Review: Now bring me Extreme-G HD!
WipEout HD is gaming's first futuristic racing franchise to break the HD barrier, which is a relief for fans of the sub-genre because there hasn't been a console edition of WipEout or its rival F-Zero in five years. Both series' have been playing to the portable market recently, so the fact that WipEout returns to the big screen from its successful stint on PSP's super small screen is notable enough. Add in the fact that the franchise supports a 1080p resolution, 60 frames per second, 5.1 surround sound and online play, and you've got long-time fans instantly forgetting about all of the agonizing delays.
The ideal buyer of WipEout HD is the gamer who got a PlayStation Portable and either WipEout Pulse or WipEout Pure and said, ?You know what would be even better? If I could play this on my HDTV? And no, using the PSP's component cables isn't good enough, I've tried.? This PlayStation Network download is largely a remixed, high-definition port of those two games, so it truly is the answer to that request. Some gamers who played the previous two entries to death will be put off by the rehashing, but there's still a lot of great racing to appreciate, and it's easier to realize this considering the 1080p resolution.
The graphics are stunning even before the first race begins. The game's assortment of metal ships hover above the futuristic tracks with a hypnotizing, airborne sway as they wait for the countdown to expire. These brief seconds are the only chance to appreciate the electricity-filled stadiums that are surrounded in fake ads, though, they could be real ads seeing how this in the future and all. Maybe we don't know about these companies just yet. Either way, once that timer reaches zero, there's no time to pay attention to the background. All attention is focused on the race's eight ships and their 600 mph speeds.
As your ship reaches these excessive speeds, you can listen to the franchise's techno-filled soundtrack, which has been a staple since the first WipEout in 1995. The beats go along with the frenzied weapons-based racing gameplay, including standouts like the energy-sucking leech beam and devastating, track-shaking quake. Using weapons to shift the race in your favor is addictive if you like the game types. Single race is your standard three or five-lap competition, tournament is a points-based grand prix, time trial give you three laps and a target time, speed lap is a succinct and refreshing version of time trial and, finally, zone automatically increases up your ship's speed every second in this infinite lap game type that always ends with an explosion.
The speed lap game type is a great example of why WipEout HD is to the point and all about getting into the next race at the same speed as your 600 mph ship. In addition to having time trials, speed lap asks you to finish a single lap under specific time, not a whole three-lap session with zero variation. Now, based on the approach of some games, you'd expect to race that one lap, see your race time and, if you didn't score a gold medal time, have to restart the process all over again. Starting over after just one lap takes too much time, yet having to always complete three laps is also a time-wasting snooze-fest. So, WipEout HD's developers mix the two approaches by giving players seven laps to achieve gold; no need to stop or restart the lap race mission from the menu. You just continue for seven laps until the target time is achieved or beaten. At the same time, as soon as you finish within that gold-medal time frame, the race ends. No need to complete all seven of the laps. It seems like a really inconsequential matter to bring up, but I wish other developers would be smart enough to include such smart logistics to keep a game type like time trials as fun as this clever variation.
There's no Eliminator game type unless you pony up for the WipEout HD Fury expansion pack. In it, a lot of pressure is put on the person lagging behind the most as the game eliminates the last-place racer at periodic times until only a winner remains. It would've been great if this game type, already popular in previous WipEout games, came with the PSN download initially, especially with HD multiplayer involved. And while the idea of buying the expansion pack (which includes includes Zone Battle and Detonator for a total of extra three game types) seems like a good idea on paper, you have to realize that because it's not free, most of your online friends won't buy it too. That kind of spoils the fun.
Also, there are only eight tracks that you repeatedly race. Earning medals in the single-player mode with the five game types should be enough variety for fans of the series, as the same track is approach in very different ways. And, despite the limited number of tracks, this isn't the game type of you'll finish in one sitting. Regardless of its price and PSN form, WipEout HD includes a healthy total of 87 race sessions.