I’ve always considered the WipEout franchise to be synonymous with PlayStation. Afterall it was one of the first games for the original Playstation back in 1995 – and I still vividly remember the game’s soundtrack that featured a bevy of 90’s electronic artists including Leftfield, The Chemical Brothers, and Orbital.
However, despite twenty years having passed, I had the alarming realisation that I’ve only ever played the single WipEout game. The very first one – despite all of the sequels and handheld renditions of the franchise since.
Which made me a bit nervous when firing up WipEout: Omega Collection, the latest edition which brings WipEout 2048, WipEout HD and WipEout Fury HD together for the PS4. It delivers full campaigns for each, and then a Racebox mode which includes an impressive array of options so that you can create your own custom events for either singleplayer or multiplayer (including two player split-screen).
The WipEout series has always been about futuristic racing, featuring anti-gravity ships which zip around sci-fi inspired race tracks. The track designs vary wildly, especially between the different titles included in the Omega Collection – some with sharp turns, loop-the-loops, or stomach churning jumps. Navigating the courses requires practice and quick reflexes, but it’s definitely more in the realm of an arcade racer than a simulator.
This is coupled with the fact that each race has optional combat settings, and when turned on, players will get power-ups and weapons as they complete each circuit. Some of these are cannons, missiles, boosts, and WipEout 2048 introduces defensive weapons too such as shields and mines.
The selection of weapons is good but their use in the races seems to be downplayed considerably. A lot of the weapons lack any real visual impact, they don’t do a huge amount of damage, and the number of shield regenerations often mean that you’re better off just focusing on the driving rather than the combat.
The other issue is, if you miss the brief voice-over effect telling you what weapon you picked up, you’ll often not know what you’re currently armed with. In split screen this causes even more confusion as both players are getting the vocal announcements of things like “MISSILE” - leaving you to guess who has it until you try firing.
Apart from this oversight, the gameplay is still well balanced and accessible. For example, players need to strategise their line around the circuit, predicting corners to shave precious seconds off their lap time. Even deciding whether to drive over a weapon pick-up, or a speed boost requires some last second thinking as it what would benefit you most.
Graphically, WipEout has always been at the top of its game and this collection is no exception. Sharp textures and crisp lighting effects give the game a sense of beautiful Futurism - and it’s refreshing to see an alluring interpretation of the future when compared to all the dark, gritty and post-apocalyptic futures in games these days. The game oozes shiny.
It’s also super slick, running at a sweet 60 frames per second and never dropping a beat - even when pushing out 4K prettiness. Newcomers to WipEout might be disappointed by the initial gentle pace of the game, but as you level up and start trying out different ships and events, you’ll start competing in some eye-wateringly quick races.
There’s an accessible learning curve to help players get into the game, coupled with a simple and highly responsive control system. Pilot Assist is also switched on by default, which will slow you down slightly to help you navigate tight corners. Even with this, you’ll need to put in some hard hours to master some of the more tricky maneuvers, such as mid-air barrel rolls (which give you a surge of acceleration when you land), and double tapping the air brakes to shunt left or right into really tight corners.
However I did find the default control configuration a bit awkward. While the X button for accelerate (and shoulder buttons for air braking either left or right) worked fine, combat or boost was the square button, which required you to take your finger off the accelerator. Instead I changed up the default controls, using the shoulder buttons for air brakes and the right trigger for accelerate, which is more traditional for racing titles these days. Some players may even prefer to switch to the D-pad for more accurate driving controls.
WipEout: Omega Collection offers a lot of substance for fans of the series, with an almost over-whelming number of ships, race teams, courses, and modes to unlock. For those with the PS4 Pro and appropriate 4K TV, this is the best looking WipEout game you’ll get the pleasure of seeing. This is made all the more heart-breaking with the likelihood this could be the last WipEout game we’ll see considering the original studio who created the franchise are no longer around.
Angus received a digital copy of Wipeout Omega Collection from PlayStation NZ for review.