A ball bounces. A pin drops. A man falls. Gravity was the glue that bound us to our planet, but in 1995 PlayStation applied the solvent that freed our species forever. The fresh, anti-grav racing of Wipeout turned a genre on its head, literally. Our primitive minds were blown away by its corkscrewing rollercoaster tracks. Wipeout’s vehicular combat, infectious soundtrack, and an ever-expanding garage of drivable-missilecraft kept us hopelessly locked on. Even today, the remastered contents of this time capsule have the power to make modern, wheel-based racers feel old and tired.
Wipeout Omega Collection certainly isn’t the first time this series has seen a fresh coat of paint, but in 4K on a PS4 Pro, it’s by far the prettiest and most definitive version available. Heck, even in 1080p at 60fps this jazzed up remix of Wipeout HD, Wipeout Fury and Wipeout 2048 looks resplendent. Previously washed out track details now pop with razor sharpness. The improved lighting drenches these futurescapes in God-rays by day, and everything goes neongasmic by night. You’d gawk if you weren’t racing a velocity somewhere between Ludicrous Speed and Plaid.The assault on your senses continues with an electronica soundtrack which is every bit as integral to the Wipeout experience. It perfectly complements the wild, undulating utopia you’re slingshotting across, and even in the mid-race menus you’ll dawdle, just to snatch a few more bars of whatever’s playing. Throttling into a speed boost or unleashing a weapon that causes some mega-highway to Mexican Wave will cause troughs and apexes in this ear candy. With a decent sound system, these new beats and club culture treats from the heady days of the ’90s will deliver nothing short of aural sex.
Gameplay-wise, Omega Collection doesn’t radically tamper with the already pure formula. There’s a powerful create-any-event Racebox option, but your bread and butter will be the three rather extensive career modes divided into 2048, HD and Fury. These are primarily lapped races, but you’ll also be tackling Time Trials, Speed Laps, Eliminators, Detonators, and psychedelic Zone Events (a faux-VR affair that increases your speed until cornering becomes impossible and you explode into Tron triangles). Speaking of, it’s disappointing PS VR isn’t supported. Omega wears its futurism on its sleeve, making it the perfect vehicle for Sony’s fandangle headgear. I’m guessing these sorts of blistering speeds and banking turns are too much for some of the general public. Hopefully it’ll appear in a later update, if only to start a new trend of live-stream pukings.
Advancement through Omega Collection requires Zen-like muscle memory of the 26 reversible tracks and being in tune with the handling, thrust, and max speed characteristics of the 46 unlockable ships. Moment-to-moment victories rest on your ability to read the pack of enemy AI racers (or seven other online players) and to smartly make a series of speed-pad versus weapon-pad decisions. That sounds easy on paper, but at Mach 5 with your hair on fire it’s considerably more difficult.
Wipeout leans heavily towards racing rather than shunting and combat, but you can use your randomly assigned weapons to tear a new exhaust port into anybody stupid enough to be in front of you. There’s a nifty array of guided ordinance, plasma-casters and dumb-missile barrages which are satisfying to use, proving you’re adept at leading shots. I am however irked that the cannon hasn’t been buffed. It still fires confetti and sweet nothings at people. You’re better off feeding it into the absorb function that converts unwanted power-ups into life. As the seasons progress, your anti-grav contemporaries become extremely anti-you, and whatever passes for hovercar training wheels are suddenly removed. It’s not uncommon to find yourself vaping on everybody else’s fuel emissions for two laps, even though you’ve expertly nailed that racing line and spammed the barrel-roll boost mechanic. Worse, there’s no catch-up logic to these weapon drops — the game will happily keep feeding you mines and shields instead of forward-firing equaliser weapons.
Likewise, even the earliest Time Trial requirements will demand nothing less than the perfect dot connecting of multiple boost pads. Your progression may grind to a halt if you doggedly refuse to relinquish a favourite ship, or branch out into new shortcut areas. Inexperienced gamers can make Omega Collection easier by enabling handling assist, an invisible buffer around your ship that turns the courses into bumper bowling. But even then, if you don’t up your game you may find yourself bogged down, re-racing events, desperately trying to come up with the scratch needed to proceed. Basically, any newbie who can’t evolve to the mindset of future racing will become history in no time.
It's brutally old school and will push your hand-eye to the limit, but Wipeout Omega Collection represents style, substance and value for money in equal measure. This is a glorious homecoming of a flagship PlayStation title, an unmissable synaesthetic treat for your ear and eye holes that earns its light-seizure warnings. Your Star Wars prequel memes are mistaken. THIS is pod racing.
The PS4 version of this game was played for the purpose of this review.