Wipeout HD, or, What a Sony $20 Digital Download Buys in 2008 | iLounge Backstage

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Wipeout HD, or, What a Sony $20 Digital Download Buys in 2008

There’s a list of reasons that the very idea of paying more than $10 for an iPhone OS game strikes me as… well, not unfathomable, but just a real big stretch. Number one on that list? Sony’s $20 game Wipeout HD for the PlayStation 3.

You might recall that I wound up with a PlayStation 3 as a holiday gift a couple of years ago, and said quite explicitly that I wouldn’t have purchased the console for myself because of its way-too-expensive price. And yes, Virtua Fighter 5 was very impressive—for the brief time it was a PS3 exclusive—but it wasn’t a “go out and get a console” sort of game for me. The thing that would have forced me to buy a PlayStation 3 is this title. Developed by Sony Liverpool and released yesterday, Wipeout HD is a futuristic racing game that continues a series originally responsible for helping to popularize the PlayStation platform in Europe. Unlike its predecessors, which have been sold on PlayStation discs and PlayStation Portable UMDs for $30-$50, Wipeout HD is digitally distributed as a $20, 1GB download through Sony’s PlayStation Network. And it is just awesome.

 

I love futuristic racing games, and consider 1996’s Wipeout XL—a collaboration between Sony’s Psygnosis studio and The Designers Republic—to be pretty much the pinnacle of that genre, with the possible exception of Nintendo and Sega’s jointly-developed F-Zero GX/AX. Wipeout HD is the first title since those two to really nail everything from the gameplay to the looks and sounds of speeding through far-future metropolitan race tracks. And it runs at 60fps in 1080p resolution, making the most stunning use I’ve yet seen of high-definition displays. Click through for more pictures and a few more details; this isn’t a full review, so I’m just offering a sampling of what’s here to be enjoyed.

 

Given the price, I’m almost flabbergasted by the sheer amount of detail and talent that went into everything in this title, from the menus to the ship and background designs, which are all so consistently excellent and seamless that you’d think they were easy to create. But they obviously weren’t. The interface has a wonderfully clean, modern design with complex animated 3-D tracks moving around in the background, extremely straightforward menu selections, and a great balance of text, white space, and art. Wipeout has been through generations of menus, many inspired by the work of The Designers Republic, and they keep getting better over time—interface design is one of those touches that distinguishes superb developers from the amateurs.

 

The in-game art is also superb. Ships and backgrounds both have a weathered look with enough texture and polygonal detail to be highly believable; this is a highly stylized future universe, but one that you get the impression could actually exist. Sony’s eight track designs include loops, sharp turns, and jumps, all with curved surfaces and surprising attention to the little details; speed-up arrows on the ground actually consist of elevated glowing lamps, the sort of detail you’ll only notice if you pause the game and look. There’s a lot of stuff like that in here, just waiting to be found.

 

Why? Because the game features a Photo mode that lets you create your own screenshots, complete with camera tools such as depth of field, motion blur, saturation, focus, and shutter speed adjustments. As such, though the initial screenshot above was taken in the midst of actual gameplay using a real camera, some of the others here were snapped mid-game with the in-game camera. You’d be amazed at how much detail our little screenshots lose out on—the in-game shots are 1920x1080 resolution. This crop shows the full-resolution ship, its body and background intentionally blurred with a depth-of-field camera effect.

 

While the series has never quite returned to the audio form found in Wipeout XL, where Sony actually listened little-known but ultimately amazing electronica tracks such as The Chemical Brothers’ Loops of Fury and Fluke’s Atom Bomb, the music and Dolby 5.1-channel sound effects here are really very good, and of course, you have the ability to listen to whatever other soundtrack you prefer while you’re playing. I’m probably going to put together some of the prior Wipeout XL tracks, along with some other anthem-quality techno, to add to what’s already here.

 

Given that Sony has set this sort of bar for a $20 game—high-definition graphics, a real soundtrack, a superb interface, and exciting, excellent gameplay—it’s really hard for me to look at iPhone OS titles and see them as worthy of even close to as much. Consumers rightfully expect to see lower prices when publishers don’t have to worry about manufacturing discs or cartridges, packaging them, shipping them, or getting rid of unsold inventory, and of course, the less content that actually goes into the title relative to a full Nintendo DS, PSP, or console game, the lower the price should be. For these reasons, Apple’s initial instinct to sell cell phone-worthy iPod Games at a fixed price of $5 was spot-on, and frankly, most of the App Store releases we’ve tested have been far sloppier, shorter, and/or less complete than the Click Wheel titles, which puts them in the dollar bin, value-wise. Having seen some developers try to charge twice as much for iPhone OS titles that are no better than their Click Wheel equivalents, my (and others’) initial reaction has been simple—“no way”—and despite all the phony reviews that developers have been posting for their own games in the App Store, it’s clear that customers are expecting better games for these prices.

 

Wipeout HD is a Sony PlayStation 3 exclusive. If you’re looking for portable versions of Wipeout, check out the PSP titles Wipeout Pure ($15-20) and Wipeout Pulse ($25-30), tracks from which are expanded upon in the PS3 version. It’s clear that Sony will be releasing additional downloadable content, including more tracks, more ships, and quite possibly additional art for HD, derived from the PSP titles and past PlayStation iterations of Wipeout. Given the very reasonable initial asking price, we’ll have no problem paying for that extra content when it’s released—the first time we’ve even considered doing such a thing. Smart strategy, Sony; let’s hope you continue to make equally wise decisions in the future.

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Comments

1

I completely agree. This game is awesome. Best €17 I ever spent.  Sony seems to be getting more into the downloadable content too which is cool. The full Burn Out Paradise which was previously only on disk became available as a download from the Playstation Store this week too.

I think the prices people are asking for iPod and iPhone games are perfectly reasonable. Alot of work goes into some of these titles

Posted by Thomas Fitzgerald on September 26, 2008 at 11:44 AM (CDT)

2

I’ve liked all the previous Wipeouts and this one looks to top the lot

I like the idea of being able to buy it without having to get wet in the British Weather

I like that I can install it directly to my hard drive, no worries about inserting a disk each time I want to play

BUT

When I get bored of a game I want to be able to trade it in

I love removing the wrapping from a new game

I enjoy having a proper manual to read on the toilet

HOWEVER

I WILL be buying this game online. I understand the main drive for moving to Digital Distribution is to reduce piracy & the 2nd hand market thus putting more money in the well deserved developers pockets. But it would be nice for people to have a choice especially when hard drive space is at a premium

I can’t help drawing a parallel to ebooks and their hardcopy origins….sometimes people just prefer to have something physical for their money.

Posted by GeoWarrior on September 26, 2008 at 12:06 PM (CDT)

3

This game is awesome and so is Warhawk, a $30 dollar download. And they also have $15 downloads for the PSP: WipEout Pure, Siphon Filter Dark Mirror (great game!). Sony’s definitely on the right track.

As for the $400 price tag for the PS3, I think it’s a great price. You have gaming, streaming audio and video with Eye Connect (much better than streaming through an Apple TV—the audio is amazing through my PS3 to stereo), 80GB HD, video downloads (in the US), support for DivX (!) and blu-ray. It makes $230 for a 40GB Apple TV seem like a rip-off.

Posted by Michael Zapp on September 26, 2008 at 12:23 PM (CDT)

4

This si THE best buy for PS3.

Cant fault the game. It is better than any £40 game I have bought. Stunning visuals, great front end and menu, fast loading, 1080p, 60fps. Great gameplay weighting. Online is really good.

I take the points that Geowarrior makes above about having the box and manual and being able to trade in. BUT for £11.99 who cares. You wouldnt get that differential on a trade in.

Great work Studio Liverpool. This is a classic for me and has revitalised my enthusiasm for gaming in general and the PS3

Posted by Jonnyfez on September 26, 2008 at 8:04 PM (CDT)

5

hate to sound like a broken record but i too think this game is unbelievably frickin’ awesome, probably the most addicting game i’ve yet played for PS3.  hardcore wipeout fans will find it takes a while getting using the PS3’s R2 and L2 buttons (which depress much further than PSP/PS1/2 shoulder pads) but once you’re over that little hill it’s brilliant.  and gorgeous.  i think i’ve noticed a few bugs with leaderboards though (same thing happened with pulse), but i’m sure that’ll be ironed out in time.  awesome, awesome game.

Posted by trk_rkd on September 27, 2008 at 2:23 AM (CDT)

6

Virtua Fighter 5 not 4.
And yes, this games worth the price.

Posted by alpico on September 27, 2008 at 5:24 AM (CDT)

7

Well I agree with you entirely!

Been waiting around a month for this release, and purchased and downloaded it the very second it became available in the Playstation Store, obviously I wasn’t the only one either as I was unable to access the content for about 5 minutes once it showed up in the store.

Out of all the games I have purchased on the Playstation network this is by far the most worthy (GT5p doesn’t enter this battle as I got that in the shops). Wipeout’s graphics are breathtaking, especially for me as I play it on a 1080p projector on a massive 100” widescreen magic grey screen.  Trust me if any of you ever get the chance to play this on the projector give it a shot, with no joke and being straight faced, I actually fell off my chair playing it.

The Clubland CD’s songs work perfectly with this game, especially clubland live, Also for some unknown reason Bob Marleys Legend remixes work perfectly too, a happy mistake found that out.

I really hope Sony Liverpool can do a re-work of the old Rollcage game in the same kind of style as this, it would be stunning! - Any of you who played Rollcage or Rollcage Stage II will know what I mean!

Anyways ladies and germs, watch out for me on the track as I’m coming to get ya xD - currently ranked in the top 10 as of 3am GMT this morning xD…... Although pretty certain that will drop off rapidly as more people get the game…... and more people WILL get this game, its going to be a playstation store platinum classic within a month, haha!

PSN - Dr-Mog

Posted by Dr-Mog on September 27, 2008 at 10:50 AM (CDT)

8

I played the original Wipeout for PS back in college. Loved it. I mean, I ate it up, and thought it might cost me a scholarship at times (boozing it up and sleeping all day didn’t help, either).

When the PSP debuted, I ignored every other launch title and plopped down coin on Wipeout Pure, which was excellent and really brought back the memories of the original title. Picked up Wipeout Pulse earlier this year for the same reasons. Loved the sensation of raw speed and the fact that the game was difficult, but not prohibitively so.

I was giddy about downloading the long-awaited Wipeout HD this week. And, man, the past three or four nights have been a lot of fun for me…even if my wife is really not amused by my glazed-over look and my total inattention to her questions. :)

This game is phenomenal. Metal Gear Solid 4 was an epic of the grandest scale, but Wipeout HD is arguably a more phenomenal achievement. A digital download for $20, with this much depth and polish, is really something to behold. Gamespot’s disappointing 7.5/10 review is to be completely dismissed, because this game is pretty much an A-quality title in every way. The visual fidelity is remarkable but the audio deserves merit as well. Great, throbbing soundtrack, even if you normally hate techno. And the track variety and ship handling is really impressive.

Can’t say enough good about the Wipeout series, and in particular this newest addition to it. If I hadn’t left college and law school behind me, I’d fear losing a scholarship all over again.

Posted by Flippy Hambone on October 1, 2008 at 1:54 PM (CDT)

9

Personally, I stopped reading Gamespot since the Gerstmanngate, and I’d jump right to this game if it wasn’t for the fact that the PSN store is not available in my country.

That’s why I imported Warhawk, and why I need this on disc. Right now, I really don’t care if I have to pay $29, even $39, bucks for this title, but I want this on disc.

Or, they should open the PSN Store in Mexico and let me buy it online without having to go through the hassle of making a virtual credit card.

Posted by Arturo Lugo on October 1, 2008 at 4:41 PM (CDT)

10

I didn’t always agree with Gerstmann but his reviews were consistently well written and thought provoking. The absurdity of that whole incident was rather shocking, and I, too, got turned off Gamespot once the dominoes started falling. I feel like IGN has greatly improved its site and the quality and depth of its content, so I was very pleased to see that the reviewer there gave Wipeout HD a nice 9.0 overall rating and saw the same strengths that many of us here did.

The promise of DLC later is very exciting as well. If anything, some new tracks and ships, over and above those that were simply brought over from the PSP titles, would be great. And I’d love to see them tinker with the power-up pads on the track, and provide a few new devices/gadgets for your ship. But otherwise, the game is perfect, and perfectly priced.

Posted by Flippy Hambone on October 1, 2008 at 6:26 PM (CDT)

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