Personally, I like the fact that the once separate Zone mode is now a part of the main game. The idea is Wipeout in its purest form: no opponents, no power-ups, just graphics stripped back to a cool, Tron-like aesthetic and a track that gets faster and faster the longer you race on it. Your only aim? To keep racing as long as you can before track-side collisions result in your craft’s demolition. It’s a perfect test of skill and concentration, and as mesmerising as video-games can get.
And now to the icing on the cake. PSP detractors – and I’ve often labelled myself among them – often forget how strong the machine’s online presence is. Games like Syphon Filter: Dark Mirror, the SOCOM series and MGS: Portable Ops have been able to command a sizable online following, and Sony has supported the system and its first-party games with download packs and added content. Well, Wipeout: Pure set the standard with its themed packs, and now Pulse adds online play and the ability to create custom ship skins online and download them to your PSP for use in online and offline competitions. You can finally go to your local Wi-Fi enabled coffee shop and humiliate your rivals from there – provided the thought of appearing like a slack-jawed, dope-addled, cursing prat in public doesn’t put you off the whole idea.
It doesn’t for me. Frankly, I love this game. I’m at this very moment resisting an ignoble urge to stop writing, get the PSP from my desk drawer (why didn’t I lock it and ask my wife to hide the key?) and just ‘check’ for a few hours that the game is as good as I think it is. Yes, you could argue that a) it’s not innovative, b) it’s not a huge step forwards from Pure and c) it makes a lot of use of a fairly small selection of proper courses, but I’d reply that a) who cares? b) why worry? and c) as the speed and challenge escalates, that never becomes a problem.
I suspect that Wipeout is still not a racer for everyone, but that doesn’t stop it being one of the best on any handheld platform. So if you have any fondness for Wipeout and a PSP then it’s time to give yourself a Christmas treat. Pulse will make you love your PSP once more, and it also cements Wipeout’s position as the king of futuristic racers.
Pulse isn’t the most revolutionary sequel, but it tweaks and updates the excellent Wipeout Pure in all the right places. A must-have for fans of the series or friends of the PSP.