Reviews March 21, 2010

Wipeout Pulse

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Reviewed by: Brandon Noel
System: PSP    
Genre: Racing
Rated: E 10
Players: 1 (2-8 online)
Cost: $29.99
Release Date: 02/12/2008
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Developer: Sony Computer Entertainment / Studios Liverpool

Developed by SCE Studios Liverpool, Wipeout Pulse uses the same tried and true gameplay found in the previous games, by wisely following the “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” moniker.  Pulse is actually the second Wipeout game for the PSP. The first one titled Wipeout Pure, is available via PSN store for download.

The year is 2207 and the FX400 Racing league is about to kick off.  Anti-Gravity racing is the premier sport in this day and age and every one is vying for a piece of the action.
Since it’s inception around the 22nd century the sport has had its share of bumps and bruises, and with a return to glory everything is set and raring to go.

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Fast and frantic is the name of the game in all Wipeout iterations, and nothing has changed this time around in Pulse. Pulse features a hand full of tracks each one broken up into white and black “runs” (forward and reverse). There are four game modes in all including Race campaign, Racebox, Multiplayer & Sharing, and Wipeout-Game.Com.
In Pulse you select your ship based on teams who participate in the FX400. Eight teams participate, each one with a ship that varies in specs, from team to team. Specs include Speed, Acceleration, Handling, and Shield. An interesting note on selecting a team is a system implemented called Loyalties. Loyalties rewards you points every time you use one particular team’s ship, and points are given for place finishes, perfect laps as well as perfect zones. Unfortunately the only thing you unlock is new paint schemes for your ship, which is a bit of a let down considering it could have been used to increase the specs, but this is a very minor gripe.

Race campaign is fairly lengthy and is recommended you play through to give you a better feel of the game. In campaign there are 16 Grids total with four only being available at the start. As you progress through the earlier grids you will then slowly unlock the remainder. Each grid is made up of cells and within each cell lies a race event that needs to be completed before you can advance further within the grid (more on race types in a moment).  Each event you participate in awards you 3 different medals based on your performance Gold, Silver, and Bronze. Playing campaign allows you to unlock additional tracks that you can access through the Racebox mode (more on that in a moment as well), so there should e more than enough motivation for you to complete Campaign.

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Racebox allows you to do a single race of your choosing or you can create and customize your own Grid. Pulse allows you to make up over 20 cells in your own grid, and you decide what each event will be. Want to do all cells consisting of one event? No problem. Want to mix it up with every type in the game? As you wish. Being able to do this increases the replay value of the game, and is a welcome addition.

Seven race types are present in Pulse each one will surely push your abilities to the limit. Race types include Single Race, Head-to-Head, Tournament, Time Trial, Zone and Eliminator. While most of the races are self explanatory, I will delve deeper in Zone and Eliminator runs. Zone is essentially a Survival Mode. At the start your ship accelerates on its own. Every ten seconds that goes by represents a Zone. The more zones you pass the faster you accelerate until your ships shield is compromised and is destroyed. You start out in the Sub-Venom class and if you’re good enough you can reach the Phantom class (not an easy feat), so prepare to have your skills tested. Eliminator is all about destroying your opponents. You race around any track you select, and the competition isn’t over until you reach a set amount of kills (or frags if you’re a Shooting game fan.) Laps don’t matter here it’s an all out destruction derby so this is a nice diversion from actual racing. In addition to the race events there are 4 speed classes available. Venom, Flash, Rapier, and Phantom classes differ in speed no matter what ship you select. Venom being the slowest class for beginners feels fast enough, but the insane speed of the Phantom class (the fastest obviously) will taunt you until you develop mastery over it (which I have yet and may never do.)

Depending on which event your in weapons may be at your disposal, to assist in your victory and hinder the opposition. There are thirteen different pick ups ranging from mines, rockets, turbo, cannons and plasma. You can only hold up to one item at the time, so precision and timing are must. Support items are also included the leech (sucks shield energy from an opposing ship and increases your shield), auto pilot (which last a few seconds), and an outer shield that also proves quite handy. However, if your taking a substantial beating and want to replenish shield energy you can do so by pressing Circle. This play mechanic incorporates a little strategy during your run and helps balance the game play.

Controls for Pulse feel very comfortable providing enough control schemes to please everyone. You have a choice of either steering the ship with the D-pad (left or right arrows) or using the analog stick. My personal preference is using the D-pad since it feels much more comfortable for me, but to each his own. X is used to accelerate (except when playing Zone), Circle is used to absorb pick ups (see above paragraph), Triangle allows you to look back, Square lets you use what ever item you pick up. L and R are used for left air brake and right air brake respectively, and pressing both applies a full brake.

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Wipeout Pulse, treats us with excellent graphics and textures. Each ship has a distinct look, and the different tracks are nicely rendered. The framerate for Pulse is solid, with no noticeable hiccups as you speed through blowing the competition to bits, swerving and looping through the course.

A mix of Techno and some Rock make up an excellent soundtrack for Pulse A handful of real artist lend their talents providing something for every ones taste, as you speed through tracks at break neck speed. Being that this game takes place in the future; the race announcer has a machine like tone which adds to the feel and mood of the game. Each item has a distinct sound navigation systems for the ships warns of incoming weapon fire, and advises when shields are about to be depleted.

If all the previous modes weren’t enough there is an online mode that allows you to host and compete against 7 other opponents from across the globe. I am pleased to say that the handful of matches I’ve played there is hardly any lag. The Wipeout-Game.com mode I mentioned earlier lets you visit the website through your PSP to check the latest news on upcoming games, and even allows you to download custom skins for each ship. A nice touch indeed and speaking of downloadable content in a few more weeks Wipeout fans will be able to purchase (nothing good is free anymore) track packs that include one new ship, and a new course (in both black and white runs.) Including an above average online component certainly puts a lot of longevity behind this solid title.

Wipeout Pulse makes a very nice addition to any racing fan with a PSP. Plenty of modes, the ability to customize your own racing grid, and a fun online mode ensure you will get the most out of this game.

Gameplay: 9
Plenty of different game modes that cater to every one.

Graphics: 8
Decent texture and nicely detailed courses are a cut above other PSP titles.

Sound: 8
A techno soundtrack that fits the game perfectly, and the announcers help give it a futuristic feel.

What’s New: 9
Playing online is a blast and being able to download custom skins is an added touch. This isn’t entirely new to the series on the PSP, but it’s still new enough for the series as a whole!

Replay Value 10
With downloadable track packs coming soon you will have your hands full for quite some time.

Final Score

8.8