WipEout Pulse - PSP - Review
There are a great number of racing games available for the PSP as of this writing but back when Sony’s handheld launched to hungry gamers, WipEout Pure was among the launch titles to show up. The game turned out to be an impressive racing title with a pulse-pounding, adrenalin-fueled gameplay elements and challenging AI. Enter WipEout Pulse, a sequel with even more racing goodness to keep fans of the series (or fans of racing games in general) happy to jump back into the futuristic gravity racetrack once again.
WipEout Pulse doesn’t start you off with a training session nor does it place you in intermediate “qualifying” races before jumping into the more seriously competitive races. This game doesn’t take it easy on you and provides the challenges early rather than increasing the difficulty level gradually. This, of course, makes tough racing game for returning gamers but even those who have never picked up the first game can enjoy the challenge.
The game modes are broken up into three segments: Race Campaign, Racebox Mode and Multiplayer. Race Campaign is the main mode of playing the game and it features an interesting new Grid system that arranges each series of racing event within a number of grids. Each cell within the grid has a racing event you can highlight or unlock depending on your last race performance. Sometimes you’ll have to earn Gold (rather than a Silver or Bronze prize) in order to enter a particular race. Meeting the conditions of each racing event is part of what makes WipEout Pulse such a joy to play. The campaign is also a somewhat lengthy one and there’s no shortage of interesting races to tackle such as Eliminator, Zones, Time Trail and Speed Lap just to name a few.
Racebox Mode allows you to customize your own race using any of the racing styles, vehicles and racetracks from the main Campaign mode. I actually use Racebox as a warm up before playing the main game mode and it serves as good practice seeing as you can set the racing conditions (including adding “ghosts” during a Time Trail race to help attempt to beat your own record). There’s also a multiplayer mode that lets you race against a friend via Ad Hoc or up to eight players online via Infrastructure mode. Either way, you’re in for a smooth ride seeing as the framerate remains steady throughout. There are also a number of multiplayer race types to play such as Eliminator, Speed Lap or even set up a Tournament.
As far as the controls are concerned, the game keeps things similar to the last game in the series and that’s a good thing seeing as the controls for Pure worked wonderfully. Depending on the vehicle you use during a race, you can learn to make those sharp turns or make use of the Mag-Strips that can propel your vehicle further like a speed burst Pick-Up. Speaking of Pick-Ups, there are a number of them, each used to give you an advantage during a race. Of course, your rivals can do the same if they pick one up so it can go either way. Pick-Ups range from Auto Pilot (your ship will be piloted by an expert for a short burst) or Repulsor (sending a shockwave that will knock rival ships off course).
Another thing you will notice is that Pulse is unforgiving when it comes to the rival AI. They will, if you make a mistake, take advantage of said mistake and accelerate. Your rivals, while prone to making mistakes as well, recover quickly and make good use of Mag-Strips. Luckily, the Pick-Ups do a good job of making things a tad more even. The racetracks are also challenging and many of them have sharp or winding turns that require you to carefully navigate them while maintaining your speed. Racecourses like Moa Therma or De Konstruct are challenging but since there are very limited racecourses, you can easily memorize the twists and turns. Hopefully, more racecourses will be available for download later in the future
WipEout Pulse is also a sharp-looking game with pleasantly detailed racetracks and vehicles that look awesome as they push their capabilities to their limit. Each racetrack has its own unique look and twists and turns. Just about the only time you can check out the interesting backgrounds beyond the track is during Photo Mode since the game does speed effects perfectly. Speaking of visual effects, the explosions and power up at work look good as well.
The soundtrack is another highlight, especially if you like good techno tunes. The artist list is impressive with artists such as the Aphex Twins, Dopamine and MIST spinning their intense sounds with a number of other techno artists. If the music isn’t your style then you can insert your own music you have saved on your Memory Stick. The sound effects are also good as are the voiceover work that introduces each track and what you might expect from it. Plus, hearing the crowds of racing fans go wild in the background after a win feels good.
One of the most addictively exciting and enjoyable race titles, WipEout Pulse is one of those impressive PSP racing games to come along this year. Even with its limited racetracks an unforgiving AI, this is a challenging and fun racing title that has plenty of replay value and impressive production values. In other words, this is the game you must really consider buying right away if you like racing and fun rolled up into one single UMD.
Review Scoring Details for WipEout Pulse
I like some variety in the racetrack front but WipEout Pulse doesn’t deliver. That’s fine seeing as the game modes, controls and fast racing action handles perfectly throughout the game. Race Campaign adds a lot to do and you can always customize a race in Racebox Mode.
This is also a very visually pleasing game with some solid visual effects and delightfully detailed vehicles and tracks. Of course, many of the tracks you’ll see repeatedly but at least they look good and crashes are intense.
The soundtrack is, without a doubt, one of the coolest is you like really good techno. Even if you aren’t a fan, though, the soundtrack fits the futuristic theme perfectly and you can always add your own tunes via your Memory Stick. The sound effects are also good as are the voice acting and background noises.
The AI is really ruthless so don’t expect them to show no mercy during races … then again, they realistically make mistakes as well. While the game is really challenging, newcomers won’t be too turned off by the strict difficulty settings.
There are a limited number of racetracks so be prepared to see the same ones often but at least there is a generous amount of futuristic vehicles at your disposal and they’re really hot. The opponent AI gives gamers a truly worthwhile experience and there’s online multiplayer that works like a dream. New racetracks are promised via the game’s website but nothing is confirmed yet.
The smooth transition between Ad Hoc and Infrastructure mode is seamless so you can be playing against a friend in the same room then race against others in another part of the country without any framerate stutter in sight. This is how multiplayer should be handled in a racing game.
WipEout Pulse is, by far, one of the most enjoyable and addictive racing games to come along for the PSP this year. It’s a fast-paced, unforgiving and intense racing that will surely please fans of the racing game genre even with the lack of racetracks. Still, this is a Must Have for anyone who loves their racing games fast and fun.