Some things are inevitable. Death. Taxes. And me hoping that a new PlayStation will herald the return of WipEout, the futuristic racing series that helped launch the Sony’s first game console in 1995, but has appeared only sporadically on subsequent systems. Well, now it’s finally the new one’s turn with WipEout Omega Collection (PlayStation 4), which presents 2008’s WipEout HD, that game’s 2009 expansion WipEout Fury, and 2012’s WipEout 2048.
For those who didn’t play the games included in the WipEout Omega Collection when they were released on the PlayStation 3 and Vita, respectfully — or, in fact, any of the WipEout games — they’re basically like stylish versions of F-Zero or the Star Wars: Episode 1 Racer games in that you pilot hovering, jet-propelled ships at speeds in excess of 400MPH on tracks that have jumps as well as gravity-defying loop-de-loops.
The race courses in WipEout games also have Mario Kart-like pick-ups that can propel your ship faster for a bit, give you a weapon you can use against your competition, or grant you a shield or other defensive system for when they use their weapons on you. Except that unlike Mario Kart, these boosts are built into the road, and don’t momentarily deactivate when someone goes over them, while the weapons are of the military or futuristic variety — missiles, mines, energy beams — not turtle shells. Though I’m guessing that Donkey Kong would love to use a Quake attack on that bastard Mario, since this signature WipEout weapon sends a massive shockwave down the track, knocking anyone in its wake for a loop.
The three games in the WipEout Omega Collection also have a good variety of event types. Along with such typical ones as multi-lap races, multi-race tournaments, and time trails, this also boasts such unique events as “Eliminator,” a points-based combat race, and “Detonator,” in which you use machine guns and a rechargeable EMP to destroy mines and bombs before they destroy you.
The WipEout Omega Collection also boasts a wide variety of ships across the three games, some of which are designed more for such events as “Detonator” than they are for races. Or Sunday drives.
But it’s the tracks where the three games in the WipEout Omega Collection really shine. Not only are the courses twisty but devoid of curves that are frustrating to take at high speeds, they also don’t go overboard with the jumps or rollercoaster-esque parts like other games would. Some tracks don’t have any of either, and don’t need them.
It also helps that the tracks have a cool design reminiscent of such cyberpunk movies as Blade Runner and the original Ghost In The Shell. Even if they can be distracting when you realize you’re going over what may be the Brooklyn Bridge into New York City. And no, we’re not stopping for hot dogs.
As for game modes, the WipEout Omega Collection is fairly typical for race games. Along with individual career modes for WipEout HD, WipEout Fury, and WipEout 2048, this compilation also has mode called “Racebox” where you can do one-off events either alone or against a friend via split screen. And while this mode is segmented by game, it does have numerous options that include weapons on or off, ship type, and score targets for modes where they keep score.
Similarly, the game’s online races also separate WipEout HD and WipEout 2058 players, and has numerous options as well, including, of course, the number of laps.
Not surprisingly, all three games included in the WipEout Omega Collection have held up well. These games have always had a great sense of speed, regardless of whether you play with the cockpit viewpoint or from behind the ship, and are equally adept in making you feel like you’re going fast as you’re going straight up or upside down as the track dictates. And that goes for whether you’re playing against the computer, a friend, or some random strangers you got paired up with online.
As for how the editions in the WipEout Omega Collection differ from the originals, well, as is usually the case with video game remakes, the differences are mostly superficial. While these games largely play the same as they did before, they look better doing it, as these versions have had their visuals upgraded to modern standards. More importantly, they all run smooth and with no hiccups, no matter how many other vehicles or projectiles are on the screen at the same time.
There is, however, one mechanical difference I noticed between the original versions of WipEout HD, WipEout Fury, and WipEout 2048 and the ones in the WipEout Omega Collection, and it’s something that’ll irritate some fans but delight others. In all three, you can use individual left and right airbrakes to make tighter turns. But if you’d rather not, you can turn on the “Pilot Assist” option. But while this was also an option in the original versions, it seems to work a lot better here. Where before you’d have trouble taking some turns without using the relevant airbrake, now you can often take turns at full throttle, or can just let up on the accelerator and let inertia do its thing.
As solid as the WipEout Omega Collection may be, though, it does have some minor issues. Though most, admittedly, fall into the “I wish they had done this instead” category. For starters, I wish you could navigate the menus with the thumbsticks, and not just the D-pad.
I also wish the difficulty settings in the WipEout Omega Collection were recalibrated. As is, “Skilled” feels more like “hard” while “Novice” is more like “normal.” But then I also wish they had added these difficulty settings to WipEout 2048‘s career mode, especially since they are included when you play this game’s events in “Racebox.”
Speaking of which, while I appreciate that both the online races and “Racebox” mode are segmented by the original games, I wish both gave you the option to combine them. Obviously, this wouldn’t work all the time, but I would think, more often than not, it wouldn’t be an issue to use a WipEout 2048 ship on a WipEout HD track.
But the biggest thing I wish they’d done is make a whole new WipEout. And that may yet come. Because if the WipEout Omega Collection is any indication, there’s still life in this racing series. While these games are nine, eight, and five years old, they still feel as fresh and engaging as when they were released, or when this series started twenty-two years ago. I just hope I don’t have to wait until the PlayStation 5 to see it.