Wipeout HD: Fury

It might be a little cynical to brand this from the start but bear with me. A compilation of cutting room clippings purposefully left truanting around the release of Wipeout HD almost a year ago. Of the three new game modes and eight new tracks none are strictly ‘new’. Like the (loosely speaking) original game they’re all lifted from Wipeout Pure and Pulse, the PSP titles and treated to a true high definition improvement. To keep the metaphor alive, let’s imagine the members of Studio Liverpool sweeping up these cuttings, the tracks and modes and ship skins that supposedly justify a £6.99 update a year down the line. But rather than sweeping up dust and paperclips they’re sweeping up sizeable chunks of gold and hurling them out the window toward the orphanage opposite.

Wipeout Fury is another discounted treasure; stalking its predecessor’s shadow it packs a weighty and equally economical punch. Eighty new races split between a further eight events (that’s only seven races less than the main game itself), it’s almost thoughtless to market Fury as an expansion and if it weren’t for its reliance on Wipeout HD to play, it would warrant the same liberties as it’s full titled forerunner.

More has been included besides the expected tracks and race modes too. The passive pallid tones of HD’s menus have been replaced with an aggressive shade of red and the subdued soundtrack reinstated with a dynamic techno pulse.  It’s a reversible enhancement, but one that clicks impeccably with the overriding tones of Fury: faster, furious, and more fun.

Rather than surplus second-rate tracks, the eight courses included with Fury are arguably of a better design than the original eight, never anything than equal in quality. They’re pervaded with the same meticulous attention to the understated; advertisements glowing beside a track edge, blimps cruising above, concealed or multiple routes inhabit every track (all in 1080p remember). The caliber is unchanged and unprecedented.

The new race-modes are equally laudable. Eliminator brings with it a much-appreciated injection of ferocity. Acting as the anti-race, designed for anyone tired of the proverbial first over the line takes all, it’s a destruction derby fought out with missiles and mines. Dealing damage results in small-point increases, wiping out an opponent a twenty-point bonus with each Eliminator race its own target. To add an incentive to finish laps a five-point bonus is awarded per completed lap. Destruction only results in a fractional penalty and the game respawns you within seconds, never threatening to shatter the frantic fast-paced nature of the race. The option to flip your ship to face your opponents adds additional tactical leverage, charging up a Plasma power, flipping and annihilating an oncoming ship is spectacular. It all feels a little bit like Podracing probably should and even better when you’re out of control narrowly averting a radiant trip of mines or approaching rocket fire.

Infuriatingly the whole thing feels a little too much like a clusterfuck at phantom speed and worrying about staying on track, up to speed with the other racers and lining up delicately aimed shots rarely works out for the best. The frame rate, which is otherwise faultless, verges on being torn down by the multitude of explosions and madness during the opening thirty seconds as well. The campaign milks Eliminator events more so at the higher speeds, and having to play three or four during the final events diminishes their initial enjoyment somewhat.

Zone Mode is less exhilarating and analogous to the standard Zone Mode in HD. However the zone counter augments slowly and instead of increasing rapidly only by piloting over speed pads and increasing your zone boost counter can you progress through the zones. It’s rare that the AI drivers threaten to challenge the player and by reserving your zone boost till it’s maxed out, the race only requires you to boost two or three times to emerge victorious.

Of the new modes Detonator Mode is undoubtedly the best; the paramount mode in both Fury and HD. It has the pedestal all to itself. Comparable only perhaps to Luke Skywalker’s notorious decent through the Death Star trench, only Detonator feels more like Luke might have had he been experiencing a particularly fulfilling trip at the time. Entirely painted in solid colours (like Zone Mode but with less detail), each race has fourteen laps. There’s no pilot assistance and at the start of each new the speed is amplified running from the relatively melancholy Venom to the uncontainable Phantom. It’s separated from Zone Mode by the tracks, which are littered with mines. Ships are outfitted with machine guns and it’s your job to both pilot, clear the track, and to amass a score high enough to attain a medal. Its fluency is matched only by the slickness of the controls, which come into their own every time, exceptionally so at the highest speeds. Weaving amongst pockets of mines whilst navigating the course is effortlessly cool and unrivalled by any of the other race modes.

As with HD all the tracks are available in reverse and all the modes and courses are available to play online. The online component that was a little scarce in HD is rounded out, with Eliminator and Zone Mode adding to the races and tournaments that previously made up the entire online catalogue. An additional six songs also add to the soundtrack.

The only noticeable absence is a new array of ships. Those from the original title each have three extra skins included, and the Fury versions of the ships have received slight enhancements, but no new teams have been included with the expansion.

But as with Wipeout HD there are only the most trivial of criticisms to chip away at an otherwise faultless package. Combined the two games are still reaching for the £20 mark yet together have enough modes, races, online capabilities and vehicles to justify a full retail price. As with the former, Fury, running in pristine 1080p, is must have material accessible to everybody. Developers take note, this is how to expand then vastly improve an already successful, much loved franchise.

9/10

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