'WipEout' goes HD for attractive price

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Usually, when a game comes out priced at $20, that price serves as a cushion against that game's lack of quality. But what if I told you that there exists a new game that not only costs $20, but also happens to be freaking awesome?

"WipEout" is all about the death sport of sonic-speed, weapons-based hovership racing in a fictional, distant future, where players put their skills to the test against seven other racers with missiles, bombs and rockets. This all happens at around 700 km/h. Sounds awesome, right?

The gameplay here is still rock solid. Steering over pads that boost the racers' speed or give them power-ups, using left and right airbrakes to avoid the track walls and making sure their ships don't explode from taking too much damage still makes for a tough balancing act. And performing barrel rolls in mid-air to pick up speed upon landing feels as exhilarating as ever.

Every course, ship and music track, however, has been ripped straight out of the series' previous entries on the PSP, "WipEout Pure" and "WipEout Pulse," with no new content to be found. In fact, this entire project began as a simple copy-paste job, just to see what "WipEout" could look like in HD.

The final product, however, looks so far beyond "a PSP game in HD" that the statement itself sounds insulting. We're talking brand-new high-res textures for everything, a silky-smooth 60 frames-per-second framerate and 5.1 audio, all while running at full 1080p resolution. You couldn't take a bad photo of the game in its built-in photo mode if you tried.

Point being, even if you've eaten up every bit of content from "Pure" and "Pulse," the incredible graphical face-lift alone helps make the entire package feel fresh and new. And if you're a first-timer, all the better.

The eight-player online multiplayer pleasantly surprised me. Finding enough players to race with in "Pulse," let alone finding a host that didn't cause players to disconnect mid-race, was no easy process. By contrast, full eight-player games in "HD" are not only commonplace, but also smooth and lag-free.

"HD" incorporates the grid-style series of events for its campaign from "Pulse," which is still better than a straight ladder progression, but the grids are still too heavy on the boring time trial and speed lap events. You'll also still have to endure these grids in order to unlock the game's 12 ships and eight tracks.

The game includes a new "pilot assist" option, designed to prevent newcomers from feeling like they're being flung down a tunnel like a pinball. Unfortunately, it's an overly cheap "win button" that makes screwing up impossible. I could complete races on the fastest speeds in reasonable amounts of time just by holding down the X button, while the track walls repelled my ship like the opposite ends of a magnet.

Controlling the steering and pitch of your ship using your controller's SIXAXIS tilt sensor is another option. The tracks constantly dip and curve, so SIXAXIS steering seems perfect for this game, but it's still not a preferable substitute for analog movement. Given all of the ships' different handling abilities, the learning curve for this method of control is prohibitively high.

"WipEout HD" doesn't meet the standards of the series in terms of content offerings, but with such an attractive price, jaw-dropping visuals and reliable online play for the first time in the series' history, high-speed racing fans shouldn't hesitate to download it.

 

 

 

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