Get ready for the adrenaline rush, the thrill of the race, the sensation of raw speed, the return of the best futuristic anti-grav racer in the business. Oh, and prepare for the misery of bleary eyes, the pain of crab-claw hands, the discomfort of accelerator thumb and airbrake finger. You see, whatever the merits of WipEout Pure as a showcase of technical superiority for Sony’s handheld, it also exposes each and every one of the PSP’s ergonomic shortcomings. But then, nobody at Sony would recommend that you play WipEout Pure for five hours straight without a break – it’s just their fault that you will find it so very hard to stop.
It’s the graphics that get you first. Along with Ridge Racer, this is the visual high point of the PSP’s launch line-up. The textures might not be as detailed as in Namco’s rubber-burning masterpiece, but it’s hard to complain in the face of the luminous trackside detail, the cityscapes, video screens and logos, the blue glow of the engine trails, the gorgeous weapon effects and, above all else, the sheer, blistering pace of the thing. Remember when you first saw WipEout on the PlayStation? Well, WipEout Pure does pretty much the same thing: you can’t quite believe it’s running on a handheld console.
And let’s not forget, WipEout has always been an audio-visual experience, and it was the music as much as the stunning futuristic graphic design that endeared the game to the clubbing crowd. Well, there’s nothing here with the impact of The Dust Brothers’ “Chemical Beats” from the original or Prodigy’s “Firestarter” from Wip3out, but with tracks from Photek, Royksopp and Aphex Twin, it’s clear that the brand still draws the dance scene’s biggest guns. Make no mistake, at full speed, with the soundtrack blaring out from headphones, this is the sort of game that leaves you slack-jawed and tuned-out every minute it’s on the screen.
Which is good, because WipEout is the sort of game that doesn’t so much demand your attention as come around with some bruisers and make it clear that your attention isn’t going anywhere for a few hours. Pure, in case the name isn’t obvious enough, Is a return to core WipEout values, with more emphasis on high-speed racing, and less on the combat-heavy stuff that made WipEout Fusion such a chore. This means it’s intense, and also that you’re going to need practice and plenty of concentration to have a hope of getting anywhere with it.