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Wipeout HD
Graphics: 9.4
Gameplay: 9
Sound: 10
Control: 8.9
Replay Value: 8.9
Rating: 9.1

It's been one of the most highlighted and covered PlayStation 3 games since its announcement, and it's been in development for just about two years. We first heard word of a PS3 WipeOut game last February, but Sony wouldn't confirm it until a few months later. Well, after an endless wait filled with delays, WipeOut HD has finally surfaced on the PlayStation Network, and it is easily the best damn $20 you can spend for your PlayStation 3.

We start off with the simple stuff...first, what you need to know is that WipeOut HD is fast. Very fast, in fact. If you've never played a WipeOut game before, you're going to be grinding against the sides fairly often. In order to prevent from crashing at every turn, you'll have to master the air-brakes, a feature that slows your craft down, in addition to allowing it to make sharper turns. You have an air-brake for each side of the craft, allowing you to make sharp lefts and right -- double tapping an air-brake button will trigger a very quick sideways maneuver for last second directional changes.

There is a certain technique to master with WipeOut HD, so you can't just mash the throttle and go-go-go. You have to get a feel for each individual craft, as no two crafts in the game handle the same. Thankfully, the game also gives you the choice of adjusting the controller's sensitivity when it comes down to air-braking, acceleration, and even the SixAxis' motion sensitivity. Toying around with the former until you're most comfortable is very recommended, as it'll change the feel of the game to your liking. Additionally, being able to completely remap the controls to your liking is yet another facet I always like in racers.

So what does this $20 downloadable package get you? Full game's worth of content. Let's put it this way, if WipeOut HD was a full-fledged game on a Blu-Ray disc retailing for $60, I'd still praise it and give it the same score. You get some of the best tracks from previous WipeOut games, eight in total, with downloadable tracks on the way, and all of the tracks can be reversed too. There are 12 crafts, all of which have four different classes of speed: Venom, Flash, Rapier, and Phantom. Again, like the tracks, there will be downloadable crafts made available on the PlayStation Network, as well. With the 12 crafts come eight teams lifted from WipeOut Pulse, with downloadable ones on the way - the teams include: Feisar, Assegai, AG-Systems, Qirex, Piranha, Triakis, Goteki45 and EG-X.

Five race modes are available for you to enjoy in the campaign, offline, or during a quick session in the Racebox and they are: Single Race, Tournament, Time Trial, Speed Lap and Zone Race. All but Zone Race should be obvious, so allow me to explain what this very kick-ass race mode is about. It's simple, really, you are dropped into a track that begins with a texture-less monotone appearance that consists of primarily one color. The idea is an endurance event to keep your craft going for as long as possible, while a ticker at the top of the screen accumulates points for you the longer you stay alive.

The craft you pilot has its throttle pegged wide open and so you can't just stop it, you have to survive. Now, every few thousand points the track will change colors and increase speed, which means you've entered a new "zone". Like Tetris, the longer you stay alive, the faster the game gets, until it gets to the point where your reflexes just can't handle the speed and your craft takes too much damage. Unlike a standard race, for a Zone Race there is only one specific craft for the mode that all teams share and there are no opponents. In all honesty, I love this race's brilliantly fun.

Of course, there is your assortment of pick-ups, which range from weapons, to shields, to speed boosts. Unlike some the of previous WipeOut games where you had to drive through a pit area to restore energy, in WipeOut HD you can just absorb the pick-up you have and, in turn, heal your craft. Pick-ups include mines, missles, shields, machine fire, leech beam, rockets, and more. Furthermore, feel free to take your experience online against eight others, as WipeOut HD is even more fun online than off. 

For long now, Sony Liverpool had been showing us immaculate images of the game which had led many to believe that the screens were bullshots; in that they were touched up to conceal aliasing issues and such. Now that the game is actually in our hands...err, hard-drives, it looks like Studio Liverpool wasn't messing with us, after all. Much like some of the more recent PS3 games, WipeOut HD defines image clarity by sporting not one jagged edge, not one torn image (screen tearing), not one ugly texture, and utterly stunning lighting. If all of that wasn't enough, rendering 1080p at 60 frames per second without the slightest hitch makes WipeOut HD an achievement in HD gaming. Moreover, the track detail is so beautiful that it's hard to not take your eyes off the road and admire the scenery around you as you whisk past it in excess of 450MPH. So yes, to put an end to the debates, WipeOut HD looks that damn good.

Then there's the audio, an aspect that the WipeOut series has always been known for. For WipeOut HD that doesn't change, as the game boasts a beat heavy soundtrack that's, as always, exceptionally suited the game. But perhaps what makes WipeOut HD even more special is the ability to create custom soundtracks, making WipeOut HD one of the few PS3 games capable of the feature. What's cool about having custom soundtracks is that you can load soundtracks from the previous WipeOut games onto WipeOut HD, giving veterans of the series that nostalgic kick. I, personally, find metal to be extremely useful while playing the game; specifically Bullet For My Valentine seems a bit too apt for the game. Unusual, I know, but it feels like a match made in heaven. I also love how the feature works, as a song doesn't start playing until the 3-2-1 countdown finishes and the race actually begins. Furthermore, songs don't repeat either, as the game will move onto the next one in the list. And to keep things feeling genuine, during the menus you'll be brought back to the game's original bassy work.

For $20, WipeOut HD is the epitome of value. There is simply nothing out there that can compete, with the exception of Burnout Paradise, and that didn't originally debut as a $20 game. Studio Liverpool has lived up to their promise of releasing the fastest racing game to date, as WipeOut HD's game engine works like a horse, boasting a 1080p picture and 60 frames per second. Moreover, the gameplay, while challenging, feels extremely rewarding and fun. On top of that, short to no loading makes the overall experience feel very polished. And hey, the ability to create a custom soundtrack is one that I always welcome with open arms. WipeOut HD is brilliant.

10/6/2008   Arnold Katayev