I have a friend. A friend, who is amazed by the concept of time travel. And Back to the Future. Now, this review is about a coupla games. No, no, not the Back to the Future series; rather, floting cars. Yeah, you remember the ending scene of BttF/ title scene of BttFII? With the DeLorean? AND THE PART WERE IT FLIES? Ok, ok, very, VERY brittle link here. Let's get down into it.
WipEout was released for the PS1 a while back, 1995 to be exact. Owait. No. That was Eurpoeonly, US and Japan came later. Yep, the company who made this wonderful game, Psygnosis, is based in Liverpool, a lovely little English city, full of Liver Birds. Seriously, don't even ask. So, WipEout takes off, like nothing on Earth. It had everything that the gaming world wanted. Racing, check. Weaponry, check. Two player, check through link cable. Flying cars? You betcha. See, this was in the world after F-Zero, and everyone who had loved that series, loved WipEout. In layman's terms, WipEout is F-Zero, with weapons, lasers and death. There was nothing to NOT love. All it needed was Sonic's gratuitous speed and the ablility to jump on top of mushrooms to squish them to death. But wait, it had the former as well.
The original WipEout was fast. And I mean, really freaking fast. Sure, you could skid round corners in games like Destruction Derby, sure, you could float on air in F-Zero, but WipEout gave you the graphics to go with it. It's all very well having no friction on your non-existent wheels, but if you can't gaze in awe at the surroundings whizzing past, it's rendered little use. Not to hate on F-Zero, but the main problem was the lack of inspiring visuals; but heck, it did it well for the sprite based era. Anyways, task at hand. WipEout set the basis for one of the more successful driving/floating/shoot-at-moving-objects-whilst-attempting-not-to-turn-into-pink-lino-whilst-the-Gs-push-you-back series in history. So much so, in fact, that it went on to produce several sequels.
Now, today I'm not going to discuss WipEout 2097, or Wip3out, the sequel, and sequel's sequel respectively. No, rather, I'm going to focus on the two PlayStation 2 titles, WipEout Fusion, released in 2002, and WipEout Pulse, released in '09 for the PS2, the PSP build being released a few years before. To give a bit of background history on my experience of the series, so as to avoid my fangasms, I acquired Fusion in 2002 for
£20 and Pulse in July of '09 for
£10. Thus, I have a bit more of a connection with Fusion than Pulse. But hey, differences aside, 'kay? Deal with this like the professional I am.
WipEout Fusion was amazing. I know, I know, fangasm already, but for a kid buying his second PS2 game, it was. Looking at the back of the box, nothing seems all that impressive. 4 picture cells, with captions 'Faster', 'Tougher', 'Bigger' and 'Better'. You can see, they wanted this game to impose. The graphics within the pictures are pretty good for the time. The PS2 was still a relatively new console on the block, and programmers were still fiddling, but it all looks playable, a big step-up from the WipEout back in 1995.
'Mazing for its time.
So, you switch on the game, create a profile, choose a ship (FEISAR is my favourite. Maybe it's 'cause I'm European?) and away you go. Now, the first track of the game, is called Floridon Heights. Sitting at the starting grid, you're already encapsulated by the floating cars, the soundtrack, which is pretty freaking awesome as well, and the surroundings. As I said before, this is basically an updated F-Zero with weaponry and licensed music. Then, you start the race. Everything's going well, until you turn a corner and OHMYGOD THERE'S A FREAKING LOOP-DE-LOOP. Around 5 seconds into the first possible race of the game, and you're driving upside down, on a floating car, shooting lasers at the opponents. Now, if that hasn't yet sold you it, leave this review now. I mean, really? Why are you reading this? YOU MUST NOT EVEN LIKE FLOATING CARS. :(
As I mentioned before, the soundtrack is pretty good, though as a kid, I always loved the track 'Bassheads'; no idea why, it just seemed like the kinda thing to listen to, whilst your obliterating people, y'know? But yes, with artists like... Uh... Orbital...? BT...? All right, all right, I never said that the bands were well known... Who cares, the music's still pretty good to listen to, whilst speeding round a corner at over 1000 mph. Such a wonderful feeling.
The weaponry's pretty varied as far as shooting games go, generally. Everything from the equivalent of a glock, in this game the proton cannon, to The Harbinger Of Doom, the Quake. Even better, multiplayer introduces the an item which reverses an enemy's controls, an induced boost, and the Global Drain, which renders EVERYONE BAR YOU down to a single point of shield, and liable to implode all over the racetrack. This game will make you hate your friends. Also, each team has a 'special weapon', unlocked by completing a certain five challenges. These range from FEISAR's 'Super Missiles', which can eliminate an opponent in one shot, to the 'Black Hole Bomb'; a giant black hole tears down the track sucking in and ripping everything in its way to shreds. Can I hear a 'Yay' from the crowd please?
And now, I make a link between the the two games, to join them together in perfect harmony. Sadly, they are side by side nowhere in terms of controls. Fusion's controls were really freaking good; fluid, yet rigid enough that you would slide away over the side of a chasm, when tilting the stick a micrometre to the side. Pulse, however, fails fascinatingly in this respect. Instead of keeping the previous control scheme, they shift all braking to L1/R1 buttons, completely baffling any Fusion fans, where the air-brakes sat nicely on the L2/R2s. THEN, they go and sensitise Pulse all the way up to 11 and a half. The turning is just way too sharp; if you want to turn a corner, you gotta learn a whole new set of rhythm and reflex timings as compared to Fusion, which had sat quite nicely on top of the ones that WipEout had set down. It's just... Ugh. There's change, then there's porting something so badly, that it breaks. THIS is why I dislike many PSP => PS2/3 ports. Psygnosis, I thought I loved you.
The graphics are pretty though, a damned sight of improvement over Fusion itself. Improved scenery, though the tracks I've seen as of yet seem... I dunno, blander than Fusion? Maybe it was the fact that 'Nosis had done so much with the hardware in '02, who knows? That's pretty much all there is to the graphics, as that's not REALLY what the game's supposed to be about.
Now, compare this glory to the Fusion ones.
The weapons have been updated, upgraded and added to. Now we've got a nice little item that sucks the life-force out of the opponents, like an on-board Metroid and something that looks like a Pigeotto used Gust. Wonderful. All your old favourites are still there, like the Plasma Beam, which is still able to decimate an opponent and the horrible proton cannon, still with 30 shots to waste. BUT WAIT. You can now absorb the weaponry INTO your shield, which allows you to bypass that nasty business you'd have to go through in Fusion, with pit-lanes and men in white coats trying to valet your car to the nearest floating car park. Each weapon gives a different amount, but it's still better than holding fire to rid yourself of that awful cannon before you try and get the next plasma bolt. Sadly, however, the special weapons have been removed, so no more space-time rifts from renegade black holes boys and girls.
Soundtrack is pretty good. The WipEout team have made a coupla sexy little numbers of what appear to be remixed WipEout tracks; put that alongside Kraftwerk, and it's brilliant. Kraftwerk is welcome ANY DAY of the week to me. The Man Machine, Machine, Machine....
Now, I know I appear to be hating upon Pulse right about now, but really, there are a few reedeeming features over Fusion. For example, the Elimination mode in Fusion, where you had to destroy as many opponents as possible before death, seemed fairly broken to me, and was by far the most challenging with little practice. Pulse fixes this, by putting a 'first to *** kills' ruling upon the mode, settling any brawls from before.
So, overall, and in conclusion, Fusion was good and Pulse was OK, but nothing like it's older brother. Fusion came at a time where there was little to combat it on the console, where its graphics, soundtrack and controls were relatively unrivalled. With racing having taken off superbly on the PlayStation2, Pulse found itself as a mediocre port, of what should have been a freaking awesome upgrade to the WipEout franchise.