You may think it is beyond you.
To rip through the heavens, to master the air, to defy the laws of physics, to mock gravity.
Be told. Nothing is beyond your reach.
-- Amara Beshir : President, Assegai Developments
Welcome to the F7200 Racing League, the word of Wipeout 3. This high intensity, stylish arcade racer is the 3rd entry in the exceptional Wipeout racing series. For years, Wipeout's anti-gravity racing has enthralled millions of Playstation owners with believable physics, spectacular graphics, cutting edge techno music, and, at the advanced levels, very, very difficult driving. Wipeout XL (the second in the series) has perhaps been eclipsed only by the mighty Gran Turismo.
Like Fred Picasso, Helmut Mozart, Gary Abdul-Jabbar or Nancy Sinatra, having a talented parent can be a burden. Most people are likely to compare you to your famous forebear… and this review is no exception. So just how does Wipeout 3 stack up?
The first and most obvious change is in the graphics. Wipeout 3 uses a whole new graphical engine that does some things better and some things worse. The entire game utilizes the Playstation's high-res mode for sharper graphics and crisper lines. While the new graphics are both sharp and impressive, they are also edgier and less organic than Wipeout XL. Most noticably, the engine's flare and trail just doesn't look quite as good.
On the plus side, the framerate is way up, allowing both smoother gameplay and faster vehicles. And it can do this with a whopping 12 contenders racing at the same time! Very impressive indeed, and possibly the most 3D power ever coaxed from the now-aging Playstation. The framerate even holds up well in the split-screen two player mode.
That's right, I said two player mode. Easily the biggest flaw with XL was the inability to challenge your friends. No worries now, though. Wipeout 3 lets you split the screen vertically or horizontally, insult your friend's mother, fire a missile at his backside and tear past him, leaving him frothing at the mouth as he watches your rapidly disappearing plasma trail. With only a few graphical simplifications, the two player races run quite well, and unlike other split-screen games, the two of you aren't driving alone. You have a (nearly) complete field of eight racers!
Speaking of missiles, there are some new weapons and flashier weapon graphics. Don't worry - the quake is still here, and the plasma is just as deadly. But now you can also drain your competitor's shields, throw up a force wall, cloak, or use a reflective shield to bounce back enemy attacks.
The music stays up to date with brand new rave mixes by DJ Sasha, Chemical Bros., Propellerheads and others (pass the Ecstacy, please). The engines seem to have gotten slightly quieter, and the old computer voice has been replaced with a woman who does a fine job, though I don't like her quite as much.
With only 8 racetracks and 8 vehicles (plus a few secrets), Wipeout 3 feels just a little skimpy. I know that track design is difficult and time consuming, but at least a couple of more vehicles would have been nice to see. After all, Gran Turismo had what? 300 of them? Instead, Wipeout's depth lies in its difficulty and precision. You could dedicate years to perfecting your anti-gravity racing strategy. If you thought those GT 'A' class races were hard, let me tell you, they've got nothing on Wipeout's Rapier class.
But where Wipeout 3 really excels is where the series always did: in gameplay and style. The racing and controls are smooth and flawless. The slower class lets you play for fun by mashing the thrust key and steering, while the advanced levels will force you to perfect your use of the more complex airbrake and boost controls, unless you want to place last… every time.
Most impressive of all, Wipeout 3 has got STYLE. The anime-inspired minimalist theme is perfect and is reflected everywhere, from the menu screen to the billboards by the sides of the track. Psygnosis even hired a company to design logos, animations and commercials for all the racing teams in the game. This may not seem important, but it is. It gives the whole game an amazing, immersive, real feeling. Rather than being a just a fantasy racer full of spinning powerups, Wipeout 3 seems more like a possible vision of the future.
The only stylistic flaw is about as stupid as it can get. The font used throughout the game is great, except for the vehicle selection screen where the text is so tiny, it's pretty much impossible to read the stats of each vehicle. Psygnosis forgot that we don't all play on high-res monitors like they do...some of us use our televisions.
Wipeout 3 is a great new dose of anti-gravity racing magic and a must-have for all hardcore fans. Sure, you don't fix what 'aint broke, but I just wish the game had a little something more… a career more, vehicle upgrades, something. While it's still one of the best racers out there, it doesn't really conquer any new ground. On the other hand, it doesn't lose any of its parent's territory either, like Teddy Caeser or Joel The Hun did.