Wipeout on the PS1 heralded a generational leap in home consoles. It was the essential launch game for Sony and it left a long and satisfying impression on me. Updates over the years have ranged from middling to good with the two games on the PSP being particularly good. WipEout HD has now finally arrived for the PS3 as a downloadable PSN game. Does this mean it’s a cut down game? Far from it.

WipEout HD

The screen above is from the actual game. Jaw droppingly good. Screens however can mask how a game actually moves but in WipEout’s case (why the uppercase E???) the game is so smooth, fluid and best of all fast that it’s a joy to behold. I’ve been playing it since Thursday and I’ve yet to see a drop in frame rate or a graphic effect that seems out of place. The menu’s and overall graphic design is excellent. Each new mode or track offers something new and fresh. Coupled with that is a great soundtrack. The original Wipeout changed how game music was used. Established bands like Leftfield and Chemical Brothers provided some of the tracks and it was so fresh and different from other game at the time. WipEout HD doesn’t have the same impact but it’s still quite good. You can also use your own music by creating playlists on the PS3. Unlike the Xbox though you can’t listen to music streamed from from Mac’s or PC’s but at least there is an option. More important than any audio or visual concerns is the handling and feel of the craft. Mess that up and the game is a waste.

WipEout HD

For me the handling is spot on. The craft have a real weight to them. As the game speeds up it can get difficult and there is a pilot assist mode to help but don’t use it – once you get used to the handling it just feels so right and getting it right without any assists is so satisfying.

There are a few game modes but strangely less than on the PSP versions. You have the normal race and tournament modes and fastest lap, time trial modes. Thankfully the zone modes from the PSP games are included. The graphics are stripped down (see above screen) and you have to try and clear as many zones as you can, your craft getting faster and faster as you clear the zones. It’s a real challenge and is very hypnotic. You unlock more tracks and challenges via the Campaign mode. As you progress in this mode there are more options unlocked in the Racebox mode. You can basically set up any style of game for any track and then race it. Great flexibility which also applies to the online mode.

I’ve only had a few online games but they have all been excellent. Still very quiet compared to the Xbox due to a lack of headsets but online felt very smooth with little signs of lag. It’s also a lot more competitive than the offline modes.

So, any negatives? Well there is a reported bug that the game locks up if you have a friends list of more than 50. There’s also people reporting general lock-ups but I’ve not seen any. There’s also only eight tracks, which can be reversed, which feels a bit tight especially as they are lifted from the PSP games.

WipEout HD

However the tracks have been totally remodelled and look superb. Eight tracks also doesn’t sound so bad when you hear the game costs £12. It’s available as a download only but this is an absolute bargain. Don’t let the fact it’s available on PSN put you off. This is a high quality game full of customisation and unlockables to keep you playing all the while adding a superb online mode. There’s also a photo mode which allows you to take pic’s and save them to the PS3’s hard disk and I’m sure there will be future track packs available to extend the game even further.

This is an essential purchase for the PS3. Cheap, great gameplay and some sublime graphics makes for a really good package. The PS3 would have got off to a much better start if, like the PS1, this had been available as a launch title. Looking like a strong period for PS3 with Little Big Planet coming in October. About time. I’m off to create a Wipeout playlist or two. Hopefully see some of you online soon for a race or two.