Though it has been keeping a fairly low profile lately, especially in the US, Wipeout Fusion is still on track for a Q4 2001 release in its home territory of Europe. While the game still needs some tweaking before it's released, it looks pretty cool, has some nice modes and features, and perhaps most importantly, feels more like a sequel to Wipeout XL than to Wipeout 3.
The game will feature 42 tracks in all, though this breaks down to seven different environments with three Ridge Racer-like track variations each, and each variant can be raced in both directions. The biggest change in the environments are occasional patches of track that get away from the rigid, enclosed tracks of previous games in the series. You'll occasionally get off-road and onto a bumpy stretch of dirt track, and all the vehicles--races can contain up to 16 vehicles--kick up dust as they rocket through the dirt areas. The tracks also contain corkscrews and loops. Another new track feature is a flip icon that will flip your vehicle over and make it stick to the ceiling. Additionally, some tracks will have hidden shortcuts, such as shooting a boulder out of the way to make a new path. The cars take visible damage now, and repeated crashing will cause flames to shoot out the sides of the car. The more damaged you get, the worse your handling will become. Instead of going the class route of XL's upgrade system, Wipeout Fusion will allow you to earn points that are spent upgrading your vehicle in five different categories, such as top speed, handling, and acceleration.
The game will contain a few new modes along with a two-player split-screen multiplayer mode. Zone mode puts you on a track at a set speed. Your accelerator doesn't work, so you're left with only air brakes and the walls to control your speed. Every 20 seconds, you move to the next speed zone, making you go even faster. This score-based race ends with you either blowing up from hitting the walls too much or reaching a blisteringly fast speed zone 30. Web contest mode will spit out passwords that can be entered on the Wipeout Fusion Web site for the purposes of world rankings.
Graphically, the game has a pretty nice look to it. You can see the pilots inside the vehicles, and the final version will contain lots of different little pilot animations, such as seeing him jerk forward when you hit the brakes and lean around curves. The weapon effects and vehicle explosions are bright and look very nice, and the track surroundings are nicely detailed. For the most part, the game ran at a very smooth rate, though a few graphical glitches and spots of slowdown were present. These will surely be fixed up before the game is released. Musically, the team is still working on licensing deals, but an announcement concerning the game's soundtrack should be made shortly. The music in this build of the game is merely placeholder. Like the rest of the series, Wipeout Fusion's graphic design is being handled by an external firm. Fusion's style, designed by Good Technology, fits right in with the rest of the series.
No plans to release Wipeout Fusion in the US have been publicly announced, but it's a pretty safe bet that we'll see it sometime in the first half of 2002. The European release is scheduled for later this year.