Voice Module








In Memory
Sean Pettibone


Wipeout 3 is the latest in the legendary series that single-handedly revolutionized racing games. The first two games had a huge impact, spawning dozens of imitators. None of them came close and even Psygnosis itself tried but failed to duplicate its success with Rollcage. Last year's N64 version, essentially a port of Wipeout XL, was a major disappointment. After a long absence from the PSX, many gamers probably wondered if the series would ever return. Thankfully, Wipeout returns to its innovative roots with this refreshingly different installment. There are several different modes of play included. You can play the game a single race at a time, collecting medals to unlock tracks and ships. You can also race a tournament mode and race against the computer to collect the most points. Eliminator mode is an arcade style contest where you have to blow-up as many ships as possible. Finally there is a one-on-one racing mode where you and an opponent can race against each other on a split screen mode. The many modes make for a game with a lot of depth, but the game has also been wrapped up with great graphics.

Wipeout's visuals have always been one of its main attractions and this is no exception. Instead of rehashing the look of the previous games, Wipeout 3 goes for a darker more realistic tone with muted, monochromatic tracks making for a moodier look. Since Wipeout 3's courses all take place in the same futuristic city there is a great unity in the design of the tracks creating a believable look and feel for the game. Some elements are familiar however, with the trademark irreverent trademark signs, huge jumps and multi-colored power-up squares intact. The game has an interesting design reminiscent of 70's and early 80's futurism. You'll immediately notice the new visual look that the Designers Republic has created for this game with it's boxier more mature looking ship designs. Always on the edge of design, Wipeout 3 has a new minimalist feel in the menus and logos, featuring blocky futuristic fonts and boxy indicators.  The user interface is an interesting departure, a very deconstructed interface mixing a retro feel with futuristic fonts in a monotone gray. The interface is confusing at first, but is better than the excessive 'techno' flash seen in many games these days and appeals due to its utility over flash. 

Once you get into the game, you'll immediately notice the impressive level of design that went into the game. The tracks themselves show a lot of creative turns and twists with many blind areas deadly corners. Wipeout 3's graphics are very subtle, but impressive and highly appreciated. Instead of clonking you over the head, here's a game that wows you with details, such as birds scattering right before you get to them. The game has very impressive backgrounds creating a darkly futuristic city. The graphic overhaul also extends to the ships that look substantially different this time around. In-game visuals have also been improved dramatically, the game takes full advantage of the PSX's high-resolution mode. The high-res modes offer more detailed environments and a higher frame rate creating a game more visually arresting than any previous PSX installment without losing the essence of the first two games.   All of the design elements meld together well, creating a believable universe and helping to immerse you in its world. The game offers you three distinct views: In-cockpit, first person and behind the ship. The in-cockpit view is notable for never having been done before. Unfortunately its not entirely convincing and more importantly gives you an obstructed and distracting view. The other two modes are very good, as the behind the ship view is good for beginners while experts will most-likely go straight for the excitement and challenge of first person view.

  While the game looks and sounds incredible, what has truly solidified the long-term appeal of the series is its brutal and incredibly fast gameplay. Game mechanics will immediately be familiar, you collect power-ups by running over them and activate them by pressing X. There are some new weapons to use such as a force wall and a new reflector that allows you to turn an opponent's attack against them. Anothe r impressive weapon is the cloak that grants you temporary invisibility.

All of the weapons have been redone, creating some visually stunning special effects.  There are some more familiar weapons, such as the infamous quake, the Auto-pilot and speed boosters. This consistency helps veterans get into the game quickly but they'll find their skills tested severely as this game takes the challenge to an entirely new level of intensity with faster speeds and incredibly aggressive opponent AI leaving virtually no room for error.  Its excessive difficulty has long been the series trademark and here is no exception. After the firs round of races, the difficulty increases dramatically after the initial Vector class races. There are three racing tiers and they get progressively harder. Combine the sweet controls with the original track designs this is the one of the most challenging and interesting racers in recent times. Especially interesting is the new Mega Mall track with an awe-inspiring downward spiral in the middle. This track is Wipeout 3's trademark and is very difficult to master, especially on the later levels. While the early levels look good, you'll have to wait for the later levels to see some of the more impressive and exhilarating jumps.

Your opponents are very aggressive and you will have to spend a lot of time memorizing each of the tracks in order top even have a chance. You'll basically have to run a near-flawless race in order to win. The game's lightning fast speed is exhilarating but this means you'll need incredible responsiveness and reflexes because there's little room for error. That said, the thrill of winning at the higher levels is incredibly satisfying, Wipeout 3 is a true test of pure gaming ability.   It's a thin line between being challenging and frustrating, but Wipeout 3 never feels cheap. Losing races can be blamed on deficient skills more than any other factor. Wipeout 3 has a great flow to its gameplay, you can replay a track instantly with no reloading, which helps immensely when you want to practice and learn the layouts or just race around for an hour or so.

Wipeout 3's controls have also been improved dramatically, this is the first in the series to support the Dual Shock and the new level of precision is welcome. This is a less-forgiving game and any advantage you can get is helpful. The smoothness is apparent in the ease of turning and maneuvering around tight corners and other ships. There are two major control elements that you'll have to master in order to master the tight corners - the air brake and the pitch. The pitch is used to adjust the speed and maneuverability of the craft. Pointing up slows down your ship and increases control while pointing down increases your speed and decreases your turning ability. Using the air brakes slows down your ship substantially but is useful to avoid smashing into a wall. Mastering these two techniques is crucial, unless you want to find yourself crashing into walls frequently. The depth of the learning curve on the controls is pretty steep and you'll need highly tuned reflexes and massive concentration to succeed. While the controls seem a bit touchy and over-responsive at first, they get better as you become accustomed to the subtleties and begin to understand their absolute precision.

As always, the game's soundtrack is superb, as produced by renowned trance DJ Sasha, the game's music has a smooth, trance feel to it, the music fits the game well. There are some outstanding musical tracks that are excellent examples of how to meld sound and visuals.  There is once again a list of big name electronic music acts, with Orbital, the Propellerheads, Chemical Brothers, Underworld and Paul Van Dyk along with several Wipeout exclusive tracks by Sasha. The tracks all fit the mood of the game and help keep your adrenaline high. Sasha's "Xpander" track is a particular favorite for this game - it is a driving epic house tune with a great rhythm that builds up and breaks down. One small complaint: Orbital's track has been poorly edited from the album and feels truncated because it moves right from the build-up to the chorus with no transition. That small quibble aside, the music is once again a true highlight of the game and makes this a hypnotic and immersive experience.

Once again, Psygnosis has scored a direct hit with a Wipeout 3. It looks and plays incredibly well with trademark difficulty, speed and challenge taken up a notch. This is an essential purchase if you enjoyed the first two because its underlying gameplay is as addicting and challenging as ever. You'll spend many hours trying to master the different racing teams and circuits, but thanks to the incredible visuals and hypnotic score, you will most likely enjoy every second of it. This is another winner for the series and we can only hope that the Playstation2 has a fourth Wipeout in its launch lineup somewhere down the road. For now though, wipeout is the culmination and benchmark of the series and easily the best looking and playing futuristic racer to date on the PlayStation.