Review: WipeOut Pulse

The newest entry in the WipeOut series brings some of the fastest gameplay to the portable arena. We find out just how fast.

If there’s one thing that can be said about or imagination its that we love to run wild with ideas of what the future may hold. For years, visionaries have been painting vivid pictures of the future through art, literature, and film. Every aspect of society has seen some sort of change pass it by including that of the exciting world of motor racing.

It’s that area that’s given the once over in the new game of WipeOut Pulse, an entry in the long running series of WipeOut games that gives you the reins of everyone’s favourite future-bound hover cars loaded with mines, rockets, and all manner of destructive forces that you can fire while propelled at hyper-fast speeds.

There aren’t a lot of instructions and after the fast paced introduction video, you’ll quickly settle into the fact that this is a high speed explosion of eye candy and energetic electronic music. While controls are relatively simple, you’ll have two brakes at your disposable in the form of the PSP’s left and right paddles. Take note that these will often be how you make your turns because the speed at which WipeOut Pulse propels you will mean thinking is an option best left to people using current and more realistic forms of transportation.

This means it’s full speed ahead as the tracks whip by you at fast speeds on some of the easier settings and ridiculously blazing “oh my God I think I’m actually going to catch on fire” speeds in the hard modes.

Now you might think that you have a lot to contend with by dealing with super fast speeds, but it’s not just the speed. No, you and your opponents will all get weapons that you can fire at each other in the hope of draining each other’s energy and taking each other out. But it’s not just the gunfire you’ll have to look for. As gravity kicks in and you realise that it’s not flying through space that’s going on here, you’ll pick up that a few too friendly taps into the wall and you’ll drain your life faster than anything. Once that happens, you’re gone.

Playing WipeOut Pulse, you’ll probably notice two main things.

The first is that it’s relentless and unforgiving. Did you want to win? Well, good luck because while you can start on some of the easier modes, it’s going to take you a few tries to even get past the beginning levels. Somewhere between having controls not responsive enough and too responsive has yielded a game that just doesn’t want to give anything away.

The second thing you’ll find is that while the electronic music is hard, pumping, and an excellent little fuel for your ears if you happen to be wearing headphones, there isn’t a lot of sound except for when things happen to explode around you. It seems so strange for a racing game to lack a whirring of an engine or louder passing sounds but short of taking a nose dive into a wall or having a rocket blow up around you, you’ll only hear a smattering of small noises. As a result, WipeOut Pulse sounds emptier than it probably should.

While the music rocks and is loaded with high quality tracks from artists like Kraftwerk and Aphex Twin, it feels more like you’re playing only to the music than anything else. That’s not bad but it’s not the gun-fire gritty future racer I expected out of it.

WipeOut Pulse is nothing if not exhilarating though. The graphics while not brilliant are beautiful and colourful enough to keep your eyes satisfied for a good long while and because of the clarity of the PlayStation Portable’s screen, you’ll find that it’s very hard to not get sucked into the high speed world of WipeOut Pulse.

It’s kind of like glaring into a windshield of the future, except with rockets, explosions, and a lot of techno coming out of the air vents.

Developer: Studio Liverpool / Sony Computer Entertainment
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Classification: G
Formats: PlayStation Portable
URL: WipeOut Pulse

Reviewed by Leigh D. Stark