(the original post was done on my blackberry but upon upload I noticed some things got lost in translation, so I had to fire up my computer and totally redo this)
In the fall of last year a glorious little gem hit the psn last year, it was a downloadable title that could get in the face of any big game released and the name of this game was Wipeout HD, it was my first wipeout game and I loved it, crisp visuals(full 1080 P), tight controls, and a fantastic sense of speed, unfortunately also around that time we collapsed our stock market and it had just dawned on people that were in a recession(something that the people with more than half a functioning brain had realized 2 years earlier) so instead of the message boards being filled with praise for such an awesome release, it was filled with doom articles because the system it was on was still at a price we demanded it should be all of two seconds ago and wanted another price cut(a year later said system is fine).
When all the dust settle I felt said game was a casualty of the bullsh*t, though many sung its praises because of shear bad timing the game got passed by and received little credit for what it had done, something that saddened me because this was the first game that made me realize that downloadable games can be just as badass as full blown releases. The exact thought that crossed my mind was "oh great, now it will be another fifty blue moons before another dev gets brave enough to try and release something this great again" .still I played the game on and off for a year all the while it was receiving all the patches and every issue was solved (save for one that I'll get to later). Well to my surprise this E3 an expansion pack was announced , at the time I was hoping to hear word of a sequel in the works but considering what happened to the game I guess I'll thank my lucky stars for the expansion.
So that Thursday night I got a psn card, got home, cast off the old shirt and tie and got my chillin clothes, and got to downloading, and the first thing I noticed was (like the original game itself) was that the download was taking a bit of time. At first I just thought the fact that I was also getting the killzone 2 map packs and the dissidia demo (plus my brother in the living room computer sucking bandwidth as usual) was to blame, but upon firing up wipeout HD I realized why it took so long, what Liverpool studios called an expansion, most of todayís devs would call a sequel.
(In the end this ended up a semi review of Wipeout HD as well)
Wipeout HD is set in a far of future where apparently we've invented hover cars cured all disease and came up with technology that can instantly repair a man and his hover car and get them back on the track in seconds despite the fact that he just had a dark matter blast rammed up his tailpipe. And apparently health care is free and infinite and wonderful because the guys piloting these machines apparently have no fear of death or bodily injury or all other bad things associated with having rockets fired at you.
At its core Wipeout HD is your standard weapons based racer, When you enter a race in wipeout your given a number of ships to choose from, all come from faceless corporations. Each ship performs better than another in some way or another (some are better turners, others have better defense) along the tracks are various pickups (speed boosts, said rockets and dark matter blasts, AN EARTHQUAKE) Every ship is capable of a barrel roll that (when successful) will give you a speed boost (be warned this depletes ship energy whether you were successful or not so use it sparingly) and your basic goal is to make to the finish line while remaining somewhat intact.
One of the things that kept me from getting the past games( and probably many people) is that Wipeout had the difficulty and learning curve from hell(from what I heard), but part of the games appeal is besting the evil overlord empire AI. Liverpool has addressed this issue by saving the evil AI for the elite difficulty and allowing you to switch difficulties on the fly. Youíre also given what essentially training wheels in the form of an auto assist that will steer you away from walls. With all this the challenge remains (turn that difficulty on elite and the hate all humans AI will teach you the meaning of pain) while being friendly to newcomers and showing them the ropes without breaking most of their will. Basically even someone with the hand eye coordination of a sloth can gold medal all the races on novice. So essentially youíre getting the best of both worlds in the difficulty department.
While I'm at it I can't really mention wipeout HD without praising its graphics, this is one of the best looking games on any console (and with the expansion the graphics receive a fine tuning making them even more stunning).This game will make you very proud of that HD TV purchase .This game also trades in the gun metal gray that fills most games today for bright vibrant colors so this game is wonderful for your eyes if your tired of seeing brown.
Now what makes wipeout HD fun are the various modes , there's your standard racing mode, the first to make it across the finish line while not being a smoking heap is the winner, speed laps where your given one speed boost and have to figure out the best way to use it in order to meet the desired time, tournament mode 2-10 races with no breaks ,highest points get awarded to 1st placers , most points wins and then there's zones mode (yes I'm about to give zones its own paragraph).
Basically in zones your given the zones ship put on the track which has received a neon face lift (this mode put the rainbow to shame) when the starting light goes off you realize the computer is in control of the speed and all you have to do is turn and avoid wall and in general don't lose ship energy, for every zone you pass ( a set amount of time at a certain speed) the track changes to a different neon color and the speed increases and this will keep happening until you die and explode into cubes that will pulsate to the music ( this kinda reinforces the evil AI thing as if you think about it this is essentially a mode where the computer is assured to kill the player) and it couldn't be more fun, the neon tracks pulsate to the music and echoes the music as you go through tunnels (and this game supports custom soundtracks making this mode even more trippy provided you have the right music) essentially your racing through a giant synthesizer that wants to kill you, and its one of the best modes I ever encountered in a racing game(EVER). Speaking of music I have no complaints, although itís all techno itís appropriate given the environment and I actually prefer the soundtrack over my own music.
And when I said this game had a great sense of speed I wasn't kidding, HD is one of a few games that can get in burnouts face and actually have a chance. You basically start of at venom class speed (the beginners speed) and move on to flash class (fast but manageable), from there you move on to rapier class speed (what we humans refer to as mach 10...... My preferred speed) and then there's phantom class (AKA the have fun trying not end up a stain against that wall over there speed).
Add in stat tracking and rank support and all this added up to one of the better games of 2008, and this is before one of the most kickass expansions ever was given to us.
The FURY expansion gives you improved version of all ships (all seem more combat ready, given the new modes it makes sense) and 3 new modes (that can be used on all tracks) eliminator, detonator, and zone battles (two can be used online), new tracks and a few new techno beats to jam to while you fly down the road, all topped off with a brand new campaign.
on the bottom oldschool, on the top new hotness
Detonator is the new offline only mode, in essence its zones mode with an interesting twist. Your goal is to achieve the highest score you can, and now there are mines on the road and your zone ship has laser canon machine guns attached to it. You get points for blowing up the mines and bonus points for continuously blowing up mines without missing shots so it will work against you if you just hold down the fire button. besides holding down the fire button is just not recommended, you have infinite ammo but your clip is limited and apparently your guns are being reloaded by revolver ocelot because they take their sweet time getting back online, considering acceleration is automatic (like zones) running out of ammo at the wrong time will pretty much assure you'll end up eating a mine (or five).Mines you miss will end up as shadow mines on the next lap so if your aim sucks you will have a crowded road real quick.
How do you me expect me to shoot straight with all these colors in my eye?
Zone battles is a race to see who can make it to the target speed zone first, acceleration is handles buy the player this time as once you gathered enough energy (through the speed paths that replace the power ups) your allowed to do a zone boost. When you boost to a new zone your speed increases (making it somewhat harder to hit the speed pads) and you leave behind a zone barrier, if placed right the barrier can destroy any energy your opponent has accumulated (as well as take a chunk of their health bar) and halt their advance to the next zone. However holding out till the zone bar is full then using it will give you a greater jump in zones. This mode pretty much comes down to knowing when its time to use your boost. And in both mentioned modes wipeout HD continues its proud tradition of shaming the rainbow by hitting a color spectrum I didn't even know existed (How do you get Neon black?).
But the last of the new modes (and my personal favorite) is the eliminator. Youíre given a point goal to reach and point is achieved by terminating your opponents from existence. Your health recovery ability(in all other modes instead of firing a power-up you could choose to absorb it to repair your ship)is replaced with a temporary shield sacrificing the power-up for a few seconds of protection( the normal shield power up as well as speed boost, and auto pilot have been removed from this event) and health is recovered by completing a lap, also in this mode you have the ability to flip your ship 180 degrees and drive ( and fire) backwards, this being a bit risky considering you slow down for a second when you do this so should you attack miss your opponent can and will capitalize on the opportunity. What this mode essentially breaks down into is a hovercar roadrage, just instead of ramming into each other we fight like sophisticated men and women (with rockets, missiles, mines, bombs, plasma blasts, and leach beams).
Thatís what you get for racing the Goteki 45 bitch
The online play is smooth as silk and even if the host drops the game simply makes another player the host without so much as a hiccup. Custom soundtrack, cross game invites and every other bell and whistle gamers bitch about today are present and accounted for save for one (remember waaay up at the beginning of this wall of text there was one unanswered issue here it is) and it that there's no voice chat. This is an odd omission considering every other feature under the sun was put in this game. From a pure practical standpoint this doesn't affect game play because there are no co-op modes what so ever but I find it odd they left out the easiest feature to implement.
However even with that flaw on its record I can't recommend this game enough, if you own a ps3 (and are not in a psn cardless territory) you should own this game as its better than a lot of the full priced games released today. If you are in a psn card less territory when you do eventually get them grab a 50 and spend 30 on this game and its expansion, you can thank me later.
(This review was brought to you buy Assegai, because the 52000 loyalty points I have with them implies they own me).