Since the closing of Studio Liverpool back in 2012, fans of the former developer’s long-running racing series known as Wipeout have expressed doubt on the future of the franchise. Despite at least one Wipeout title appearing on every PlayStation console to date, Sony appeared to care little about the Wipeout games after Wipeout: 2048 on the PlayStation Vita was released. After 2048’s release, there was no sign of a new entry coming anytime soon, to the dismay of fans including myself. To my knowledge, the series was never really known as one of the more popular PlayStation brands, and so a future for the franchise was unknown. After several years of waiting, a new entry in the historic racing series has arrived on Sony’s latest and most powerful hardware in the form of Wipeout: Omega Collection, brought to us by the fine folks at Sony XDev. It’s not exactly the sort of package that fans were asking for, but the game is everything that was promised to us. In this collection, players get access to remastered versions of Wipeout HD, Wipeout HD Fury, and Wipeout 2048. To kick off this review, let’s take a dive into what makes Wipeout special.
I’m not a big fan of racing games. I dislike driving in my day to day life, and have felt little joy in driving in the digital space, besides participating in the occasional round of Mario Kart. There are only two games, one of them being a recent addition to the list, that are the exception to this mindset – games in the Wipeout series, and Fast RMX, on the Nintendo Switch. I won’t describe here in detail why I enjoy Fast RMX, but the similarities it shares to Wipeout made my time with the game an enjoyable one. With this in mind, I view Wipeout as the undisputed king of high-speed, futuristic racing action.
I have not played every Wipeout game in the long-running PlayStation series. In fact, I’ve only played a total of three of them (four, if we’re counting the Omega Collection). Despite this, I’ve felt a love for the franchise ever since I started playing Wipeout HD on the PS3 some several years ago. I was enamored by the fast ships, tight turns, heart-pounding music, and dazzling visuals that sparked across the screen when I played. My time spent with Wipeout was more exciting to me than any other racing game I had yet played, and that was due in part to the high speed thrills that Wipeout HD provided. I spent many hours in my high school years attempting to earn gold medals on each and every course offered in the game’s single-player mode, which include challenges such as time trials, speed laps, and traditional races. Offering multiple levels of AI difficulty, the game presented players with a fair level of challenge that asked for racing course knowledge and a deep understanding of the game’s core mechanics.
Some of the core mechanics that distinguish Wipeout from other racing games include the barrel roll, health system, and unique power-ups that can be used against opponents. Every racer’s ship has a level of health attached to it, totaling at 100 hit points. When a barrel roll is performed, the racer’s ship will spin in mid-air, consuming around 15 points of health, and grants them a speed boost upon landing on the ground. It’s a risk versus reward system that favors players who keep a close eye on their ship’s health, and when combined with the risk of being hit from other players and the ability to regenerate their own health by absorbing collected weapons, is a system that I find works very well. Certain weapons do more damage than others, and knowing when to attack or defend is key to your survival on the race course. Lose all of your 100 health points? You’re eliminated from the race, and you earn zero points in any tournament standings. Wipeout can be a brutal game, especially with pilot assist off, and players have to be mindful of the weapon pickups as well as their health pools if they hope to achieve victory.
The game is aware of its steep difficulty curve, and starts the player off with slower races and weaker opponents. Pilot assist, an in-game feature that aids racers in avoiding walls, is also recommended for newcomers. For veterans of the series such as myself, the difficulty level can be tweaked to my satisfaction to provide a satisfying challenge, while still feeling fair. This degree of control is flexed across all three games in the Omega Collection, providing a complete package of gameplay across a variety of stunning courses.
One of the best parts about Wipeout: Omega Collection actually isn’t the included Wipeout HD and Fury games, but instead Wipeout 2048 is the most exciting part of this package. 2048 was originally released on the PlayStation Vita, and while it is a visually stunning title on the handheld, those visuals would not translate well onto the living room screen. With this in mind, the folks over at XDev completely remastered the original game’s visuals into a native 4K resolution running at 60FPS, and the result is simply spectacular. The frame rate of all three games in the Omega Collection has suffered no noticeable dips, even with the high-speed action in full force. Pulling off sharp turns on corners has never felt so good. Despite these games being a retread in the franchise, it’s a technical marvel on PS4, and a great addition to any owner of a 4K display. This level of eye-candy can only be found on the PlayStation 4 Pro, of course, but the game also looks stunning on the base PS4 at 1080p resolution. The work that has been put into a full remaster of 2048 is greatly appreciated, as well as the solid ports of Wipeout HD and Fury.
Featuring a solid career mode across three separate games, there is a ton of content to choose from in this collection. When you are finished with the game’s offline content, how does the online portion stack up? Unfortunately, I think it could do with some tweaks under the hood. I’ve played at least a couple dozen online races in Wipeout: Omega Collection, and I have experienced very little lag in any of the races I participated in. So what’s the problem, you ask? Well, the answer is unfortunately the lack of players available to race against. I mentioned earlier that the Wipeout series is not one that I ever knew to be very popular among the PlayStation crowd, and this appears evident the moment you navigate the online multiplayer menu. To find an online race, players scroll through a list of lobbies that are created by other players. There is a high level of customization offered, allowing up to eight people to engage in every sort of multiplayer content on any in-game track, at whichever speed class they desire. The problem arises when you notice the lack of available rooms to play in; the last time I logged in to play Wipeout online multiplayer, about a day ago of this writing, I found only two available rooms to join. I could create my own room for other players to join, of course, but who knows how long it would take to have other racers notice and connect before quitting? Simply put, I think racing games are among the few multiplayer genres that benefit from matchmaking, as opposed to player-created lobbies. I know this is usually disagreed upon in the gaming community, but in the case of Wipeout, there simply aren’t enough players to encourage the effort needed to play online. I love the game enough that I am willing to wait a minute or two for other players to join an online race, but not everyone is that patient. If a matchmaking system were in place, it would be even more simple for players to find each other quickly and effortlessly engage in online races. Perhaps this isn’t an issue that can be fixed by the developers, but is instead a fault of the small player base. This is a shame, because I have found the online experience to be fun and, in regard to online connectivity, reliable.
Playing this game again on PS4 has reminded me of the fun that I had all those years ago on PS3, and the Omega Collection continues to provide new thrills each time I sit down and play. If you are someone who enjoys slick, futuristic vehicles that fly at incredible speed on higher difficulties, don’t let this one pass by. Also, the community needs more people playing online, so please help out, if you pick up the game. Just like Titanfall 2, this game is a gem that deserves a large player base, but has instead suffered from a general lack of interest/poor release date.
If you’ve made it this far, thanks for reading my review. Feel free to follow my work here on Word Press, or check out my Twitter page. I talk there about anything, usually gaming, but also retweet pictures of adorable animals. Have a great week!