Blast from the Past: Wipeout 2097 (PS1)

9

Amazing

If ever there was a game that set the tone for what the PlayStation would ultimately be remembered for it is Wipeout 2097. A product that is sleek, fast and extremely cool. No racer could touch its quality back in 1996 and 23 years later it’s still as vibrant as it ever was.

Adrenalin Rush for Future People

Psygnosis is a team that is synonymous with quality games in the PS1 era. Rollcage, G-Police, Destruction Derby, F1 series and more were all regarded as a success, but nothing struck a chord with players quite like Wipeout 2097 did. The sequel to the futuristic racer fixed all the mistakes of the original game and by the time it launched, the name was so synonymous with the rave dance scene that it signed up the best acts on the planet. This futuristic racer was just about unstoppable and it started with the solid game design and pure enjoyment players got out of it.

Wipeout 2097 takes place in the year 2097 (Some interesting trivia: The reason it was called Wipeout XL in the US is because they figured that US players would be confused where there other 96 games were. No, really) and is set over four decades after events that unfolded in the original. The world has moved on since that time and with that it has brought the brand new F5000 AG racing league to the forefront. The ships all look advanced, are faster and won’t get stuck to the barriers as was the case with the original game. It’s these gameplay refinements that made it such an improved game. The teams came in the form of Feisar, AG Systems, Auricom Research and Qirex. Each craft had a specific set of stats that would play best based on the strengths of each individual player. Feisar was a great place to start for newcomers. The top speed wasn’t very good, but all the other stats were maxed out. Moving on to Qirex would have the turning ability and thrust dropping below average, but in turn there would be nothing faster… unless you played enough and unlocked the fantastic Pirhana ship. There would be no use to these ships if there weren’t anything to race on and Psygnosis did not let us down in that department.

Timing your boost start right was important, but an understanding of all the weapons were crucial to coming first.

What starts off as your typical entry-level track later moves into something way more complicated. You’re dealing with serious levels of verticality, something that you never saw all that much with PS1 racing games. Take enough damage and you’d have to be sure that you don’t miss the entrance to the pit lane to recharge your shield energy. You see, unlike modern Wipeout games you can’t just absorb weapons to replenish your shield energy, you need to time everything. Get stuck midway through a track with little to no shield energy and chances are good you’ll see your ship blowing up before desperately reaching the pit line. On the track there are speed pads to help you gain that advantage, but there are also weapon grids that supply you with random weapon pickups. At least they nailed the balance.

The developers have confirmed in previous interviews that Mario Kart was the inspiration for their weapon choices. Timing your boost start right was important, but an understanding of all the weapons was crucial to coming first. Should you be in the lead you’d often receive mines to drop behind your craft or autopilot to help you navigate the fastest class, Phantom. There were new weapon introductions like the e-pack (restores some shield energy when it’s at a critical stage) and the thunder bomb, but there was nothing quite as impressive as the quake. At the time it was a visual feast for your eyes to witness. Seeing a quake disposing of each and every vehicle in your way was highly satisfying. Where Wipeout 2097 did miss the mark a little is with its multiplayer mode.

A broken link

Unless you had a link cable, two copies of the game, two TVs and two PlayStation console, you were not going to play the game alongside anyone else. Wipeout 2097, for most, was just a single player experience. Wip3out fixed that by introducing a split-screen option several years thereafter, but it’s a pity as it could have been even better. In terms of control Wipeout 2097 launched on the PS1 before analogue controllers came packed in with a PS1 purchase and as such only the D-Pad can be used to setter – unless you own Namco’s Negcon controller.

Graphically Wipeout 2097 was a very unique beast. It looked all the more futuristic thanks to the art style with bright and vivid colours and the chequered barriers (creating the illusion of speed while blasting past them) setting it apart from anything else on the market. However, the use of club songs of the time made it an instant classic. The Future Sound of London, Underworld, The Prodigy, The Chemical Brothers and more created a mood like no other. There was nothing else like blasting the competition to bits with the Firestarter blaring in the background in 1996. The announcer voice work for picking up weapons or counting down before the race starts had this robotic sound to it, making it feel all the more ‘2097’. Psygnosis just nailed everything about this world.

Wipeout 2097 is still regarded by many as the best game in the series. It was a labour of love and it shows. If you own a PS1 console you simply need this game in your collection. Psygnosis (Studio Liverpool) might not be around anymore, but this piece of history will forever be etched in our memories.

Good

  • A soundtrack to die for
  • Tight controls
  • Immense speed

Bad

  • No split-screen multiplayer

Summary

Wipeout 2097 has aged exceptionally well. If the speed, music and inventive weapons don't catch you, then the impressive track design will. Not just one of the best PS1 games, but one of the most important.
9

Amazing

Married to a gamer and she kicks my ass at most shooters. If the game is enjoyable I'll play it, no matter the format.

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