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Wipeout is Back – But Not As You Remember It

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The first Wipeout game had one of the most exciting launches of any video game in history. It came out in 1995 as a launch game for the very first PlayStation console, and it was a perfect illustration of the hardware’s capabilities. From the moment we saw it, we knew that there was a gaming revolution coming.  The 32-bit era had arrived, and it looked fantastic. Even now, the game holds up both visually and in terms of gameplay. That’s an incredible achievement when you consider its five console generations and 26 years old. Some of you will be too young to remember any of this, but we hope our words give you some sense of what a big deal this futuristic anti-gravity racing game was to us older gamers.

Despite the success of the first game and its first two sequels, the series tailed off over time. 2002’s Wipeout Fusion and 2005’s Wipeout Pure didn’t capture the imagination of players in the same way that the first two games did, and 2007’s Wipeout Pulse didn’t fare much better. Wipeout 2048 in 2012 was a final throw of the dice, and when that didn’t work out, 2017’s Wipeout Omega Collection felt like a band releasing a greatest hits album as a way of saying goodbye. Even now, it still feels like 1996’s Wipeout 2097 is still the best of the bunch – an opinion that’s shared by many critics.

After five years of believing the long-running franchise was dead, it’s not hard to understand why there was so much excitement earlier this year when Sony announced a new Wipeout game was in development. Very few details were made available at the time of the announcement, but we were told that it would be called Wipeout Rush, and we’d be able to get our hands on it in late 2021. The excitement built and built as we awaited our first glimpse of gameplay footage or screen grabs – and then they arrived. Now, we’ve all been left deflated. Rather than the big-budget, new-gen Wipeout game we’d all been hoping for, Wipeout Rush is going to be a mobile game. That’s bad enough, but it gets worse. Here’s the real catch – you’re not going to be able to drive any anti-gravity vehicles. Instead, you manage the team and play a card game while the race is simulated.

If you’re anything like us, you’re going to have a lot of questions. The biggest of those questions is likely to be “what’s the point.” A Wipeout game without racing is like a FIFA game without football. It’s pointless, and the concept appears to be doomed to failure. This might conceivably have been a nice thing to find on the app store one day, but for Sony to make an announcement about “a new game” so far in advance and then attempt to fob us off with this almost feels cruel. That feeling of betrayal among fans is reflected in the game’s promotional video on YouTube, which has four times as many downvotes as upvotes as of the time of writing. The comments section is so toxic that it’s been purged at least twice, but the insults keep coming. Fans are not happy about this, and the game seems destined to be dead on arrival.

If you can bear to look at the trailer, you’ll see that developer Rogue has attempted to provide a deeper backstory to Wipeout’s lore, including cartoons to explain the history of teams and drivers and “collectables” and “unlockables.” That sounds to us like either a pay to play system, loot boxes, or an endless grind for meagre rewards of the kind that we’d all like to leave behind as we progress further into the 2020s. We should have known that something was wrong when Firesprite, the developers of the original games, confirmed they weren’t involved in Wipeout Rush. They must have wanted nothing to do with it, and we don’t blame them.

There’s a quandary here for devoted Wipeout fans. If they want a new-generation version of Wipeout for the PS5, they have to demonstrate that there’s still an audience for it. If this mobile game fails, Sony could see it as evidence of a lack of demand for Wipeout and go cold on the idea of making another sequel forever. It will be interesting to see how many people buy it purely for that reason. After months of looking forward to a sequel, the irony is that we’re being served something that could finally kill the series stone dead.

Perhaps most insultingly of all, Wipeout Rush isn’t even a good-looking mobile game based on the trailer. It looks dated before it’s even been released. This is a far cry from the first Wipeout, which represented a seachange for the industry both visually and aurally. The combination of slick 3D visuals and pumping dance music from recognised artists was something players had never come across before, and it proved to be hugely influential. The flashing lights and dance beats of many modern online slots, for example, probably owe a few elements of their design to Wipeout. There might not be anything in common gameplay-wise between an online slots game and Wipeout, but the sound and picture video cues are all there in the best examples. In saying that, we really hope we haven’t talked a Wipeout online slots game into existence. There are several successful slots based on video games, but Wipeout doesn’t need to become one of them.

Sony badly needs new PS5 exclusive content for its expensive flagship console. It’s approaching its first anniversary, and it still lacks compelling reasons to buy it because so few PS5 exclusives have been released. A new Wipeout could have been just as much a draw as the first Wipeout was in 1995. It was all there on the table for them, and they’ve inexplicably thrown it away. We hope that someone inside the company has noticed the response and realised that there’s a large group of players out there who would buy a new Wipeout game if one became available. As for the mobile game – it’ll probably come out in November if you want to try it.

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