Wipeout Pulse

Fingers on the Pulse

Studio Liverpool's second WipEout PSP rocks, but it's not quite perfect.
Author: Sam Bishop
Published: March 16, 2008
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When it debuted with the launch of the PSP, WipEout Pure effectively rebooted the series after the slightly disappointing WipEout Fusion on the PS2 got a little sidetracked. Not only was it the best WipEout game in years, but it was the best PSP game for months on end. Thankfully, Studio Liverpool was well prepared to extend the length of the game with a ton of downloadable content after the game shipped. Free downloadable content, I might add.

Now, almost two full years after the first PSP game, Studio Liverpool has returned with a sequel that's lengthier, more paced with variety and manages to squeeze even more juice out of the continually surprising PSP hardware. On paper, WipEout Pulse hits ever major bullet point that a sequel should, but whether because of Pure's amazing debut, the looming shadow of WipEout HD on the PS3 or because there isn't quite enough of a progression to the series, it feels a little like Studio Liverpool didn't quite pull the trigger on Pulse in some areas.

Make no mistake, it's a fantastic racer, and one that re-affirms that when WipEout is good, it's the undisputed king of anti-grav racers -- and indeed is one of the best racing games period. It's just that some of the choices in the overall progression of the game left me feeling a little disjointed. The individual "grids" that make up a set number of different challenges, from time attacks to normal races to the reworked Zones courses, deliver a constant stream of unlockables, but it felt a little too freeform for me.

Maybe it's just the nature of the previous games, but I've always come to enjoy the nuances of how each manufacturer's craft handle; should I opt for the control of Feisar, go with the speed and shields of Piranha, or side with one of the newer manufacturers like Triakis that offers a balance? The slightly disjointed nature and near-constant switching up of race types in the grids (each of which have cells representing the different races that must be unlocked by finishing an adjacent cell) means better variety than in the past, yes, but it also means that the constant progression of learning how a particular ship handles on a particular course in a particular speed class is largely lost.

Add in the fact that some grids actually change up the speed classes on a race-by-race basis and it all feels a little like Studio Liverpool went overboard in keeping the easily distracted ADD crowd happy ("like this race? Here's a Zones race! Now here's a time trial! Quick, have an all-new Elimination challenge). Eventually you'll come to grips with things, but for me it took far longer than I would have liked -- especially considering the new track designs offer far more in the way of undulations and banks that directly affect a ship's direction (i.e. a banked section of the track will "pull" a ship toward the edge). The particulars of each course now extend far beyond just memorizing the corners now, and after the rigid structure of Pure where I would run time trials until I knew every single speed boost pad.

The new structure to the races and the tracks themselves are only the tip of the iceberg as far as tweaks that have been made to the series, however. All of the manufacturers have been rebalanced, and now absorbing a weapon instead of using it offers different amounts of shield restoration. The advanced technique of opposite breaking has been replaced by a double-tap "side shift" that's quicker and more dramatic (and absolutely necessary in the later speed classes), and now AI difficulty can be adjusted pre-race by simply tapping the Square button. Sticking with a particular manufacturer now earns you reward bonuses for every race, including multipliers for perfect laps (or zones in that mode), and after hitting milestones, you'll unlock new skins for the various craft.
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