A swansong from Liverpool.
As I began to write the review for this EU launch title, the sad news that the developer, Studio Liverpool has been closed. Formerly Psygnosis before they become part of the global Sony empire, they have contributed many great games to the PlayStation platform, and this looks to be their last hurrah. It could also be the final WipEout game that we see, at least for some time. We hope not, because this game is amazing.
WipEout is synomynous with the PlayStation, every version of the platform has seen a WipEout game released for it, and for good reason.Whilst the library of Vita games isn’t as bad as is made out, it is short of stand out titles. But this is one of them, if you like racers, this is a reason to buy a Vita.
This version is sort of seen as a prequel of sorts, being set before any of the other games, starting in 2048, funnily enough. The Anti Gravity League has only just been established, and you aim to conquer all before you in a variety of game modes over the first three years of this racing event. It’s not all about the racing though, as each season has differing events, where you either have to complete a time trial, complete circuits with the speed gradually increasing, or simply destroying as many opponents as you can in the combat modes, in addition to trying to outrace everyone else on the track. this gives a nice bit of variety to each season and can very easily make you lose track of time.
The game is a treat visually, it really showcases the raw power of the Vita, with everything moving at frightening speed around you, the world moves around you with perfect ease. Whilst it is an absolute beauty of a game, I did notice that when the quake power-up is used, the frame rate really drops. This particular power up crumples the track around you temporarily, and perhaps I’m missing the point but everything does really fall, and the visuals do suffer. But thankfully your experience with this particular power up are few and far between.
There are many types of power ups, which fall into the offensive or defensive category, with attacking weapons including a cannon, missiles, mines and the aforementioned quake, whilst defensive varieties involve shields and auto pilots and you can use these to your advantage or you can choose to absorb the weapon in exchange for a tiny burst of speed, which can be extremely crucial in tight races.
Also crucial will be your mastery of the air brake which will allow you to shift effortlessly around the track without losing much speed. You will want to be a master of this by the end of the 2049 season as this is where the difficulty jumps up in the game, just ahead of the 2050 season.
As mentioned previously, there are multipe types of events to compete in throughout the seasons, and equally there are different types of vehicles which are more suited to each. You have four classes of ship spread over five different manufacturers, FEISAR, AG Systems, Qirex, Auricom and Pir-hana.
Firstly you have the speed class, which are ultimately the fastest of the ships but these suffer from poor health and firepower, with an inability to use the bomb and quake power ups. Next up are fighters, which have a more impressive use of firepower and sturdiness, but at the cost of speed and agility.
In between the two you have the agility class which compromise speed for better health than the speed class and more effective track movement. Finally we have the prototype class, which have a variety of effects. The FEISAR prototype for example starts with extremely poor speed, but this picks upas you run over speed strips to ultimately give you a higher top speed than any other ship, at least until you hit a wall. Or get blown up.
As you complete events, you accumulate experience from both passing the event, or by meeting the target for an elite pass and at various points you will unlock new ships and challenges to improve your vehicle collection. The game features ten different tracks to race on, all set within Nova City, apparently Studio Liverpool’s futuristic take on New York City.
Depending on the event you will be set a specific speed class, which ranges from the slower D class to the insane A+ class (or even a Mach class in Zone mode), and these tracks all feature many twists, turns and shortcuts and are all quite unique in their own right. All of this happening in to the usual WipEout soundtrack style, this time featuring the likes of The Chemical Brothers, deadmau5, kraftwerk, Orbital and The Prodigy among many others.
If you are looking for a little multiplayer action, then you won’t be disappointed here, with AD HOC multiplayer supported along with online multiplayer. I can’t talk about the AD HOC, but can get to the mechanics of the online. In a simliar mechanic to single player, you progress from one mission to the next on a grid, many with simple targets to meet in order to “beat” the mission, pretty much taking part guarantees you a pass, with elite passes usually consisting of not finishing last. This allows novice players to seemlessly play and get rewarded even if they do not win, which is a nice touch and in my experience means that most players tend to stick around and play longer.
There is an awful lot to do in this game, and without a shadow of a doubt, is currently the best racer on the Vita, and certainly one of the prettiest. If this is to be Studio Liverpool’s legacy, it’s a fine one to have. Whoever has to pick up the WipEout franchise now has a massive challenge ahead of them, because this is a must have for WipEout fans, and a must play for racing fans.