WipeOut Pulse Preview
Despite being one of the most critically acclaimed racing franchises in history, Wipeout still remains mostly under-appreciated and unrecognized by the mainstream gaming public. This won't stop Sony Liverpool from churning out another excellent entry for the PSP, though, as Wipeout Pulse is right around the corner and destined to be another smooth, adrenaline-packed experience. Those of you who were smart enough to pick up Wipeout Pure for the handheld are probably itching to get a hold of this sequel, right? It's probably because this is an even deeper and more versatile title; it features speed laps, time trials, head-to-head, a slew of weapons (you'll recognize most but a few are new), and all new ships and tracks. Furthermore, two additional modes should add to the replay factor- Zone and Eliminator. Above all else, Wipeout has always been about the gameplay, and Sony isn't about to stray from that focus with Pulse. If anything, they're focusing more than ever on providing the player with a superb and even singular racing experience, the likes of which is rarely equaled or even approached by other wannabes.
We already mentioned weapons/items, so let's start with those. Just about every last power-up you've seen in previous series installments will be available (homing missiles, auto-pilot, rockets, shields, etc.), and how you obtain them is the same as always. When flying over one of those pick-up icons on the track, a special weapon or skill will be randomly assigned; sometimes, you just have to hope for the best. For example, if it's a particularly difficult track and you're approaching the toughest section, you'll be praying for an auto-pilot. But if your opponents are giving you fits, you might be seeking some missiles or shields, especially if your energy is running low. Now, moving on to those two new gameplay modes: Zone basically combines the speed lap and time trial modes, in that you race alone and without power-ups. All you have to do is survive for as long as humanly possible, and upon completion, the game will assign you a rank based on your driving/flying skills. Eliminator is just what it sounds like- you'll be attempting to destroy your opponents while protecting yourselves from their attacks...last one standing wins. Yeah, this is definitely gonna be a party favorite.
But if you're more interested in the single-player campaign, there's plenty to keep you occupied for a good long time. You will progress through a series of grids, each of which are comprised of 8 to 16 different stages, which means you'll have to master each and every racing style if you wish to complete the game. Just because you excel in the standard race mode doesn't mean you'll be an automatic expert at Elimination, for instance. Basically, this game should offer a great deal of gameplay for many, many hours, and you'll always have a reason to pick up and play again. Unless you're some kind of racing prodigy, you won't be able to gather all the gold medals during your first play through, and you can always ratchet up the difficulty to keep the challenge fresh. And to add even more to the game's inherent longevity, Sony plans to toss up some extra downloadable content in the near future. While they haven't detailed this bonus stuff just yet, we fully expect to see new ships and tracks, and that's exactly the kind of thing to entice consumers. What better way to keep a game appealing than to continually issue mini-expansions for it? That's why we love our DC!
Lastly, if you're a big fan of being able to reflect on a great race, you'll want to take advantage of the new Photo option. When you finish a race, you can enter the Photo mode and cycle through a variety of camera shots taken during the race; you can look at an internal view as well as separate shots of the racetrack. We're wondering if there's an actual video replay like we find in the Gran Turismo games, but if not, the Photo mode is a nice little addition. But overall, Wipeout Pulse is loaded down with more gameplay than you'll know what to do with. And remember, this series has always been silky smooth and ultra-fast, so it almost always delivers the sweaty palms and racing hearts we've all come to love. It's amazing just how great the frame rate is in these games, and Pure on the PSP certainly proved Wipeout is here to stay. We might see Pulse before the holidays are over, and if we do, we strongly suggest making this part of your handheld collection...rapidly.
12/10/2007 Ben Dutka