Seems like racing games have gotten louder and louder over the years. In their
quest for ‘realism’, game designers have decided that you cannot possibly enjoy
a racing game unless the engine roar is deafening. The sound effects when you
crash can blow your speakers (even if they seldom seem to harm your vehicle).
Wipeout just might change all that.
The year is 2052 AD and the
sport of choice is anti-gravity racing. The race tracks are reminiscent of a bobsled
course, plus jumps. You also have the ability to race uphill, thanks to your trusty
rocket engine(s). The vehicle itself looks like a rocket sled and hovers several
feet off the ground. Your goal: get around the track ahead of the other guys.
Because the sled (“race craft”) doesn’t touch the ground, the only friction
is air friction. This makes turning very different from car or motorcycle racing
games. Its a little like racing a car on a slick surface, in that you have to
start your turns a little early and let your engine and airfoils push you in the
right direction. This control might be difficult for novices, but once you master
it, it’s smooth as silk.
The graphics in wipeout are beautiful. The sleds are garishly decorated with
emblems and logos from sponsors (anti grav companies?) just like a race car, as
well as the personal symbol of the driver. There are several different models
to choose from and they are all rendered in 3d. They have different characteristics
for turning, mass, acceleration and top-speed. The tracks themselves are smooth
and pretty. The scenery makes you want to crane your head around to look out all
the windows. There is a little bit of a pop-up problem with some of the billboards
and hills, but you can’t have everything.
Wipeout also has weapons,
just to spice things up. The are missiles, mines, rockets, shields, and some other
power-ups that you can pick up on the racetrack. These items only slow down your
opponent (or you) when they hit, however, and must be used strategically. This
game is not a shooter.
One flaw is that the game is just too short. There aren’t enough tracks. There isn’t enough variation. Unfortunately, the ride is over all to quickly.
But this whole review began with the sound. It is whisper quiet, and it is perfect. You can just barely hear the thrum of the engines over the low key techno-music. Even the weapons make a pleasant ‘whoosh’ when they fire or a low rumble when they explode. This ‘audio massage’ doesn’t push you away from the game, it draws you into it. All those other game designers were wrong. How can a video game be this quiet and this exciting at the same time? Wipeout has the answer, and its good news.