By now it must be more difficult to bugger up a WipEout game than to get one right. PSP launch title WipEout Pure perfected the anti-gravity ship racing to such an extent that Pulse can only evolve the series with more tracks, ships, weapons and extras. If it’s a revolution you want, then we’re afraid you’re looking in the wrong place.
So what’s new? The racing is still exclusively about hitting as many boost and weapon pads as possible, and then choosing the right moment to use or fire your pick-up so you can collect another one as soon as possible. Using the airbrakes to take corners without dropping too much speed or damaging your ship on the barriers that enclose each narrow track is absolutely essential. You won’t get very far even on the first grid’s set of challenges if you fail to master these basics.
Selecting the right ship for each race type is also imperative. The main campaign is sensibly structured, so a number of challenges on each grid are initially playable, with the rest unlocked once you win a few medals, and a new grid with a new set of challenges and tracks becoming available once you amass a specified points total.
There are straightforward races, time challenges, speed laps and tournaments, so obviously a ship with a high shield-rating is pointless in a time challenge, while a craft with strong speed and thrust stats is better-suited to a speed lap. Finding the best balance is more difficult than you might think.
Crucially, Pulse has that rare addictive quality that makes you want just one more go before quitting - a promise you’ll still be breaking an hour later. It’s a game you’ll always improve at, yet never quite master, and even when you’ve completed all the challenges and all the grids, there are still lap times and medals you feel you can beat.
Every stat imaginable is recorded and saved to your profile, which can then be uploaded to the official WipEout website, giving anyone a comprehensive breakdown of everything from your racing style to your favourite weapons and ships. Impressively, Pulse has gone all-out to create a thriving community, with online and Wi-Fi play, the option to save and exchange races set up in the Racing Box mode, downloadable ship skins that you design yourself at the website, and new downloadable tracks and ships both at launch and post-launch. Whether gamers who own a PS3 as well as a PSP will ignore this in favour of downloading WipEout HD from the PS Store is debatable. If you’re still PS3-less, then Pulse is everything you’d expect from an awesome WipEout game - we can’t recommend it highly enough.
Dec 4, 2007