If you haven't played any of the previous incarnations, you'll initially find yourself careening from wall to wall, but eventually you'll learn to use the air-brakes properly, and all will become well. There are driver aids available which try to keep you away from the walls, but they'll only get you so far, and you'll need to be able to use air-brakes properly if you want to win at the higher levels.
Finally then, we have a use for SixAxis that is not a gimmick. It takes some getting used to, as at first you'll be tipping the controller too far, but with a bit of practice it becomes a useful way to steer. Don't worry if you don't want to use the SixAxis though – it's perfectly possible to play Wipeout HD
without it, and in fact the option comes turned off by default.
As with previous titles in the series, there is a campaign mode as well as a quick race option. Rather than the linear progression common to many racing games' campaign modes, Wipeout HD
uses a hexagonal grid for advancement, with available events being standard races, tournaments, time trials or "zone races", where you see how long you can keep your craft going round the track as it gradually increases in speed. The only way to end a zone race is in a ball of flames. Boom!
The campaign itself feels somewhat short in length, but then considering the low price of the game in the first place it would be rude to expect more. Still, if you can't get online or your friends are all imaginary, there's plenty of gameplay in the singleplayer side of things to keep you satisfied. For a bit.
Online racing is where the real action is at though, and this is one area where Wipeout HD
excels. There are only single races or tournaments available – Studio Liverpool has missed a trick by not including any other race modes – but online races have an excitement that's just not found when racing against the AI. Tactics also come into play in online tournaments, and the joy of seeing a competitor explode as you edge past to win a race seems all the more fulfilling when your opponent is human.
The online experience is virtually flawless, with nary a glitch or slowdown – even when playing against a full component of seven players - which is as it should be, given the speed and truly frantic nature of Wipeout HD
races. This is online gaming as it should be done, and is only let down by the lack of race types.
So, we're almost at the end of the review and we haven't said anything about the graphics yet. This is Wipeout HD
, after all. Well, the difficulty arises because it's actually quite difficult to check out the graphics when you're trying frantically to avoid crashing into the walls at the same time as trying to get past the opponent who's blocking the way ahead. I had to ask someone else to have a play just so I could check out the graphics.
The good news is that Wipeout HD
really does live up to its name. The graphics are truly gorgeous and are displayed in full 1080p HD at a full 60fps. Even with lighting effects, explosions and frantic racing going on, I couldn't notice any framerate drops at all. It's surprising that it's taken a download-only game to show what the PS3 is capable of in the graphics arena.
So, you pay your money and you make your choice. Is Wipeout HD
worth £11.99 and about an hour of download time? That depends.
If you've been a stalwart follower of the Wipeout
franchise, there's nothing here that you haven't seen before. Granted, it looks fantastic, but the tracks and vehicles have appeared in previous games. You have to balance that against the sheer jaw-dropping visuals, and decide whether you want to fork out for more of the same.
If, however, you haven't played Wipeout
since its original PlayStation days, or you haven't played Wipeout
at all before now, then this is a game that you should definitely consider. Its bargain basement price, together with the ability to finally show off the PS3 graphical capabilities, means that Wipeout HD
should certainly go on your "must have" list.
Sure, the campaign is short and the online play is limited, but as soon as you start a race and hear the thumping soundtrack, you can't help but feel a little flutter in your heart. Wipeout HD
is all about the adrenaline, and there aren't many racing games that can match it.