I love Wipe Out as a video-game series. Fast, furious and high-speed Drum’n’Bass combined with bright and futuristic visuals, high speed thrills and the adrenaline rush that kicks in when the races start is damn near unbeatable. I’m not sure what George Lucas had in mind when he created pod racing for the Star Wars film we don’t talk about, but damn it, this is pod racing at it’s finest.
I’ve played most of the games and seen the evolution: from the first game to the PS3 and PS Vita versions, I’ve played most of them. This is why I loved it yesterday when I got to play the first 4K version on the PS4 just ahead of general release in my country.
Now you all have an idea of what Wipe Out is, let’s start with the negatives of the latest offerings and get them out of the way. Whilst loyal players like myself get one hell of a nostalgia buzz out of playing the latest offering, as they’ve remastered lots of track from previous games, they’ve not added many new tracks, and I’m not sure everyone is going to want to pay £29.99 for three old games combined, remastered and put on one game with a shiny new spin. I’m also not sure people who like Drive Club, Need 4 Speed or Forza are going to like this game either. It’s ruthlessly fast, brutal and demands your attention at every moment you’re playing. It really doesn’t take any prisoners. Okay, the fast paced soundtrack, which is superb by the way, helps you react if you sync your natural rhythm to it, but there’s no time to take your eye off the ball. There really isn’t.
That being said, the visuals are absolutely glorious, and for once, the trailers offer up the game relatively honestly. From the moment of your first race on the easiest setting, you’re transported into some form of mecha-future of the kind that Osama Tezuka imagined for his cult manga, Astro-Boy. It really is that beautiful. If you buy this game not believing me on that one, go into the game’s “photo mode” mid race and have a look around the ships and the track. Everything is highly detailed, from the advertisements around the tracks, to the false sponsors who’s transfers emblazon every ship on the game. The guys behind this (Sony’s Studio Liverpool) have checked just about every last little detail into this game. It’s not just an anti-gravity racing game, like the other games of the same genre out there, it’s a work of art!
The soundtrack also comes into high praise from me, as they’ve picked classic and modern tracks from older games and existing D’n’B to make this game work. You have the UpBeats and The Prodigy, helping newer inductees into the Wipe Out series understand the urgency and requirement for attention, but we also have some amazing remastered soundtracks from older games such as Pure (the first Wipe Out game on the PlayStation Portable) and Wipe Out 2048. It’s an instant acid-trip that lets you see into the future for some, particularly those who like Sci-Fi, and for those of a certain age, it’s a nod back to the ecstasy and acid fuelled days of underground raves and nights at the Hacienda nightclub in Manchester.
As for playability, this game has leagues, so the uninitiated can play along just fine and learn to race like everyone else will online. That being said, whilst the easiest league feels slow to you, there’s a sheer gulf of difference between leagues in terms of speed and brutality, and this game really doesn’t let people off lightly. The difference between Wipe Out and most other racing games is that in this particular gaming series, you can destroy your opponents in order to win. Whilst this is, broadly speaking, unheard of in earlier games, it becomes increasingly common as you go through the different leagues and as you go through the game. Also, if you get hit by a weapon powerup from another racer, be that player or otherwise, you really do feel it. The controller vibrates furiously and the digital heads-up-display (HUD) moves and shakes with the visuals, making the game even more immersive.
Because I got to play the game early, I didn’t get a chance to play this game online sadly, but I did get to play it with my housemate who came along for the ride, and we enjoyed some great multiplayer action. Unlike modern racing games that are slowly moving away from the arcade-style splitscreen style for multiplayer, Wipe Out Omega Collection allows you to go retro and choose either horizontal or vertical splitscreen, but we all know which we’d choose (horizontally, obviously). It is, however, a nice touch to add the choice, if you were using a curved 4K screen, I could see that coming in handy.
So as far as I’m concerned, WipeOut Omega Collection gets a 4.5/5. There were a few little issues I had, but they’re niggles as opposed to serious problems, and I’ve yet to play a game in the racing genre so immersive. So, well done, Sony, this game really is for the players.