Wipeout for the PS one was the ultimate in stylish gaming. Racing around futuristic landscapes in anti-gravity racing crafts with a top class soundtrack. The feeling of speed and the ability to blast away your opponents put it firmly ahead of the field in the racing game genre. Taking all that into account you could be forgiven for expecting something pretty special from Wipeout Fusion for the PS2.
The idea could not be simpler, you must race around a variety of tracks (45 in total) in a variety of crafts and beat your opponents to the finish. There are a host of weapons (26 in total) which include all the old favourites like the quake attack (which causes the track to flip up like a carpet in front of you), the homing missiles, rockets and so on. In addition there are new weapons to unlock such as the gravity bomb. You pick up weapons by flying over coloured symbols on the track while blue arrows make you go faster.
The game looks and sounds fantastic, the futuristic settings from mountaintops to underwater tunnels are all beautifully created, although to get a chance to see them you are better off watching someone else play as you won't have time to admire the scenery when you are in control yourself. The gameplay is very similar to the first game, the same exhilarating feeling of speed and exciting array of deadly weaponry. However this game is harder than the original. Your craft is easily damaged, the other racers seem to be more aggressive and both weapons and crashes seem to cause more damage than they did previously. This means it can be a struggle to finish the course without being blown to bits, never mind finishing first. It is worth persisting though, as the satisfaction of winning races justifies the effort.
There is a choice of crafts (8 in total) to choose from, ranging from easy to handle slow efforts to the fast, seat strapped on top of a huge engine types. Each team has two pilots (16 in total) and the best of these must also be unlocked before you can use them.
To unlock the next track you must finish first and gain your gold medal in the current one. Each setting includes three tracks, which can be raced forwards or backwards giving you six. They all use parts of the same tracks and get progressively bigger within each section. The old healing bay is still there although it looks much better now and you will have to use it on every lap if you expect to go the distance. You will also find the airbrakes are essential this time around because crashes cause so much damage, even scraping the side of your craft as you go around a corner can put a serious dent in your energy bar.
New features include an open terrain section on each map and a choice of routes. The open terrain bits are a great addition, they look good and are difficult to negotiate because the ships handle differently on them. The choice of routes is a matter of trial and error, some routes are easier than others and it is very easy to crash as you often spend too much time dithering between which way to go and end up going neither.
The effort that has gone into designing the various tracks is astounding and there are portions in each one which look really impressive. The music is brilliant and fits perfectly with the game, coming from people like The Future Sound of London and Utah Saints.
The game features a number of different modes, Arcade, AG League, Challenge, Zone, Time Trial and Mulitplayer. The only innovative option on this list is the Zone mode in which you must survive for as long as possible as your craft gets progressively faster. Unfortunately the Zone mode is locked when you start the game and you have to win the various medals in other modes to unlock it. The multiplayer mode is actually just split screen, you can choose vertical or horizontal. I had hoped it might support the rarely used i-link allowing you to play a number of people on linked PS2´s but it doesn´t, the option of large numbers in multiplayer is something which would really attract people back to this license.
I also have to say about something about the bugs in Wipeout Fusion. The collision on the tracks is not perfect and if you make the screen busy enough it is not uncommon to fall through the track, which needless to say is very irritating. I also found, to my horror, after playing a good halfway through the game that my save had somehow become corrupted and that all the data had been lost. This should not happen and the fact I could not then be bothered to play through it again is a worrying sign that this game was not as gripping and enjoyable as I had expected it to be.
Having said all that Wipeout Fusion is an exciting game and provides a good twist on the usual array of racers by including a vicious amount of combat. Anyone who enjoyed the original will want to buy this. The main criticism I would level at it is the fact that it is very similar to the earlier games, only slightly harder and much better looking. If you want seat of the pants excitement which includes blasting competing ships into fireballs and flying around a futuristic landscape at ridiculous speeds then this is the game for you.