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OK, there’s a little more margin for error than there was in the original, but Pure will still come as a shock to those who haven’t played WipEout for some time. In most racing games, you can apply the basic techniques and tricks you’ve learnt in other racing games. In WipEout Pure, with its iconic anti-grav racers floating several feet above the track, you can’t. The lack of friction means you need to turn earlier, think faster, learn how to work with the airbrakes and find a way around the track that avoids scraping your paintwork along the sides. Couple this with the fact that the competition is generally tougher than the moronic, speed-handicapped fodder found in most racing games, and WipEout Pure makes you work hard for every win. It’s not enough to find the right racing line – intelligent use of the power-ups, ranging from speed boosts and a handy Auto-Pilot feature to a selection of groovy offensive weapons, is just as vital for victory.
The initial Venom class does make things approachable for beginners, with a lower speed limit that gives you a better chance of keeping your anti-grav racer on track. Race through the Alpha and Beta tournaments, consisting of four tracks each, and you open an Ascension tournament comprising all eight. The stress really begins with the next class, Viper, with speeds that stretch your reflexes and concentration to something near their limits. If you reach those limits, however, you’re in trouble. Get a placing in the Viper Ascension tournament unlocks a further mode, Flash, featuring a pace so rapid that it seriously has you doubting that you’re up to it. You’d better be, as there are two more classes – Rapier and Phantom – to get through before you can really claim to be a master.
That’s not all. Winning races also opens up four classic WipEout tracks drawn from previous incarnations, stripped of landscape detail but with a neat neon ‘simulation’ effect that makes up for the loss. And while the additional Time Trial and Freeplay modes aren’t too surprising, WipEout also hits you with an option that gives you Pure in its purist form. The Zone mode puts you on four specially designed tracks where your sole aim is to keep racing as long as possible before your shields drop out. The catch? You keep getting faster as you progress, the pace starting fast then ramping up to impossible levels. To facilitate this, all textures are dropped in favour of slick, Tron-inspired visuals, and somehow this all combines to produce an incredibly hypnotic experience – a sort of Zen racing that surges ever on towards high-speed Nirvana.