So there's this new console coming out, right? The PlayStation, they call it. Cutting edge and grown up. The kind of thing that all the cool kids will own because they're not kids kids, they're older kids, you know? By default, they're cooler than you and your idiot friends. That's just how it is. When they're not filling their ears with electronica and club music past your bedtime, they'll be doing the drug that is Wipeout. WipEout. wipE'out". Whatever.
Wipeout is tough for me to explain, because it's not just Super Mario Kart meets science fiction, nor is it a 3D F-Zero. It's a racer with weapons, but that comes nowhere close to describing just how cultured Wipeout is.
When the PlayStation was set up in clubs for young adults to demo, it was Wipeout that was championing this new era of video gaming. Wipeout was a statement, of sorts. A symbol that gaming had evolved, to the point where we ought to think about the medium in new ways.
That's a load of waffle though. Most of that stuff goes above my head, I just play the games, and I played a lot of Wipeout as an idiot kid, and stuck with the series - on and off, it must be said - to the modern generations of consoles. It's time to remember where it all began.
Awww yeah. Massive starting grid. Stocky yet agile anti-gravity racing craft. Electronica blaring through the speakers. We're in for a ride, folks.
First off, let's get the important stuff out of the way. If you don't race for Feisar, we're going to have issues, you hear me? Be loyal to your team.
Wipeout doesn't offer a whole load, with single or multiplayer races, and a championship mode that unlocks more difficult Championships and trickier to navigate tracks all there is to entertain you.
Those tracks are winding roller coasters from a not too distant future where countries gladly plonk giant floating platforms and twisting iron structures through the middle of forests, cities and mountains, all the for sake of hosting what must be a bloody good event in the form of the F3600 Anti-Gravity Racing League.
With speed boosts, rockets, mines and more hurtling down the track at absurd speeds, it's not hard to see why, but it is a little difficult to see where you're going over the course of a lap. Wipeout is a game where if you're not in the zone while playing it, you better find that zone quick, otherwise, you've got little hope of progressing through the races.
Championships aren't quite what you expect, as races actually require you to finish in the top three in order to qualify for points scoring, with more points awarded for higher placed finishers. Fourth placed AI racers and below get points towards the championship, but if you finish fourth or worse, you'll need to race again and finish higher this time. Lose too often and it's game over.
This failure to qualify would be no big deal, were it not for the reason that your craft can go from propelling itself down the track with all the grace of a jet fighter to clonked out like a stalled second-hand family car in seconds.
Clip the side of the track? You stop. Get hit by a rocket? You stop. Clip the other side of the track? You stop. Clip another racer? You stop, unless they clipped you to give you a bit of a boost, but then you're usually bumped into a wall anyway.
This is just realistic, of course, but also infuriating at times. You can be within a second of the lap record, consistently over the course of the race, but if you're still in sixth place by the end of the second lap, forget about it. You just won't catch up, even to third place.
As mentioned before, you need to be in the zone in this game. Knowledge of the track is essential, and that only comes with practice and failure.
Further Fun Times
But then - aided by the trance music in the background - you nail the lap, take the race, score the points and feel great, only for the next track to be completely new to you, requiring yet another race or two of discovery. But that's cool because Wipeout is cool.
Finding the fastest lines around the track gives off a sense of discovery, as they're not always where you expect them to be, meaning you'll often be rewarded with a speed boost or at least an easier entry into a corner by taking a seemingly slower route.
You've got to hunt down this racing lines while listening out for sound cues of incoming threats to you. Hear 'Rockets' announced? You might be alright. Hear 'Missile' and you're most likely going to take a hit and stop on a dime. If you luck into a shield powerup, you can hold onto it for when you need it, but it'll only last a few seconds.
It may be better for you to just keep cycling through the pickups, getting rid of the useless ones (like bloody mines) in the hopes of picking up something you need. To do so though, you need to be free of powerups, and to have run over a pad on the floor that hadn't already been taken by the guy in front of you.
Most of the time you're okay, but there can be stretches where you run largely offence- and defenceless. In other games later in the series this was more of an issue, but in Wipeout, you will often naturally end up in large chunks of the lap with nobody to bother you from behind, and seemingly nobody in front of you, despite being in 5th. Weird. Weird, but it allows you to race, and get a feel for the ship handling.
These craft don't act like cars, and they may have fancy air brakes to tug you to one side or the other, but I dare not touch them while I was playing, because with that technique lies a lot of scuffed paintwork and slow lap times - consider it a professional approach, with an analog stick a far easier input method.
Each ship has its own subtle characteristics, but stick with one and you'll soon get a feel for it, turning early, turning sharply, gently bobbing and gliding around the tracks. Threading the needle is what you're aiming for here, not charging through.
I didn't make it to the end of the championship, and I assume I was more persistent in my youth, but replaying Wipeout was as fun and challenging as I expected it to be. Sadly, I had to emulate it, and without the music for some reason. Luckily, the music is awesome, and I've got a rapidly expanding collection of it to play in the background. You need to have something good to listen to in order to ease yourself into the zone I keep banging on about, and the Wipeout series certainly offers it.
The developers were playing Super Mario Kart while listening to Age of Love during the formation of Wipeout. How they got from monkeys in go karts to anti-gravity racing I don't know, but we are all very glad they did.
Wipeout is stylish, oozes cool, and has lasted twenty years now. Although it has sadly been carried along by remakes of remakes, those remakes stand out like nothing else in video gaming, thanks to the look and feel of the racing, the pulsating soundtracks, even the menu designs and team logos. The Designers Republic fell in love with the idea just as much as the gamers would do upon release. Just look at the cover. If that doesn't scream unique, what does?
|Source // Wikipedia|
Kinda makes me want to buy it's much younger brother sometime soon...
|Source // Punk and Lizard|
Until that happens, we'll eagerly await some of the other entries to the series scattered throughout the 1001 list, and I recommend that you play any of them. All of them, even. I'll narrow that down by the time I've replayed them all, but until then, all of them. Go.
The first non-Japanese released PlayStation game? That'd be Wipeout. wipEout. wipE'out". Whatever.
Wipeout, developed by Psygnosis, first released in 1995.
Version played: PlayStation, 1995, via emulation and childhood memories.