Once upon a time, there was a game called WipEout. It screamed in to our homes in 1995 as a launch title for the original PlayStation, assaulting our senses (in a good way) with its ridiculously fast-paced gameplay and pulsating techno soundtrack, and proved so popular that it spawned eight sequels.
The last two of those sequels, WipEout HD and WipEout 2048, arrived in 2008 and 2012 respectively, but there the story ended; it seemed there was to be no happy ending for this series.
Well, until now - because Sony's only gone and bundled up those two titles, plus WipEout HD's Fury DLC, and remastered them for the PS4 and PS4 Pro.
So, can the Omega Collection revisit the glory days of zero-gravity racing? Let's find out...
With our brief history lesson out of the way (though you’ll have to guess why the name of the game is stylised in such a fashion), the uninitiated may be wondering what kind of racing game WipEout actually is. Put simply, the WipEout games are futuristic, fast-paced arcade games that get you to whizz through cityscapes in the anti-grav racer of your choosing, shooting your opponents with a variety of power-ups, all while listening to an absolutely stonking soundtrack.
Acceleration is on the cross-button, while the triggers control air brakes, so you’ll need to get used to double tapping them for a kind of insta-shift if you need to get out of danger quickly. You grab power-ups by flying over them, and that’s pretty much the basics covered.
As a collection, Omega feels like Sony are testing the waters, putting what remains of WipEout’s best foot forward and seeing if people care enough to warrant a new title in the series, and let us tell you straight: the world needs a new entry in this series.
VARIETY IS THE SPICE OF LIFE
Since it’s basically two games in one package, there are small differences in how the campaigns play out, but it’s mostly window dressing, and you’ll still get to experience the variety of modes on offer across both games.
Starting out simply enough, you’ll have to win a few races before power-ups are introduced. Then you’ll get to have a go at time trials (standard), and speed laps, then the incredible zone mode.
Speed laps are fun, but they can also be over incredibly quickly if you’re half decent. The idea is that you have to beat a lap time to get the gold medal, and you can do this on the first lap if you’re good enough.
DON’T STOP ME, I’M IN THE ZONE!
But the best of WipEout is on offer in zone mode. Here, acceleration control is taken from you, and you just have to steer your way through safely. As you hit each new zone on a repeated course, the laps get more frantic and scary.
The first time you play zone mode is usually early on when you’re just used to the lowest speed class, so it’s here you get an early indication of just how fast WipEout can be. These are extreme speeds and you’ll likely be bouncing off the walls before you get anywhere near the top end.
It feels brilliant, and in many ways was before its time: it's all about getting in-sync with the music and clicking with the twists and turns the tracks present, making it almost akin to a modern rhythm games such as Thumper. These are pure tests of skill and are utterly exhilarating: zone mode is the quintessential WipEout experience, and looks just as impressive today as it did back then.
AN OLDER GAME, A HARDER GAME
One thing that’s worth noting is that this is not an easy game. Even in the first sections of the campaign you’ll have to replay races just to pass them, and if you want to get the elite pass or gold medal you’ll really have your skills tested.
Part of this is due to the combat and the aggression of the enemy ships. The closest genre-mate to WipEout would actually probably be Mario Kart, and just as in that wonderful Kart-racer, you can go from first to eighth in a nanosecond. While you probably won’t run out of energy and actually blow up, the regularity in which you will get pummeled with all manner of attacks is going to be alarming to newcomers. Honestly, there are few games that have such aggressive AI as WipEout.
First you’re hit with a life-drain beam. “No worries”, you’ll think, before being hit by a quake from behind. “Well, I’m only fourth, I can make this up” will be your foolish logic, because then you’re bombarded with cannon fire and you’re suddenly in last place, on the last lap, and you know you’re going to have to play the race again.
There are defensive capabilities such as a shield, an autopilot, and even mines, but WipEout has always felt tuned to the more aggressive player, and when you’re at the insane speeds you can hit in your anti-grav ships, there will be frustrating moments where you’re jumping around more than a ten-year-old on a bouncy castle.
At times it really will make you tear your hair out, because it’s not the kind of racing game that ever lets you get too far ahead of your opponents. On the higher speed classes, this makes for a brutal experience, with hellfire raining constantly as you scream around the bends, narrowingly avoiding destruction.
TWO CLASSICS BROUGHT SCREAMING INTO 2017
As with all of Sony’s first-party games, Omega Collection has PS4 Pro capabilities. While it’s not going to challenge the likes of Horizon Zero Dawn for visuals, the 4K and HDR options look nice. This is mostly thanks to the art style, because the futurescapes are colourful, sharp, and smoothly rendered. The clean white menus add a futuristic feeling to everything, and the whole game feels very much like a whole, despite being two separate parts.
The soundtrack is incredible, with monstrous tracks from the likes of The Chemical Bros, XTC, deadmau5, and The Prodigy, and it still plays as well as you remember, just a bit harder than many will be used to in 2017.
WIPEOUT OMEGA COLLECTION VERDICT
WipEout Omega Collection proves that there’s life in the old dog yet. Despite not having any new content worth shouting about, this is a huge collection of enjoyable racing moments at an excellent price.
The multiplayer and split-screen will keep you coming back for more, but it’s the bombastic electro soundtrack and shiny, high-speed racing that are the stars of the show, here. With any luck this will get WipEout to a whole new audience who, like us, will be clamouring for a brand new, from-the-ground-up PlayStation 4 title. We’re ready, Sony, make it happen.