Not even hours after Sony announced plans to produce the PSP more than a year ago, fans of the futuristic racing series WipeOut began to post to forums their hopes that the company would develop a handheld version of their favorite game.
Sony Computer Entertainment Europe (SCEE) listened and quickly put its Liverpool studio to work on a PSP version of WipeOut, which is now nearing completion and scheduled to be released in time for the system's North American and European launches sometime in the Spring of 2005.
Called WipeOut Pure, the racer will feature a brand-new graphics engine, combine together elements of previous games, and take advantage of the PSP's WiFi link play and download capabilities.
The single-player mode will feature 16 tracks overall–12 are new and 4 are re-creations of tracks from previous WipeOut games. Confirmed play options include single race, league, and zone. Zone mode was introduced in WipeOut Fusion, the PS2 game, and challenges players to survive as long as possible while piloting a ship that constantly accelerates.
On the multiplayer and WiFi end of things, WipeOut Pure will feature link play and the ability to download add-ons over the Internet. Up to eight players will be able to hook up and race against each other (using only a single UMD) in single race, time trial, or league-based setups. Players can also share and sync ghost data and records via the WiFi link. At some point after the game's release, downloadable bonus content will be made available, including new tracks, new ships, and new music.
But the million-dollar question here is "how will it play?" For the answer to that, we asked the lead designer of WipeOut Pure, Colin Berry, a few questions…
PSX Extreme: You've obviously borrowed some ideas and elements from pre-existing games in the series. What's new and what's old in WipeOut Pure?
Colin Berry: We do have four classic tracks (one from each major iteration of the game) to go along with the 12 new ones, and have included some familiar ships, but all of the ships and tracks have been recreated from scratch and newly modeled. One thing we did do was abandon the dynamics system from Wipeout Fusion. The ships are no longer 'locked' to the track. They are free to bounce and leave the track when you move too fast over the undulating surface. It's a throwback to the feel of the earlier games. That was one of the earliest decisions made and the game feels like WipeOut because of it.
PSX Extreme: What can we expect from the ships and teams included in the game?
Colin Berry: There are eight teams, six from previous versions and two new. We've balanced the stats so that no one ship becomes redundant and no one ship is easily the best to use on every track. We don't want the player to feel that they have to use a certain ship to win a certain race. In addition to the nitro boost, ships can now perform a side-shift maneuver ( for more maneuverability and to bump opponents ) and an airborne move ( a brief leap for getting over obstacles and grabbing weapons ).
PSX Extreme: Can you tell us anything about weapons or power-ups?
Colin Berry: Missiles, mines, lasers, etc. We're still working on them. The weapons and pick ups have been refined. Some old favorites have been given a facelift and there are new surprises in store. One new feature is the way players get their energy back. The old pit-lane system is gone. Now, whenever you pick up a weapon, you have the choice to fire it or to absorb energy from the weapon, which in turn replenishes your ship's shield.
Not much is known about the soundtrack as of yet. As the release date gets closer, we'll more than likely hear more from Sony about this latest installment in the WipeOut franchise. Until then, feel free to click on the screenshots link at the right to gawk at some beautiful shots from an early version of the game.