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Wipeout HD 3D uncovers just how impressive the game has always been. In 3D, the speed, art design and even sound are magically more engaging, transporting you to another reality with a technical tingle down your spine.
The original Wipeout for the Playstation in 1995 was a revelation. The style and design married to super-fast anti-gravity rocket ships was very special. Many games since have tried to create the almost mind altering stream of visuals.
The increasing technical horse power of consoles means that frames can now be filled and thrown around at pace. But Wipeout still retains its crown, now as Wipeout HD for the PS3 with full stereoscopic 3D built-in. The design style is very similar to the original Wipeout but the 3D elements make it feel fresh again.
The menus are comfortable to read as they maintain a flat panel style whilst hovering over an animated 3D background. As one of Sony's flagship 3D upgrades it was important they got the design right and didn't distract from the racing.
The 3D is most effective in cockpit view. The Head Up Display (HUD) is subtle and unobtrusive allowing you to get the full brain-rush speed effect from the races. Launching into the first corner of the first track gave me goose bumps like my first time with the game back in the 90's.
Now, like then, it differs from a traditional driving game. Here you are bounced around by the antigravity, bobbing and weaving, balancing and counterbalancing. It is this motion in a 3D view that will either create motion sickness or adrenalin depending on your physical makeup. I felt suitably enthralled but still, after about an hour of playing I really had to stop and have a rest.
Launching into the first corner of the first track gave me goose bumps.
The tracks have a mix of tight turning tunnels and wide open straights threading through cities and mountains. The visuals are constantly altering and playing with your mind. The claustrophobic "oh no here comes a wall" moments flow into the more open straights with a flying leap. A pleasing bump announces the anti-grav as you land on the track doing 800 kph.
The futuristic cities use a photo realistic style, complete with the suitably designed billboards and projections. While this is effective, I had a soft spot for the Tron inspired Survival mode. The track becomes neon and cell-shaded while you struggle to wrestle the ship around each corner trying to get further than you did last time. The longer you can hang on before a spectacular de-rezzing the more points you get. As the speed increases psychedelic colour changes paint themselves over the track.
3D adds a new layer of finesse to the photo mode too. It was fun to pan the camera around, zoom in and out while the visuals were paused. The weapon trails, halo effects and very detailed ships and cities looked amazing.
Winning medals unlocks more extreme courses as Wipeout gets ever faster. The collections of levels are monikered Uplift, Warped, Frenzy, Vertigo and Headrush, which are certainly accurate descriptions. Each is amplified by the 3D.
The substrate for this experience is the soundtrack.
The substrate for this experience is the soundtrack. There is a suitable club style set of tunes to pick from, each mixed in 5.1 Dolby. The great sound design feeds your ears as much as the visuals nourish your eyes.
The graphics engine needs to work very hard to move this amount of data around keeping the flow smooth. Any jarring movements or popup would have a magnified impact. The developers could have stuck with the closed in tunnels and kept the outside long distance tracks to a minimum but the rendering code and PS3 implementation is more than capable of delivering the goods. You can use the photo mode to see where the types of rendering alter from mesh to skybox but the whole integration is incredibly slick.
Although in reality a simple patch to the 2D Wipeout HD game, in 3D Wipeout feels like a totally fresh experience. Given how exhilarating this remix is I am left wondering what would happen if they actually built a proper Wipeout 3D from the ground up, would our eyes be able to cope?
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