Wipeout Pulse Review

Pulse Title

 Title: Wipeout Pulse
Developer: SCE Studio Liverpool
Platform: PlayStation Vita
Game Type: PSP
Download: 181 MB
NA Availability: 
Digital Download

EU Availability: Digital Download
PSTV Support: 
Yes

Some franchises have gone to and from being first-party franchises or exclusive franchises for certain systems.  Many have started exclusive to one system and then went to another.  Danganronpa, for example, started exclusive to the PSP and PS Vita, but have since gone to other systems.  Some go back to being exclusive while others start multi-platform and go exclusive later.

One series that was originally multi-platform is the Wipeout racing series.  It started on the PlayStation as well as the Sega Saturn, DOS, and even the Nintendo 64 in its early days.  After Wipeout 3 released on the PlayStation, though, the series seemed to become exclusive to the PlayStation brand.  It even got three different handheld games on the PSP and PS Vita and a partially-developed PS4 game before the company closed down, ending the Age of Wipeout.

PSTV owners may also note that Wipeout 2048, the Vita title, isn’t compatible with their micro-console.  However, they have nothing to fear, as backwards-compatibility allows the experience on the PSTV, just like in flOw and LittleBigPlanet.  So, I’m here to talk about the most praised of the PSP titles of the series.  Here is my retro review of Wipeout Pulse!

Story

Due to this game not having a story, this section shall remain blank.

Gameplay

Pulse Game 2

Wipeout Pulse is a 3D anti-gravity racing game with light RPG elements thrown into the mix.  I say light because there is a ranking/loyalty system, but it’s not heavily incorporated into the game.  So, let’s just call it a 3D combat racing game.

When you load the game, you have several menu options.  There is Race Campaign, where you can go through the racing campaign for the game.  Racebox is where you can make custom races and sets of races.  Multiplayer and Wipeout-Game.com are where you can access multiplayer and DLC.  Profile lets you look at your public profile.  Option lets you adjust the game’s settings.  Finally, Extra gives you access to some media, credits, and game-sharing between two PSP systems.

The main part of the game you’ll be using is Race Campaign.  The campaign is set in a set of grids.  There are 16 grids total and each has its own set of races and race types.  Winning races will net you points for that grid.  Once you rack in enough points, you’ll unlock new tracks for Racebox and the next grid.  On top of that, you can only unlock many races inside each grid by winning the races that are available by default.

Races come in a few varieties.  There is the standard race, where you are racing 7 AI players and must race and fight through the track for a number of laps to try to cross the finish line in 1st place.  These also have Tournaments where you do 4 races in succession.  You also have Time Trial races, which have you by yourself, trying to complete the race as fast as possible to reach score goals for the gold trophy.  The Time Trials have two varieties.  The first has an overall time goal, while the other has an average lap goal.

The other race type, and one I really enjoy, is the Zone.  In Zone, you have a special vehicle that cannot slow or brake and you’re in an altered version of a race-track.  During a Zone race, your speed will continually increase overtime and each increase is called a zone.  You have to keep going and keep from ramming into walls too much and having your vehicle explode as long as you can.  These have zone goals for medals.

Pulse Game 1

As you race through each stage, you’ll be going through a 3D race-track, trying to catch as many boosts as possible and keeping yourself from being blown to bits.  Like Mario Kart, Wipeout is a combat racing game.  Across the track are spawn points for boosts as well as weapons.  These weapons can then be used for consumed to help you in the race.  Weapons can range from mines and bombs to missiles and plasma charges.  There are also support items here, like a temporary auto-pilot or a shield.

Since it is a combat racer, you have to keep an eye on your health gauge.  Every time you get hit by a weapon, rammed by an opponent, or hit a wall, it goes down.  If it hits 0%, you will explode and automatically lose the race.  To recover this, you can consume weapons rather than using them.  It doesn’t recover a lot, but it is part of the strategy you have to think about as you race.

With difficulty, I wouldn’t expect Wipeout Pulse to make you want to throw your Vita or controller across the room.  There are three difficulty settings: Easy, Medium, and Hard.  Even on hard, racing fanatics won’t have all that much trouble.  It’ll be a nice challenge, but nothing impossible.  For those not used to racing games, it’s just about right to give you a nice challenge, or feel casual when you jump that difficulty down to Easy.

One thing I’ll say about the game is that it can seem a little repetitive over time.  The racing is intense and fun, but you’re going to spend a lot of time re-racing on the same tracks you did in previous grids.  Once you have those tracks memorized, it really loses its fresh feel until the next pops up.  While each race varies in difficulty and type, it still feels a little repetitive.

With length, you can expect the game to last a good bit of time.  There are 16 grids, each with more races than the last.  Considering the very first grid is 8 races, I would wager that you’ll be spending several hours, if not more, just to get through all 16 grids.  Unfortunately, there’s not much past that.  The DLC and Online Multiplayer are no longer available.  So, unless you have a buddy with a Vita or PSP, it’s completely a single player experience.

Controls

Pulse Controls

The controls are what are nice, but a little frustrating at the same time.  It is a PSP game, so the L and R controls are extended to both L1/R1 and L2/R2.

You can move through the menu with the D-Pad and you move in a race with the Left Analog Stick.  X is used for accelerating, Square for firing weapons, Circle for consuming weapons, and Triangle for looking behind you.  Finally, the L and R triggers are used for sharp left and right turns.

The only awkward part of this is Triangle for looking backwards.  Not only does looking backwards throw you off, due to the intense nature of racing, it can really distract you to try to claw your fingers up to press it while holding X to keep accelerating.  The PSP had limited options, so I would highly suggest you redirect Triangle to the left touch screen.

Presentation

Pulse Pres

Visually, the game looks nice.  There are some jagged edges here and there, but honestly, I’ve seen Vita games that have looked worse than this.  When you can say some Vita games don’t look as good as this PSP game, then you’ve got something that looks pretty nice.

Performance-wise, all is good.  Load times never exceed around 3 seconds and frame rate is nice and steady.  While I personally don’t appreciate the constant narration whenever someone uses a weapon in a race, it’s just a minor annoyance of mine.

Summary

Wipeout Pulse is a fast-paced combat racer that was highly praised on the PSP.  Although it does feel a little repetitive, no longer has active multiplayer, and has awkward camera controls, it’s still a fun racer.  If you don’t require multiplayer for a racing game, it’s a fun game to get into. 

7/10

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