definition since it was conceived. I have even watched the game's replays several times, just looking at the environments and noticing the detail. For example, in previous games in the series, the power-up pads on the ground looked like they were pretty much painted there. In this version, you can see that they are actually made of a series of light units angled up at about a 45 degree angle. It's really cool to see a wipEout game with this sort of detail.

wipEout HD's soundtrack is a lot of pumping, energetic techno. I find the music's good enough to listen to even when I'm not actively playing the game. It's works well as ambient background music - I even was thinking about playing it through my surround sound during a party. No joke.


Gameplay:
There are several modes to choose from. Campaign modes has you working through a career, if you will, working your way through eight increasingly difficult events (Uplift, Warped, Frenzy, Vertigo, Head Rush, Speed Freak, Dropzone and Meltdown). Originally, only Uplift is available; the others are unlocked by achieving some specified minimum number of points in the event below it. Each event features a grid of events in which to compete. Only a couple are unlocked when you first reach an event, but achieving at least a Bronze medal in one of the available events will unlock the events that border it in the grid. You'll need to get a few Golds to earn enough points to advance to the next event, but you can pick your favorite race types and get Golds in those, then make Silver or, perhaps, Bronze and still get enough points to advance.

So, let's look at the race types then, shall we? The basic race is Single Race. There are some number of laps, and the prizes go to the pilot that manages to stay alive and cross the finish line first. Tournament does what you would expect, and builds on this concept by adding more races in a sequence. Best overall is the winner. Not every race type involves weapon usage, however. There are a few that are all about speed and, possibly as a secondary consideration, control: Time Trial, Speed Lap and Zone. In Time Trial, you're trying to finish the entire race in the best time you can manage. Speed Lap, on the other hand, couldn't care less about how you do on most of your laps; only your fastest lap matters. Finally, Zone is a really interesting race type. This is essentially a racing simulation skill test for wipEout pilots. Regardless of the company you choose, you're given a standard ship and the race is a "computer simulation" inside of the game. When you play it, you'll see what I mean - the entire world is very simplistically drawn, everything changes color as you achieve different levels and sections of the track are alive with VU-meters that dance with the pounding music. This race type could be very relaxing, if it weren't for the fact that there is no way to slow down. That's the way they test your skill. They put you in a craft with no way to slow down and slowly increase your speed on a track strewn with boost pads. Your skill level is determined by how long you can last before your ship bounces off too many walls and explodes.


Difficulty:
For the uninitiated, wipEout HD may be a bit difficult. This game does seem to expect that you've played a game or two in the series before. That having been said, wipEout is a relatively straightforward game... well, in gameplay, if not in track design. There are a few things to bear in mind if you're trying to manage the game's difficulty...

First of all, there should be no problem finding enough challenge in wipEout HD for even the most die-hard wipEout fan, with new teams (and, hence, new ships), the unforgiving Zone race type and eight increasingly difficult events to work through - not to mention the Online mode, which allows you to play against up to seven other players from around the world. You should be able to find someone out there who can offer you a challenge.

If your fear is that the game will be too much of a challenge, there are things to help you out here, as well. For one thing, you can set the difficulty level or the artificial intelligence of the computer-controlled opponents. If you're finding the competition a bit too steep, take 'em back a peg. As for the speed-only races, where there is no competition but yourself, you will actually see a "ghost-ship" hologram that shows your best time on that race. If you simply work on beating that opponent (essentially, you), as you practice and do better, your time will get shorter and shorter, and eventually you should be able to achieve a Bronze, Silver or even Gold medal in the event.

One thing that some players have trouble with in wipEout games is controlling their ship and keeping it from flying off the track, which costs them valuable time. wipEout HD remedies this with a new Pilot Assist feature that can be activated in the Options menu and will activate when your ship starts to get close to the edge of the track, nudging it back towards the center of the track.

Another thing to keep in mind is that the power-ups can affect the difficult of handling your ship. It's all about speed, but using a turbo boost power-up in the wrong place can send your ship careening off the track. Meanwhile, the Autopilot power-up might not make the best use of pick-ups, but it will give you a few seconds of impeccably accurate piloting - which may be handy for using in that part of the track you always seem to slam into... it's okay - we each have our own.

Finally, in the Race Box mode, you can play against another person in a split-screen game (horizontal or vertical - your choice), so if you are the world's worst wipEout player, you can invite over the world's second-worst wipEout player or duct tape a controller to your little sister's hands and actually beat someone. I'm just saying.


Game Mechanics:
In addition to the high-definition detail that has gone into wipEout HD, there is a Photo mode that lets you fully admire it. Some of the screenshots in this review were taken using the Photo mode.

Also included in wipEout HD is support for using a custom playlist... just in case you're not a big fan of the techno music. Simply rip music from your CDs or copy MP3s into your PS3 and build a playlist. You can then select a playlist to use in the Options menu. Nifty. There's even a test you can run to make sure that your 7.1 speakers are set up correctly.

The wipEout series has been around since the original PlayStation. Truthfully, not a lot has been added over the various renditions of this game. However, the game, itself, was - at the time - an awesome game, and each version has pushed the envelope a little further. Whether you're a wipEout fan from back in the day or someone who has never played, I highly recommend wipEout HD.


-Geck0, GameVortex Communications
AKA Robert Perkins

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