Wipeout will indeed get your Pulse racing - it's the best piece of futuristic madness since the Jetsons.
Wow. Last year, during the Christmas season, Sony was pretty much non-existent when it came to pushing the Sony PSP. I mean, the system still got by thanks to third-party support, but in general, the schedule of released games from Sony itself left a sour taste in our mouths. But, for 2008, the push has been indescribably cool. Pursuit Force: Extreme Justice has gathered steam, and in the next couple of weeks we'll be knee deep in Patapon and God of War: Chains of Olympus. Inbetween the two, we have what could very well be the coolest racing game for the platform to date - Wipeout Pulse.
Like previous Wipeouts, the game focuses strongly on futuristic racing. You choose from a variety of crafts, divided into certain classes, and hop right on the race track to show everyone what you're made of. The game moves even more fluidly than the previously released Wipeout Pure, with a more creative set of track designs and the ability to upload customized skins from the Wipeout website right to your PC. It would've been cool to be able to do it automatically through an online connection, but the option's still easy to access. The graphics will simply dazzle you here, with a smooth frame rate and loads of detail.
The music is still techno-laden, with tracks from the likes of Mason, Aphex Twin and other bands. If you hate this kind of music, well, you're not going to change your mind here. It stays the course with what these games are known for, and doesn't stray that far from it. However, if you feel like racing to something else, the game has an awesome option. You can upload a few of your MP3's right into Pulse, racing to whatever you feel is necessary. If for some inexplicable reason that includes Michael Bolton's "When a Man Loves a Woman" (a favorite of our editor-in-chief, no matter how much he denies it to the staff), so be it.
Gameplay hasn't changed from previous Wipeout games, but that's not biggie. What plays here still plays just as well as it ever has, with an intricate air braking system, tight steering, and an array of neat power-ups and booster panels to run over. The new "suck" power-up is great, allowing you to siphon energy from an enemy vehicle without needing to drift through a recharge station. One slight hitch that can't be overlooked, however, is the game's difficulty. Wipeout Pulse is DAMN HARD, even on the slightest of difficulty settings. Even when you think you've got all your opponents beat in a dash for the finish line, along comes a painful missile strike from behind or a power wave to remind you that they're still there. On a harder difficulty, this takes a LOT of getting used to. Make sure you use those shields wisely.
The game has several options to choose from, including Racebox, Elimination and other events that will keep you busy in single-player. However, as with any racing game, the real treat is playing against others. Wipeout Pulse supports up to eight players online through AdHoc and Infrastructure, and runs smooth as silk. Racing against humans is a lot more fun than going against a super-talented AI, as they'll screw up just as much as you do. Plus, blasting a friend with a missile and then laughing at him or her is always more fun than trying to laugh at the equivalent of Sark. (Although with Sark, you won't get creamed in the face with a pillow or a Slushee cup.)
Wipeout Pulse is undeniably cool, and the best in the series to date. Its visuals will surprise you, its MP3 and customization options will floor you, and the gameplay will challenge you and keep you racing for the future. It'll get your Pulse racing, just like a damn good racing game should.
What's Hot: Terrific visuals; fun gameplay; customizable skins and MP3's can be installed; entertaining online and AdHoc play.
What's Not: A little too difficult for rookies; general gameplay hasn't changed much; haters of techno will loathe the soundtrack.