Videogame (1995). Psygnosis. Designed by Nick Burcombe. Platforms: DOS, PS1, Win (1995); Saturn (1996).
Wipeout is a racing game (see Videogames) set in the mid-twenty-first century, in which players compete for first place using Antigravity vehicles in tightly enclosed tracks. The gameplay is often frenetic, combining strikingly rapid movement through a variety of twisting, claustrophobic tunnels with the tactical options provided by a range of defensive and offensive weaponry which can be used to delay (though not destroy) competitors. It can, however, be frustrating to play, particularly when the exotic handling of the vehicles leads racers to brush against the track walls and come to a disconcertingly abrupt stop. The design was much influenced by F-Zero (1990 Nintendo, SNES; 2006 Wii) designed by Shigeru Miyamoto, Kazunobu Shimizu, an earlier science-fictional racing game which was intended for younger players. As in that game, the sf elements are thin, though the visuals are often impressive.
The original game is significant less due to its originality as a design than to its historical importance. Wipeout was marketed extensively to young club goers who had stopped playing Videogames when they reached adulthood, with a sound track made up of cult UK dance tracks and a carefully crafted advertising campaign. Significantly, the game's title was often spelled WipEout, though a gameplay experience more distinct from the sensations induced by taking Ecstasy is hard to imagine. This marketing effort was highly successful, and the game became a symbol of the new generation of adult Videogames for the mass audience who had grown up playing on home consoles and in arcades. Such games were initially often fundamentally similar to their predecessors – as is the case with Wipeout and F-Zero – but typically were displayed in three rather than two dimensions, and exhibited a more conscious sense of visual style. Subsequently, these works have become increasingly diverse, replacing the old Videogame market – split between console games for younger players and computer games for sf readers, computer enthusiasts, and similar groups – with one dominated by (sometimes science-fictional) console games for adults.
Wipeout 2097 (1996 Psygnosis, PS1; 1997 Win; 1998 Saturn; 1999 Amiga; 2002 Mac; vt Wipeout XL in the US) is a well crafted sequel which improves on the original while greatly resembling it, resolving the frustrating aspects of the first game's design. Further sequels include Wipeout 64 (1998 Psygnosis, N64) designed by Rob Francis, which adds a number of refinements to the gameplay, and was generally better received than its predecessor. While all of these games retained the core design elements of Wipeout 2097, WipEout Pure (2006 SCEE, PSP) designed by Colin Berry deliberately rejected most of the alterations made after the second iteration of the series, while adding some strikingly psychedelic visual effects. This approach to graphical design was retained in WipEout Pulse (2007 SCEE, PSP) designed by Colin Berry, in which a number of gameplay innovations made in previous games reappeared. WipEout HD (2008 SCEE, PS3) continued these trends, incorporating elements drawn from most of the previous games in the sequence; WipEout HD: Fury (2009 SCEE, PS3) is an expansion pack. WipEout 2048 (2012 SCEE, PSVita) is the most recent iteration of the series; its gameplay is similar to that of WipEout HD, but it is set in the Near Future rather than the more distant "medium future" of previous works in the franchise. [NT]
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