Review: Wipeout 3 – Special Edition (Playstation)

By Drew Wilson

The Wipeout racing series is certainly known for having a unique feel to racing. The distinctly sci-fi style of racing helped propel this game into the spotlight of racing games. We check out one particular iteration of the game: Wipeout 3 – Special Edition.

This particular iteration of the Wipeout series was released in 2000 and attempt to build on the success of previous games. Despite the name, Wipeout 3 – Special edition was the fourth Wipeout game released – and a re-release version of Wip3out with more features and tweaked performance at that.

The idea of this game is that you are basically racing hovering vehicles down a track. While you are close to the ground for a majority of the race, vehicles handle a lot more like a flying vehicle rather than a traditional vehicle with wheels. That is why there is a left and right air brake rather than the typical “hit one button to brake”.

There is also the fact that when you hit the accelerator, you are actually putting more thrust into the vehicle rather than just simply going faster. Your speed typically lags behind the amount of thrust you have. Remove the thrust, and you will gradually slow down, coasting along the way.

Tracks generally have four distinct features: a pit for you to steer into and recharge, a start/finish line, speed boosts, and weapon pickups.

Speed boosts add a little bit of speed to your vehicle. Sometimes, these are exceedingly helpful such as when you come out of a tight turn and need to get back up to speed, but other times, they might not be a welcome thing as you careen into the side of a turn after hitting one. Speed boosts are typically marked with a glowing blue arrow on the track floor and you simply drive over it to gain the benefits of it.

Weapon pick-ups are marked with an “X” that is constantly evolving. If a vehicle runs over it, the “X” will turn grey, disallowing other players following close behind to get a weapon as well. This greying out of the weapons pickup space doesn’t usually last very long before lighting back up again though. Players can receive a wide variety of weapons marked with a simplistic symbol on the top. Quake, for instance, is marked with a purple line with a hill in it that ends in an arrow. This weapon sends a shockwave down the track for a certain distance, slowing down and damaging opponents it comes in contact with ahead. An energy drain weapon, marked with a yellow minus and plus symbol, detects the energy of a nearby opponent and drains the opponents energy into your own reserve. Useful for weapons challenges.

Not all weapons are offensive, though. A cloak, marked with a yellow squarish-circle, hides a player from visible view for a period of time. Players can elect to save this weapon for later in the race or simply activate it immediately. After a short period of time, your cloak will be disengaged. A shield protest the vehicle from damage for a period of time. If a player crashes into a wall, the shield stops the vehicle from using energy in the midst of the collision. One thing to note about these defensive weapons is that if a player picks up another weapon while the defensive weapon is in use, players have to wait until after the defensive weapon is fully disengaged.

One very useful weapon is the auto-pilot. If a player enters a part of the track that is difficult to navigate, the player can use the auto-pilot to navigate through the tough turns at a much faster velocity than would otherwise be possible. While the player can take damage from weapons in the midst of using this weapon, players can gain a considerable amount of ground on opponents in the process. The auto-pilot does not disengage during a turn. Instead, it waits until the player is facing straight before you regain control.

There are a number of modes in this game. There is a tournament mode where players can race through a pre-selected set of tracks and gain tournament points for placing well in the races. The player with the most points at the end of the last track wins the tournament.

There is also single races where players can opt to try out a particular racetrack, attempting to place well and post a particularly good time in the process. There are also challenges where players play a preset track and vehicle, and race with certain conditions to obtain bronze, silver, or gold. The weapons challenge, for instance, awards medals for obtaining a certain number of kills before completing a race. It does not award anything if a player simply crosses the finish line first. I always found this mode to be a careful balance between trying to make the checkpoints in time and trying to concentrate your weapons fire on a particular opponent so you can ultimately eliminate that opponent and get substantially closer to finishing with an award.

There’s a wide variety of races to go on. There are tracks that will take you through snowy glacial area’s, others that take you along country sides, and one even takes you through a giant mall. So, generally speaking, there’s a nice variety of environments the player can race through.

Graphically, this game is decent. The skyline backgrounds are sometimes at a pixelated level that could easily be pulled off on a SNES system, but because there is so many different environments packed into this game, I’ll say that the graphics are passable. the effects were nice like the trails from the vehicles thrusters and the trails left by the wing tips. The effects of some of the weapons like the deflector were pretty decent. The font choice, I thought, wasn’t that great. While I can appreciate that the game is trying to be futuristic looking with the font, I found that the legibility of the letters to be somewhat lacking. The menu system was also kind of bland. I can appreciate the minimalistic approach, but a grey background, I thought, didn’t really make the game that much better. Some of the text in the menu system was extremely small and practically impossible to read. That’s not to say all minimalistic elements were bad. I thought that the weapon icon system worked great (though it could have utilized more colors given that it was difficult to tell between the dumb rockets and the guided missiles). the vehicles were certainly done nicely enough though.

The audio was kind of hit and miss in this game. The music was, for the most part, a miss. There was a nice drum rack to these tunes and some of the effects added into the song were nicely done, but they really didn’t progress much from the “nice start” phase. There were a few fleeting moments where the music starts progressing into something great only to fall back into the sort of “going to build up to something interesting” phase again. When I went back into the options menu and saw who produced the music, I was genuinely surprised to find that they were produced by big names in the electronica production scene. The question that popped in my mind was “why did they produce bland music for this game?”. I’ve heard way better music produced by those artists than what I heard in this game. The sound effects was both hit and miss. The effects of defensive weapons were a hit in my books (i.e. cloak and recharging), but the explosions from some of the offensive weapons was a miss since it seemed like it was the same “boom” sound over and over again. The effects in tunnels were a very good hit in my books. I like how the sound effects managed to reverberate. The voice work was also a hit. I thought the start line countdown was nicely unique and the voiceover for when you pick up something was also nicely done, though could benefit from better enunciation at times.

Overall, it’s hard to describe this game in a way that really reflects it’s overall feel to it. Despite all of the features, effects, variety, and great initial concepts, this game managed to still wind up being a bit bland. I can tell there was a lot of great ideas on paper, but when it came to execution, this game just fell flat. At first, this game seemed like a great game to play, but the difficulty level skyrocketted after the first little bit and I found myself easily losing interest shortly after. Once the difficult rose, I actually found myself simply losing interest in continuing this game. There’s little to no progress tree besides notifications that you won something. I would have thought that if you had good variety, an easy way to get into the game a little, something that challenges the player and music produced by highly talented artists, producing a great game would simply be a natural end result. Yet, here I am with this game trying to understand what even went wrong here. The track design is quite repetitive with it snaking around all the time. The difficulty curve is a turnoff. The music is bland. The enjoyment level starts off good with the expectations of this being a great game, and instead, simply falls from there. This game is able to perform on the mechanics end of things with all the elements to make a great game in place, but after going further in to the game, I found myself wondering when I can play something else. There’s no shortage of “what could have been” throughout this game, but a distinct lack of any “wow” factor for me. If you’re into racing, this game might provide a certain level of entertainment, but for casual and general gamers, this game can easily be a bust collector after the first few plays.

Overall

Furthest point in game: Completed both of the Vector tournaments and completed the second Wipeout tournment. Completed a half a dozen weapons challenges and played a few single race games.

General gameplay: 15/25
Replay value: 3/10
Graphics: 7/10
Audio: 2/5

Overall rating: 54%

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85



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