WipeOut Fusion Review
It's perhaps the most heart held sci-fi racing series across any platform. Others strive to touch it, but they can't. F-Zero doesn't come close, and Extreme G3 is almost there. What is this series I'm talking about? WipeOut. Originally done by Psygnosis (who published titles like Colony Wars, G-Police, Psybadek and Formula 1) the WipeOut series had seen 3 iterations of the PSX, and even one of the N64 right before Psygnosis was bought out by Sony. Now believe it or not, it has been a little over two years since the revelation of WipeOut Fusion on the PS2. The game suffered a few delays -- many of which I'm not counting since, the game never really had an "official" U.S. release date up until January of 2002. But now, following the European release earlier in the year, Bam! has finally shipped Studio Liverpool's WipeOut Fusion.
Visually, WipeOut Fusion is a great looker. It really has come a long way since its initial debut, which was who knows when. The only flaws are a somewhat inconsistent framerate that tends to drop to 30 and below when there's too much action going on simultaneously, and a very slight aliasing issue. The framerate isn't as clumsy as the one in the European version, or so it seems. It looks like some of the game's major slow down issues have been corrected. Although slow down does occur, it isn't as awkward as it once was. Despite that, Fusion is a wonderful looking game, complete with a deep color-palette and a lot of attention to detail. The air-crafts are well built and are made up of a substantial amount of polygons. They animate smoothly and don't show a single sign off being half-assed. The stage design is superbly done and everybody who plays the game will think no different. There are 45 tracks in total, spread across different countries, including Russia, Australia, US and etc. Fusion has eye-candy and of course being a sci-fi racer, it wouldn't be complete otherwise. Most of the eye candy comes from the power ups/weaponry, as it explodes or is being used. Environmental detail such as clouds, mist, weather effects, and etc. are intricately detailed, and add to an already beaming package.
As soon as I began to play WipeOut Fusion, I chose my air-craft and level, waited for the game to load, and as soon as "go" flashed, I gunned it. I was doing fine, everything was smooth, that is until I began encountering the turns. I hadn't played a WipeOut game in so long that I barely lasted 50 seconds in a race. In other words, I kept on blowing up. My shield damage was too high and my craft couldn't take the pain anymore. So, I decided to pop in a few codes, unlock the Time-Trial mode and practice my heart off (and no, I didn't save the cheat code, you can't anyways). In less than 15 minutes I was hugging and caressing those turns like butter. In no time, I began placing 2nd and 1st in the races, and instantly WipeOut Fusion went from somewhat disappointing, to extremely exciting.
The AI, for one is really solid. While not every racer on the track performs well, at least 6-8 will give you a hard time, as they are accurate with weapon use and aren't afraid to give you a little 'nudge' here and there, if you know what I mean. The game was an overall blast to play. The weaponry was diverse and the speed was all there. The track designs were great, as they were filled with loops, dives, splits, edgy turns and the whole nine. You'll feel the sense of speed as you beam down a dive exceeding the speed of light. There are many aircrafts to choose from, all with their unique status and team ownership. Each craft features one of two selectable drivers, male representative or female representative of the team. The game is heavy on replay value as it features many courses to choose from (45 in total), in addition to secret air crafts and modes. For those who've been anticipating the US release, worry not, Fusion is an incredible game. I had a blast playing this game over and over. There are 6 different playable modes in the game, including a revised arcade mode, league mode (core of the game), an elimination mode, time trial, endurance, and the easter egg "zone" mode. In addition to the 6 single player modes, there are 5 multi-player modes. Also, as an easter egg, once certain parts of the game are complete, a reverse track for a stage is unlocked. There are 32 air crafts to choose from, most of which are secret and need to be unlocked and feature unique attributes. Each aircraft is capable of using either of the 26 available power ups/weapons, so keep that in mind. Here are the rest of WipeOut Fusion's features, they're very impressive to say the least:
- Previous versions of the game had seven parameters to define how the anti-gravity craft handled; Wipeout Fusion has 48, providing greatly enhanced handling and realistic maneuverability, but aiding instinctive use.
- The new physics system means ships can run at any angle; all ships have moving airbrakes and steering flaps.
- Cumulative damage and breakable sections, combined with improved ship-to-ship collision parameters, mean that craft will lose speed and handling ability in direct proportion to the severity of accidents and the parts of the ship damaged.
- Weight of ships is wider across teams, causing some - such as the Tigron team - to use their bulk to ram lighter craft, while others try to take advantage of superior handling. There are different racing setups even within the same team, according to a driver's racing style.
- Each craft also has an upgrade path with six different performance parameters which can be improved, including acceleration, top speed, handling, etc.
Innovative driver character feature
- Improved pilot A.I. mean that rivals act - and react - realistically, actually driving a course rather than simply following the track as if on a rail.
- Racing lines are dependent to a certain extent on the driver and his relative skill; some are more likely to block, ram and make driving errors than others.
- There are popular and unpopular racers: pick a character nobody likes and your race will be a whole lot tougher.
- Rivals bear grudges: continually target and hinder another character, and he or she will remember, bearing a grudge not just in that race, but throughout the season.
Weapons and power-ups
- Standard weapons, available to all competitors, include proton cannons; bouncing grenades; missiles; rockets; flame-throwers; plasma bolts; grav stingers; gravity bombs; mines; quake disruptors; turbo; autopilot and shields.
- Superweapons are team specific and include super-missiles; seismic snares; biological projectiles that grow across and block the track; orbital lasers; power swarms (drones equipped with rapid-fire guns); nitro rockets and penetrator missiles.
- Multi-player weapons include control jammers; turbo enforcers; hunter missiles; global energy drains and instant stealth mode.
- Power-up pads on the track comprise speed-up boosts, weapons power-ups and billboards, as well as the new 180-degree flip pad.
I will mention one thing. When mastered, WipeOut Fusion can turn into an incredibly addictive game, which really warrants its 50 dollar price tag. The gameplay is, simply put, exceptional. It's hard to be disappointed by it.
An extremely cool soundtrack of techno beats, superb sound effects, and on top of it all Dolby Surround Pro Logic II support! WipeOut Fusion is a tech junkie's dream come true. With the right sound system, WipeOut Fusion owners will be able to enjoy some ass kicking Pro Logic II sound. The soundtrack is superbly done, as it features a ton of fantastic songs that really get you movin'. The explosions and everything else sounds great. Overall, Studio Liverpool has indeed done a fine job.
Controlling the game at first can be a pain, needless to say, especially if you haven't played a WipeOut game in ages. Unfortunately both analog sticks aren't compatible with the game, just the left one for maneuverability and craft tilt. Yes, you can indeed tilt your craft by pressing up or down on the left analog. Holding down will tilt the air-craft up and make you lose speed. While holding up will tilt the craft downward (nose nearing the ground) and make you gain speed. You can use air brakes by pressing either L2 or R2 (depending on the turn), and yes they are pressure sensitive. In fact, the whole game makes good use of the Dual Shock 2, including the vibration, save the right analog stick.
After years of waiting, it's obvious to me that WipeOut Fusion delivers, and it delivers strong. Studio Liverpool has done a fantastic job at crafting one fine sci-fi racing experience. The game is fantastic in every aspect. Visually, it stands strong. The game includes an excellent graphics engine, with a ton of eye-candy to behold. The gameplay will certainly have you addicted, and the value of the game almost feels never ending, with the dozens and dozens of extras that the game offers. If you have a nice audio set up, and a receiver with Dolby Pro Logic II, by all means use it. WipeOut Fusion comes out as a very recommended racer. Go out right now and pick the game up, especially if you love the genre and series!
6/17/2002 Arnold Katayev