ECTS: Wipeout Fusion

Sony gives the press a glimpse of the latest build of Wipeout Fusion for the PlayStation 2.

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At Sony's morning press conference today at ECTS Enda Carey, brand manager of Wipeout Fusion, and other members of the Fusion development team showed the latest build of the game running on the Sony PlayStation 2. The build shown is about 75 percent complete and runs at silky-smooth 60 frames per second. Developed by Psynosis' Liverpool studio, it will be released in the DVD format and is expected to launch in March 2001. According to the developers Wipeout Fusion will include 16 crafts and 8 environment with three tracks each. The game also includes two new control features, the "gravity flip pad" and the side-shift control. The gravity flip pad lets the player flip the craft 180 degrees and race on the surface directly overhead, while with the side-shift control players can shift laterally to pass other racers, and to avoid weapons and track obstacles.

Wipeout Fusion will incorporate a "new game structure," according to one of the game's designers Nevin Gaston. In particular, the customization and vehicle upgrade system has been altered significantly. The new system lets the player create each of their ships individually. Players can upgrade and tweak specific attributes such as thrust, lateral stability, weapon power, shield power, and brake force. Allowing the player to tweak these attributes separately "encourages a completely different structure to the game," according to Gaston. Players now have the option to create lighting quick racers or to build crafts armed to the teeth, and the ships themselves physically reflect these changes. The upgrades can be secured through race bonus, damage bonus, skill bonus, and time bonus. Gaston explained that the four level upgrade system was implemented to "try to smooth out the ship changes" in the PS2 incarnation of the game.

Stu Sockett, the lead programmer of Wipeout Fusion, followed the discussion on the new upgrade structure by talking about the game's visuals. Sockett promised that the final build of the game will have plenty of activity around the track, acid will drip from ceilings in certain areas and lightning will be added in the background. Also, the game will incorporate real-time environmental mapping, as reflections coming off buildings will be texture mapped onto the cars during a race.

As announced previously, digital design agency Good Technology will develop design solutions for the game, including game logos, in-game fonts, menus, weapons iconography; print & promotional materials, packaging, and merchandising. Interestingly, the design firm will create new teams with new and unique identities. As part of this concerted effort to differentiate each racer by look and racing style, the fictional team sponsors will be advertised throughout the tracks.

The tracks in Wipeout Fusion look more open and navigable than in Wipeout 3. In that sense, it goes back to the original Wipeout formula of a gradual learning curve. However, Psygnosis has implemented plenty of wild twists and turns. In the footage that was shown, the most impressive track design was a seemingly bottomless drop. As the driver came over a hill the track gave out and the vehicle went into a headfirst free-fall through a tunnel as the scene was cut off. We can only assume that the black hole-like plunge ends up in a long straightaway.

Although not overly impressive, Wipeout Fusion looks clean and relatively detailed. The environments shown looked more varied that the previous games in the series. They are more open and interactive, allowing players freeform areas that don't limit them to just following the track.

GameSpot will have further details on Wipeout Fusion for the PS2 as they are available.

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