It's been a long time since we've seen a new game in the Wipeout series. To find the last original game in the line, we need to look back to 2002's Wipeout Fusion--a solid entry in the series, but not really in the same league as the series' high point to date, Wipeout XL. Can Sony's new handheld deliver a racer worthy of the Wipeout name? Judging from what we've seen so far, the prospects look pretty good.
Wipeout Pure doesn't look like it's setting out to reinvent the series. It's a high-speed futuristic racer that puts you at the controls of a hovering ship that zooms around impossibly tortuous tracks. You'll find speed boosts on the track, as well as weapons. You pick up a weapon power-up by holding the square button as you fly over it. Steering is handled with either the PSP's D pad or the analog stick, and as in previous games in the series, the left and right shoulder buttons are used to slide your craft out a bit to make tight turns.
The game will contain a variety of modes, but only two single-player modes were on display. The single race mode is as straightforward as it sounds, placing you on one of the game's tracks and challenging you to race against PSP-controlled opponents. Zone mode puts you on a short track and progressively speeds you up as you race. The only opponent here is the track itself, as too many collisions into the track walls will cause your vehicle to explode. The game will contain 16 tracks in all, including a class of tracks that appeared to be retooled courses from previous games in the series. Up to eight players will be able to complete against each other via the PSP's wireless network support.
Wipeout Pure will also have hooks in place to add additional content via the memory stick slot. Downloadable content, such as new tracks, vehicles, skins, and music, will likely be made available at some point after the game's release. Details on how users will actually get this content aren't available at this time, but it will probably either entail downloading the files on a PC and transferring them to a memory stick manually or using the PSP near a wireless access point and accessing the Internet directly from the device.
A big part of the Wipeout series has been its ability to properly convey the right sense of speed. You're supposed to be piloting a ship that can cruise at hundreds of miles per hour. Wipeout Pure, so far, seems to be doing a pretty good job of delivering that fast-moving feeling. The frame rate isn't quite as silky smooth as those of some of the other, more conventional racing games on display, but then, the game isn't finished yet either. Aside from the fast-moving races, the game's courses are also quite pretty. They definitely give off the right sort of futuristic vibe. We played zone mode on a bright, mostly white track, and it looked great. Previous Wipeout games have used external graphic design houses to further enhance their look. It's unknown at this time if Sony's Studio Liverpool is handling Pure's design all by itself, or if a third party is assisting with the look of the game, but so far, the game looks solid. Details on the game's soundtrack are unavailable at this time.
With the game already looking good from a design standpoint and in playable form at Sony's North American PSP debut, Wipeout Pure looks like it stands to be a strong entry in the rapidly growing racing genre for Sony's new portable system. The North American release of Wipeout Pure is currently scheduled for this summer.