As a general rule, games based on future-sports always suck. However, there are two notable exceptions: one of them is Speedball, which is coming to the PlayStation early next year, and
the other is the WipEout series. Enter WipEout 3, the follow-up to the massively popular WipEout XL. WipEout XL brought the very meaning of style and funk to the
videogaming scene by employing the talents of Designers' Republic and the best dance and techno tracks from the European club scene. And that's not to mention the as yet unequalled
anti-gravity racing experience it provided.
For those of you who aren't familiar with WipEout's brand of entertainment, it is a game where you strap yourself into an anti-gravity racing pod and rocket through a series of tracks at a
screaming pace, with the ultimate goal of coming first. To spice up the game a little, you can pick up weapons throughout the tracks that can be used to blow away the opposition.
WipEout 3 has all of the new features you'd expect of a sequel. Higher resolution, increased framerate, new tracks, new weapons, a couple of new game modes... it's actually nothing out
of the ordinary, and probably for good reason as anything too drastic might have spoiled the original flavor of the game.
One of the biggest drawcards of WipEout 3 is obviously the visuals. On the technical side, they are solid, seamless, and unquestionably impressive. There is virtually no clipping, and
the framerate doesn't even flinch in the new two-player split screen mode. From a design perspective, the game retains the same industrialised, metallic characteristics, which is
supplemented with catchy neon lights and other transparency effects that zip by.
On the other hand, the visuals can be accused of being somewhat dumbed-down and fundamentalist. One look at the menu screens is all you need as evidence of this. What you get is a
plain greyish brown screen filled with text in the most God-awful looking font that described the game modes and other menu selections. This is also reflected in some of the craft
designs, where the initial Auricom and Feisar crafts look blocky and unimaginative. Thankfully, this isn't the case with all of them, as Qirex and A-G still look great.
Aurally, WipEout 3 is a masterpiece. In fact, it's almost worth buying just so that you can listen to the music in your CD player (or better yet, go out and buy the soundtrack!). Leading
the way with the musical score is none other than one of Europe's finest talents, DJ Sasha, who's provided the best WipEout soundtrack to date, and providing us with more of the
brilliant European club-scene bravado that is sadly lacking in the American scene. Music buffs might want to take note that there is less of the Prodigy-style big-beats, with a greater
focus towards the sublime-like trance. Some might find that some of the tracks are a little on the soft side. This reviewer in particular was hoping for a few of the Prodigy's newer tracks
like Smack My Bitch Up, but we can't have everything. For the most part, it's sheer genius.
Those of you who are big fans of the first and second WipEout games will be very pleased with the new features being offered by WipEout 3. The first and most important is the
split-screen two-player mode, where the screen can be split horizontally or vertically. Does this mean there is the potential for a link-up mode for 4 players? Well, no. You can't select it,
but you can actually enter in a cheat code either at the name entry option or on the option screen itself, which will then allow you to use the link-up cable for link-up mode. What makes
this mode even better, unlike other games like Gran Turismo or Ridge Racer 4, is that these multiplayer modes are filled with CPU-controlled vehicles, which ensures a great deal more fun
and competition when playing the game with a group of friends.
The other significant new feature is the inclusion of a turbo meter, which allows you to fire up the afterburners at the expense of your shield energy. On one hand, this allows you to rip
through the tracks at an even faster pace; but on the other hand, it introduces a strategic element that makes the shield energy a little more meaningful than simply avoiding collisions.
The significance of shield energy to the game is increased further with some of the new weapons like the energy drain, which is one of the cruelest methods you can use to knock a
friend out of the race.
All in all, WipEout 3 is both a fantastic game of its own right and a sequel that should please fans of its predecessors. Admittedly, some of the menu and craft designs are a little
off-putting, but these concerns quickly become of secondary concern once you lose yourself in the core elements of the game, namely the racing and the music. The only serious
concern is the fact that it plays perhaps a little too similarly to the original WipEout, but most people should be happy enough with the new track designs. In spite of the launch of the
Dreamcast and the unveiling of the PlayStation 2, WipEout 3 is proof that the PlayStation isn't quite dead yet. In fact, it's a game worth having a PlayStation for. That in itself is a rarity
-- Kevin Cheung