Reviewed on: Playstation 4. Copy supplied by publisher.
I have a very troubled relationship with racing games.
Like I said in my Driveclub VR review, I don’t really like the kind of racing games hardcore fans of the genre like. You know, the “simulators”, where careful attention has been made to make sure the cars feel like real cars, where spinning out and crashing is considered a rare and egregious circumstance, and in which the vehicles’ speeds are bound by the laws of physics. I prefer my racing games to be less civil and more packed with jet boosters, super sonic speeds, explosions and rocket barrages. At the risk of being too subjective for a second, I like my racing games to be fun.
With that in mind, allow me to say: Wipeout: Omega Collection is fun.
Wipeout: Omega Collection is a bundle of HD remasters of Wipeout 2048 and Wipeout HD (with its expansion Fury), which were originally on the PS Vita and Playstation 3 respectively.
Both games are pretty much the same, where players pilot super fast, anti-gravity cruisers through cool sci-fi settings in a variety of modes. And when I say super fast, I mean it; these babies are easily clocking hundreds of kilometres an hour. Toss in that a lot of the 26 total tracks involve massive jumps, loop-de-loops and crazy futuristic vistas, and even the most basic racing mode is incredibly exhilarating.
It certainly helps that the cruisers feel great to control. Traditional shoulder button acceleration is replaced by the X button, leaving R2 and L2 to be used for banking your cruiser around sharp corners. It’s a control scheme that racing purists might rail against, but it certainly simplifies the whole drifting process, which when you’re travelling at a zillion metres a second is a big help for reaction time.
In terms of game modes, there’s the regular affair of races and time trials, but there’s also some more exciting and challenging ones on offer. Certain modes can go full on sci-fi Mario Kart by adding offensive and defensive power-ups. Players can fly over various weapon pads on the track and gain access to rockets, machine guns, shock waves, protective energy shields, and more. Nothing improves a pulse pounding race like the lead driver copping a rocket on the home stretch to the finish line.
Other modes include last-one-standing Eliminator/Combat; Zone, an endurance test where you go as long as possible without crashing in a cruiser that continually gets faster and faster (a personal favourite); and Detonator, which is similar to Zone but you’re traversing a minefield.
The array of modes are also spiced up by the variety of cruiser types to unlock, each offering different strategic advantages by favouring different attributes, like health over speed, damage over handling, etc. Hardly a unique feature, but it certainly adds some depth to the game overall.
And overall, Wipeout: Omega Collection is a solid racer. It’s simple, easy to pick up and play, has split screen multiplayer (a feature sorely lacking in many modern racing games these days), and is pure, high speed action. I honestly don’t have many serious complaints about it, I’ve had a great time over the past couple months just sitting back and having a race or two in short gaming sessions.
I only have two major criticisms, the first one being the lack of a proper tutorial. The game relies on loading screen tips to teach you the ins and outs of the controls, which is pretty lazy on the developers part and meant I didn’t know about the R2/L2 banking until well after six or seven races. Thankfully, as I’ve mentioned earlier, the Omega Collection is fairly simple to play so you pick things up fairly easily, but no tutorial is still a glaring oversight.
The second point relates to the difficulty of the AI opponents. While Wipeout is still a lot of fun when you aren’t very good, even on the lowest difficulty setting the other AI drivers are ruthless. In traditional races, I don’t think I ever saw the easy AI make a single mistake taking a turn, or clipping another cruiser, and I only ever defeated them by a hair’s width. And it’s even worse once weapons are involved, because they’re incredibly accurate and their flawless driving means damaging them is barely much of a hindrance.
Again, it’s still plenty of fun to be speeding along at breakneck speeds, dodging rockets and blasting opponents left and right. But the steep difficulty curve against even the lowest level AI opponents personally feels a bit unreasonable. Obviously I got better and better with practice, but beginners will certainly be in for a rough, but still fun, time.