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Wipeout Pure is a gateway to another dimension. If ever a videogame let us step into the living breathing microcosm of another world, this is it - and on the PSP Go the illusion is complete.
At its core, Studio Liverpool's Wipeout Pure for PSP is the game any Wipeout fan would expect; pilot ludicrously fast anti-gravity racers around futuristic raceways of increasing difficulty against AI opponents (or humans over Wi-Fi).
However, since its 32-bit roots each subsequent instalment has added feature upon feature with critically diminishing returns. Studio Liverpool have clearly recognised that the franchise has lost a little of the initial appeal with every tacked on addition. In developing Wipeout Pure they first took a machete to the previous instalments and kick-started a decelerating franchise in the proces.
Wipeout Pure presents you with a living, breathing microcosm that destroys the bricks and mortar surrounding your physical self and engulfs you in its digital arms entirely. All it takes is a few seconds on the track.
The solid graphics with believable real world textures wrapped around, architecture that begs to be explored at something less than 200 mph, and sounds that feel like they have come straight from Skywalker Ranch. This all helps the environment crackle with life and, as you progress through the ranks, there is a palpable feeling of being there.
You need to play this wearing earphones and unless it's to your particular taste, I recommend turning the electronica music down to zero in order to fully take in the exquisite sound effects of the jets, the air brakes and the cheering crowds.
The futuristic world that the game takes place in may have been first created in 1995 but it took fifteen years to fit it into the palm of your hand and the PSP Go is the perfect machine to showcase just how far the series has progressed in that time. The now extinguished device looks and feels like an extension of the craft you pilot - and further extends the sense of entering a microcosm of real racing life. The illusion of immersion is further maintained by the convenient coincidence that the PSP is the same shape as the steering wheel in many modern Formula one racing cars.
Wipeout Pure presents you with a living, breathing microcosm.
Wipeout Pure's stripped back addition to the franchise makes as much sense as the device it is released on. Not since the PlayStation One original have I felt so bound to my chosen anti-gravity vehicle and so responsible for its welfare as the wing tip grazes the hoarding as it glides around a bend.
The power is definitely back in your hands after the frustratingly steep difficulty spikes that were representative of previous instalments. Successfully mastering the tricky air brakes is the key to gold medal victory; get your head out of the world of tyres and tarmac, that knowledge is useless here.
Gone, too, are the pit lanes that doubled as shield regenerating zones in the ludicrously titled Wip3out. Instead, a more strategic element has been introduced - if the player's shield energy is running low they can absorb the current, or next available, weapon power-up to top up.
Few games that have the power to dissolve our surroundings.
The weapons themselves, whether or not you choose to sacrifice them, are varied. Careful use can mean the difference between being first to cross the line or being a fireball of springs, hydraulics and sponsor stickers. Simple rockets, floating mines, homing missiles and a devastating ‘quake' power up, that oscillates the entire track like a devastating soundwave, help to secure your finishing place in the top three.
Additional modes are kept to a minimum: time trial, free play, multiplayer and The Zone. Zone is a great extra gameplay mode in Pure and in some ways is to Wipeout as VR Missions are to Metal Gear Solid. The Real World may be mirrored here, but reality is soon left behind as you enter a computer simulated environment in which to hone your skills.
Zone mode is something of an endurance test as your craft steadily accelerates giving the player no way to slow it down. It is up to you to steer, apply the air brakes and navigate the course as expertly as you can for as long as you can stand it. With each successfully completed Zone (a section of track) the speed is increased a little more. It's a nice distraction from the game proper and, with its uniquely washed out palette of stark white and silver, looks beautiful too; like Tron's lightcycle races re-imagined by Stanley Kubrick.
Games like Wipeout Pure let us pick up entire worlds, with our relatively tiny hands.
For a media that is all about escapism there are surprisingly few games that have the power to dissolve our surroundings; to completely evanesce the physical things that tie us to reality. Games like Wipeout Pure let us pick up entire worlds, with our relatively tiny hands, and immerse ourselves.
We may not know how it feels to become a mage, a gladiator, a ninja, or an assassin; but we know how we would like it to feel. We trust the representations delivered to us, in the format of a video game, to take us to those places; to truly leave the real world behind. If you are a racing fan and a PSP owner, it would be remiss of you not to let the virtual world of Wipeout Pure into your life.
With so many different perspectives it can be hard to know where to start - a little like walking into a crowded pub. Sorry about that.
But so far we've not found a way to streamline our review output - there's basically too much of it. So, rather than dilute things for newcomers we have decided to live with the hubbub while helping new readers find the columnists they will enjoy.
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