There are few names (or games, for that matters) that are quite as synonymous with the Playstation brand as that of Wipeout. While Ratchet and Clank, LocoRoco, Uncharted and even Jak and Daxter may become recognisable faces each in their own right, Wipeout has been there since the very beginning - and it's appeared in some form on every Playstation platform ever since.
More recently, though, it's fair to say Wipeout has started to lose a bit of its lustre. With no main instalment on the PS3 (just a remaster that bundled together two PSP games), and with Sony having unceremoniously shuttered the studio's main developer, Studio Liverpool (formerly known as Pysgnosis), taking an all new PS4 Wipeout game with them, you could be forgiven for thinking Sony had grown tired of its anti-gravity racer. Seemingly, though, the company have decided it's time to bring Wipeout back, with the Wipeout Omega Collection bundling together some HD remasters of three of the most recent instalments.
Included here are Wipeout 2048, which was originally a launch title for the PS Vita; Wipeout HD, the aforementioned PS3 port that brought together the tracks (and modes) from PSP titles Wipeout Pure and Wipeout Pulse; and Wipeout HD Fury, an expansion pack for Wipeout HD that added the remaining tracks and modes from the PSP titles.
No matter which game you're playing though, the basics of Wipeout are the same. Choosing an anti-gravity ship to wrestle with, you'll fling yourself around narrow, twisting tracks at high speed, as you zip through tunnels, fly over jumps, and careen around impossibly tight hairpin bends, jostling with seven other racers for pole position.
Unlike games like F-Zero, there are often weapons to be found here too. Picked up via weapons pads that litter each course, it'll often affect the route you take through each level, as you'll sometimes need to veer off the racing line in order to pick up a power up that could end up being a game changer (or hit a boost pad that'll more than make up for any time you lose by not taking the corner as tight as you could).
In terms of pure numbers, there's certainly plenty of "stuff" here too. With 26 tracks, 46 ships, and a substantial amount of game modes, perhaps the most impressive thing about the Wipeout Omega Collection is the game's career mode (even if it does annoyingly call it a "campaign"). Depending on the game you're playing on, the career mode will be set up a little bit differently.
In Wipeout HD and Fury, each game is divided into a number of series, which in turn consist of a grid of events. Come first in a race, beat the lap time in a hot lap contest, or survive a certain number of zones in the zone challenges (we'll come back to this later) and you'll earn a medal, with each medal being worth a certain number of points. Earning points unlocks more contests in the grid, and earning enough points will unlock the next series. It's a really nice way of doing it - especially as it means you don't have to ace every single race going. If there's a particular event you suck at, you can usually just avoid it entirely, and focus on doing slightly better at the ones you're good at, in order to get yourself a gold medal, and those all important three points. In another nice touch, there's three difficulty levels to choose from in Wipeout HD and Fury, which not only makes any AI opponents easier - it actually adjusts the targets you'll need to beat in hot laps, and other score based contests.
In Wipeout 2048, though, things are handled a little bit differently. For starters, there's no adjustable difficulty level - meaning if you can't manage, you're on your own. Instead, 2048 has a "pass" requirement for each event, and an "elite pass" requirement. For a normal pass, you could be looking at something as easy as coming in fifth place in the earlier races - while the elite pass always challenges you to be first. While there's certainly some flexibility here, this is in no way anywhere near as good as the adjustable difficulty found in Wipeout HD, with 2048 often throwing some pretty hard challenges at you.
As for the challenges themselves, there's a surprisingly wide array here - although again, the ones in HD/Fury are much more fun. From standard races and hot lap contests at the one end, Wipeout also throws a few more curve balls, and it's these that are both some of the best, and most frustrating of the game's modes. Things like Eliminator are fun enough - asking you to race around a track and simply destroy your opponents rather than challenge for first place, you'll earn points for everyone you hit with weapons, and lose them every time you die, with the ability to spin your ship round to face backwards at the touch of a button making this fun even if you're way out in first place. At the other end of the spectrum are things like Zone challenges, which sadly cross all three games. A monotonous, repetitive survival mode across a course drenched in pure neon, Zone challenges see your ship automatically accelerate for you, slowly gaining in speed as it goes. The idea here is to simply survive for as long as you can, as the faster your ship goes, the more you'll find it wanting to make friends with the walls. Drawn out, far too lengthy, and way too boring, these are the challenges you'll want to skip - and yet they make up far too much of all three game's careers.
In terms of things to do outside of the career modes, things are a little bit more disappointing. There's an eight player online mode, but no support to take split-screen players online - and even offline, split-screen play is limited to just two players, making this no Mario Kart competitor. Outside of the careers, you can set up single races across any of the game's modes, with all tracks being unlocked from the off, which is certainly handy - although only single race, zone battle and eliminator have support for split-screen play, which is equally a little bit disappointing.
Far more disappointing, though, is that the Wipeout Omega Collection appears to have been designed exclusively for people who've already played the earlier Wipeouts. With no real brake button, and some awkward air brakes on your left and right triggers allegedly letting you take corners more tightly (although we still have yet to master it, to put it lightly), Wipeout is an unusual game - and yet there's nothing in the way of a tutorial here, at all. There's also nothing that explains what each mode does - at all. So the first time you sit down with each race, you'll mostly find yourself just whizzing around in a bit of a daze as you try and figure out exactly what it is you're supposed to be doing. The only game that even offers so much as a single screen of explanation in Wipeout Fury - and even then, they're written in such a way they can be hard to understand. We had to read the description for Zone Battle mode three or four times, and we still didn't have a clue what we were meant to be doing.
The lack of thought goes into the menus, too. There's at least eight options you can turn on or off for races, yet no explanation anywhere as to what they actually mean - and while some are obvious, others, like a setting for "Pure Racing" are much more ambiguous. Some of the skills you'll simply need in order to do well at Wipeout are hidden away and go unspoken, with the brief loading screens being the only place you can really learn how to play the game, including how to do more advanced manoeuvres like barrel rolls, side dashes, and absorbing pick ups for health - something which isn't all that useful when you only get one tip per race. If these are important enough that they can mean the difference between completing an event or not, shouldn't there be somewhere that tells you? Why assume that everyone who picks this up will already be a huge Wipeout fan?
For the most novice of players, there is an assist mode (again, hidden away in a menu without anything to tell you it's there), dubbed "pilot assist", although in our experience, this is a bit of a misnomer. Designed to make the game a little bit easier for new players, the idea here is that the pilot assist will steer you away from walls automatically, making the game's tight and narrow tracks easier to get around (and helping you keep your speed nice and high). The only problem is... well, sometimes, it doesn't really work. And by doesn't really work, we mean actively sabotages your race. Taking a shortcut with pilot assist on, our ship suddenly and inexplicably span round, ending up smashing us into the wall pilot assist is meant to help us avoid, before leaving us facing the wrong way as the entire field went driving past. Thanks, pilot assist.
With that in mind, it's probably fair to say that how much fun you'll get out of the Wipeout Omega Collection will depend on how much of a Wipeout fan you are. If you're a big fan of the older games, but missed out on the newer ones, then this is well worth a look, and will likely keep you busy for the rest of the summer. If you're such a big fan that you've already played all of these games, then the Omega Collection is a much harder buy, as there really isn't enough new stuff here to warrant the purchase. For novices, though, who arguably make up the biggest potential market, it's a bit more of a mixed bag. There's certainly plenty of fun to be had with the Omega Collection, and once you've got the hang of it, you'll be sliding around the tracks like your pants are lined with grease - just be sure you're ready to take on the game's initial learning curve, as you'll need to figure out what to do by brute force alone.