Wipeout Fusion is definitely among the most anticipated games on the PS2, particularly given the impact the series had on the original PlayStation. We've finally gotten our hands on it.
When Sony launched Wipeout back in 1995, it pretty much surprised everyone in the gaming audience. All of a sudden, it was possible to feel a tremendous amount of style in game-, ship- and track-design. Design-wise, SCEE Studio Liverpool took the same approach regarding the evolution of Wipeout's visuals, but the difficult task for the development team was to actually bring something new to the table; after three instalments in the series, it was about time for the next level. But judging from the latest playable version we've received, the team is very much on track.
For starters, Wipeout Fusion offers a whole lot of game modes right from the start: arcade, anti-gravity league, challenge, and multiplayer. As you progress, you'll unlock a range of additional modes, such as the zone mode or time trial mode, plus a host of multiplayer modes such as multiplayer variants of the anti-gravity league and arcade modes, as well as a custom league mode. Like in the previous games, you can choose from four teams in the beginning, including old ones such as Feisar or Auricom. Each team offers one pilot you can choose, with a second being unlocked when you progress. In total there are 16 pilots in eight different teams. In arcade mode, you start out racing one of the available tracks. Getting bronze, silver or gold medals allows you to unlock either different tracks in the same environment, mirrored versions of tracks you already, or altogether different environments, of which there are seven. In total, you'll be facing 45 tracks of differing difficulty. As you progress through the league, you'll also gain credits, which you can use to alter the performance of your ship. There are six parameters you can adjust, now such as handling or speed. Generally, the differences between ships are more defined now than in previous instalments of the series. Heavier ships, for example, can ram lighter ones more easily during a race but the downside of that being that they are slower in their handling. Another promise of Studio Liverpool was the inclusion of damage and breakable parts, which in fact look very impressive. Again you have a shield-bar, which tells you whether you're in good shape, or not. If you're not, then it's about time you head to the finish line and stop by the recharging-area, where your shields can be replenished. If you fail to recharge them on time, it's game over for you. The game's damage model allows you to see your ship falling apart, and, as its structural integrity degenerates, it'll take a performance hit. That's where the effect of the ship-damage can be seen best.
The other new features seem to have turned out very well, too. For example, judging from the version we've played, it seems like Wipeout is no longer simply about racing. It is when you switch off the weapons (which you can actually do in the options-menu) but with weapons on, Wipeout Fusion is a game heavy on combat, as well as racing. More often than not, it's important to be very clever at using fierce weaponry to bust up your competitors. It can happen that there's explosions and ships left and right of you, and the screen lights up with plenty of rockets, mines, plasma bolts, gravstingers or quake disruptors. In many ways, Wipeout Fusion seems to have evolved in the direction of combat, and no longer is a straight racer. With 16 ships in each race, you can bet it's a heated battle until you're past the finish-line. But racing fans don't need to worry, since the adrenaline rush is unchanged. Rushing over turbo-pads and hearing that a homing missile is incoming makes you want to overtake the next ship so the homing missile finds another target. Launching your turbo-boost while overtaking other ships, or navigating around laid mines definitely requires a good dose of reaction. Many of you most likely remember the first time you played Wipeout on the original PlayStation. It was a game that didn't allow you to blink, leaving you with a case of watery eyes after each race. And it still is.