PS3 Review

WipEout HD Fury

All the rage, says Martin

WipEout and PlayStation have always gone together like smuggling food and cinemas. When it's not been skirting dangerously close to inducing epileptic fits, Sony's very own speed racer has always basked in crisp visual fluidity and finely tuned driving mechanics. WipEout HD, then, was as much a beautiful trip into PlayStation nostalgia as it was a brilliant little game in itself, its high-speed inertia-defying racing serving as the missing link between Burnout and the rollercoaster. It's still a technical powerhouse, too, remaining one of the few games that effortlessly manage 60fps at 1080p almost a full year after its original release. We'll just assume you've already bought it, then. Because it's ace.

Enter the Fury expansion, Sony's first foray into WipEout DLC. It's still very pretty, of course, with the unwavering 60fps beautifully enhanced by the fantastic aesthetics: whizzy hovercraft zipping around architecturally impossible wavy courses at uncomfortably nauseating speeds. But that's a bit par for the course, really. WipEout HD is already gorgeous, after all. I reiterate on its visual credentials, however, because the Fury expansion reminds you, quite simply, how much of a treat for the eyeballs WipEout HD already is.

After you've nestled the 700-odd megabyte installation firmly within your hard drive, Fury announces itself instantaneously with a bombastic replacement of the original XMB background. Then, after loading, you hit the black-and-red menus and thumping techno backing music. It's Fury, you see? But while such attention to detail serves as the icing on an ultimately delicious cake, it showcases the thoroughness of developers who are more than prepared to go beyond industry norms in packaging DLC. Plus it looks really cool.

Slick it most definitely is, but it's also priced fairly high, weighing in at the unashamedly large price of 7.99 GBP - six quid short of the original WipEout HD. For your money you're getting, amongst other things, four new regular tracks: Tech De Ra, The Amphiseum and Talon's Junction from WipEout Pulse, and Modesto Heights neatly taken from WipEout Pure. They're playable in reverse, too. Then there's thirteen new ship designs, a smattering of new trophies, a campaign mode equal in size to WipEout HD, and, last but not least, three new gameplay modes. There's a fair amount for your money, then.

But such an erudite summarisation of its individual components does not do Fury proper justice. It's very much an experience more than the sum of its parts, and one that often feels like a whole new WipEout in its own right.

It's all held in place by the new modes. Eliminator will already be familiar to anyone that's popped a UMD of Wipeout Pulse into a PSP as they've borrowed it from there. Being in pole position is a bad thing, and everyone scrambles into fourth or fifth so they can jostle for the most takedowns. The mode awards points for successful attacks, and removes them for soaking up too much damage. Weapon pads become far more important than their speed brethren, and you can even flip your ship 180 degrees with a tap of L1 so you can fire on upcoming enemies. It's a completely frenetic experience that serves as a sublime contrast to the speed-obsessed races - the same little trick in pacing that Criterion have been employing so well for the last few years.

It all goes a bit Tetsuya Mizuguchi after that, with Fury saying goodbye to the 'zone' mode of HD but keeping all its trippy beats of light fantastic. Zone Battle has you, like with Eliminator, attempting to reach a target: acceleration is permanently on, and you slowly accrue points as you drive. Hitting the pads charges up your boost, which you can use to either jump ahead and leave behind a barrier that'll cause damage to anyone unlucky enough to drive into it or activate a shield to harmlessly absorb anyone else's nasty barriers. To be fair, it sounds more complicated in text than reality, and it's another mode that adds to the game. Zone Battle is about hitting pads and sitting on a great big pile of boost, and because it's prone to repetition and perfection by design there's a definite knack to the proceedings. It has a lot of appeal when played online.

Finally there's Detonator, which turns WipEout into a twitchy shooter as you chain together EMP blasts (unsurprisingly gained from driving over pads on the ground) and your unlimited supply of machine gun rounds to take out a series of mines and bombs. The mode ends when you either reach the end of the fifteenth wave (unlikely) or get destroyed by bumping into too much dangerous stuff (frequent). Successfully managing to navigate through the later waves seems near impossible, which will no doubt make it a true test for discerning WipEout fans everywhere. It's a definite high-score mode, with competition being against the leaderboards rather than directly against players. And whilst it might seem a bit of a departure from traditional WipEout fare, it's been well designed and immaculately put together. It complements rather than replaces the other modes; a nice touch that, like with Eliminator and Zone Battle, adds a splendid mix of variety to the game.

Then there's everything it inherits from WipEout HD itself. The online mode is still a blast, with Fury adding a few subtle tweaks and an addition of a 'community' button that will show you if your friends list is currently playing, as well as let you chuck a few invites easily in their direction if they're not. You've also got the ever-faithful Racebox function if you ever want to dip into a specific map or mode, of course.

The content is superb. There's still, however, the reality that Studio Liverpool are still just skimming off bits of WipEout Pure and Pulse, leaving anyone over the age of nineteen satisfied but ultimately salivating at the mere thought of them dipping further into the back catalogue and giving us HD versions of Valparaiso, Sagarmatha, and Talon's Reach. Whether they ever will or not is another question. Yes please, by the way.

Still, it's hard to be anything but overjoyed with WipEout HD Fury. The price seems miniscule for the amount of content on offer, and even more so when compared to the slim DLC pickings that most publishers frequently try and get away with. Like with The Lost and Damned earlier in the year, Fury manages to raises the bar for what to expect in DLC whilst making the whole process seem effortless to begin with. It also encourages us to return to WipEout HD, which is a delight in itself. It's an ideal add-on for the definitive downloadable game.

88%
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