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Wipeout Omega Collection Reminds Me of a Series Trapped in Time

A friend in speed is a friend indeed.

Analysis by Caty McCarthy, .

When I think of Wipeout, I'm transported to the almost-claustrophobic tubular tracks of 1996's Wipeout XL. Blazing through those neon-tinged loops, there was a singular constant: British club music thumping in the background—the likes of Prodigy, The Chemical Brothers, in-house composer CoLD SToRAGE.

Wipeout has always been a series that is synonymous with its electronic music, and how it perfectly captures its particular era of the British clubbing scene. As time went on, Wipeout felt like it was less on the trendy path, and more like a relic of that long-lost era. Where the series envisioned a world built around a genre of music that's changed to the point of hardly recognizing it anymore, and has left its 1990s self in the dust.

Tomorrow, in the U.S., marks the release of the Wipeout Omega Collection on Playstation 4. The HD collection contains the three most recent games from the series: the Playstation 3 title Wipeout HD from 2008 (and the game's expansion HD Fury), alongside the once 2012 Playstation Vita title Wipeout 2048. The three have been spruced to a pristine 4K shine. They run gloriously with no hitches or frame-rate dips on the modern console. It has a photo mode, because it's 2017 and every game on a modern console has a photo mode now. And most importantly, the games are just as we remember them: fast as hell.

Wipeout got its start in 1995 on Playstation and MS-DOS-running PCs (and later, Sega Saturn as well). The game was unlike anything else at the time. It had licensed electronic music and a slick neo-futuristic style. It outfitted familiar Formula 1 cars into hover vehicles, and slapped guns on them for kicks. Wipeout wasn't a game just about being the fastest, but destroying and inconveniencing your opponents along the way. The early games' marketing leaned heavily on the side of its cultural relevance, squaring on the music and scene around it that elevated it beyond just another racing game.

Oh, blessed photo mode.

"Wipeout's not an aesthetic. It's a time capsule," lead artist at Studio Liverpool (once known as Psygnosis) Neil Thompson told Eurogamer in 2014. Earlier, in 2012, Sony shuttered Studio Liverpool unexpectedly. Wipeout's nail in the coffin, according to Thompson, was likely the series' aversion to reinventing itself for a new generation, alienating its audience in the process. Wipeout, from its mid-1990s releases to the late-2000s, were always games that proudly pulsed with the rhythm of warehouse-bound raves in 1990s Britain. As the years went on, there were Wipeout's core fans, with little to reach to beyond that initial dedicated base.

"Born Slippy," a track from British electronic group Underworld, encapsulates that music scene in one swoop. It begins dreamy, almost transcendent, before floating away into a repetitive beat endlessly. The full song is nearly ten minutes long. Even though Wipeout's never featured the licensed track (that honor goes to the drug-infused film Trainspotting), it matches the electronic formula every step of the way.

Wipeout Gets a Remaster Collection for PS4, Not a Sequel

Wipeout Omega Collection brings three Wipeout games to PlayStation 4.

Wipeout, like a Trackmania or Trials game, is one that bodes best upon repetition. Racing (or shooting) in order to get the best score. The music goes and goes, seemingly infinitely. In the early Wipeout games, the tracks are dark and dim, with hints of neon lighting the way. The tracks greater represented the dingy clubs that Psygnosis themselves raved within, loved, and sought to emulate. Yet as the series went on, the games' techno-future only grew larger, bolder, and shinier. Chrome painted the cityscapes instead of lo-res textures. Hypercolorful (or desaturated) "Zone" tracks did their darndest to recapture the feeling of the early games. Nevertheless, the music from its once-timely era always remained. And so did its spirit.

There was never a Wipeout with different European waves of electronic music. There was never a bloghouse reinvention, when the artists within Ed Banger Records ruled the world in the mid-to-late 2000s, and every sweaty club within it. There was never a witch house revisioning years later, as Crystal Castles and even non-British electronic acts leaned on chopped and screwed hip-hop and noise to get people dancing. And now: what would a reimagined Wipeout look like today? (I hope not mainstream EDM, that's for sure.) Wipeout was doomed to fail eventually, as Liverpool Studios themselves surmised to Eurogamer years later in a retrospective, because of its inability to represent a modern era of ravers.

Gotta go fast.

As I race through familiar and unfamiliar tracks (I never played Wipeout 2048, so the experience was fresh for me), all these ideas swam through my mind. What would a modern, wholly reimagined Wipeout even look like, when the series itself technically takes place in a future where the only music that exists is of the 90s' clubbing variety?

In critic Dan Solberg's essay "Tunnel Visions," from issue two of the web zine Heterotopias, he wrote that Wipeout XL "transported players to a place that might not address its locative disconnections, but does merge collective memory with the sensation that our techno future has already arrived." Wipeout told players that we already lived in the future, clued in by then's music in it. The music, the sweat, the speed, the intensity of clubbing and its soundtracked electronic beats was all there. The only thing missing, really, are combat-ready hover cars.

Hours accidentally slipped by as I played the Omega Collection. I wondered about the 2000s Wipeouts that could have been, if the series ventured further beyond its established sensibilities. Or even now, would the light of frat boy Chainsmokers-inspired EDM send the Wipeout name to ruin, or would more underground (and of course, more British) electronic music instead revitalize the series? I failed again and again (playing the Omega Collection has reminded me that I'm frankly terrible at Wipeout, probably always have been and always will be), and I realized, while there needs new life to be breathed into the series should it ever officially return, maybe the series has just plain run its course. With the classics before it to remind us of its heyday, and bait us to scavenge Spotify for that one fated Chemical Brothers track once more.

This story originally incorrectly noted that Wipeout 2048 was entitled Wipeout 2084. This has been amended. We regret the error.

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  • Avatar for metalangel #1 metalangel A year ago
    Wipeout depended heavily on its cool aesthetic, because the actual game wasn't that much fun. The ships were hard to control (the "air brake" mechanic never quite gelled) which was bad given how narrow and serpentine the courses were. Other games like Galaxy 5000 and later F-Zero X showed what spaceship racing could be - stupendously fast and exciting; not grinding to a complete stop the second you so much as brushed a wall.

    A modern Wipeout would have almost certainly featured dubstep, which would have made it unbearable.

    If you like the Designer's Republic look, check out "Hardwar", an open world space trading game with a unique premise (everything is solar powered so at night you need to recharge at "light wells") and a Warp Records soundtrack.
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  • Avatar for donkeyintheforest #2 donkeyintheforest A year ago
    I def think euro techno-beats when I think of Wipeout, but I also think of a bunch of other music at least regarding Wipeout HD. In that title on the PS3 you could import your own music that was stored on the hard drive so you could put whatever music you wanted. The song I have associated most with that game was The Big Three Killed My Baby by the White Stripes. I thought about the the fact that in the world of Wipeout, those three were no longer present, supplanted by futuristic hovercar companies with vehicles covered in strange livery speeding down the antiseptic tracks at speeds incomprehensible to the big three. Realistically, I was playing a certain track over and over trying to perfect it while that song was attached to it, and this theory was just my mind wandering while I waited for my fine motor skills to finally work haha.

    But yeah, I think the idea that Wipeout faded because the music was stuck is pretty interesting. I thought Wipeout HD was pretty popular because it got an expansion, but I dunno! There have been lots of other futuristic racers I've loved, and yeah, they all seem to be associated with electronic music (I still remember blasting the song Diesel Power by Prodigy while playing Extreme-G haha). Hopefully there will be more F-Zeros or something similar because I prefer superfast racers with no weapons and vehicles with a lot of grip.

    PS I would love to have a game with Witch House music influences, but I think a ultrafast hover racer might not fit because the tempo is way too slow. I dunno, maybe gimme a gritty P.O.D. [planet of death] reboot and some Crim3s, oOoOO, TR/ST, and XXYYXX and I'm good to go haha!
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  • Avatar for SuperShinobi #3 SuperShinobi A year ago
    A modern reimagining of Wipeout would surely be Wipeout VR. Without Wipeout on PSVR the series feels incomplete. Wipeout was there when the PS1 launched, it was on PS2 and accompanied the launches of the PSP and Vita and it was one of the best stereoscopic 3D games on the PS3. It's been a series that has always evolved and renewed itself by embracing the latest technology, so it's unfortunate that there hasn't yet been a VR installment.

    I'm okay with there being no VR support for this fan service remaster collection, because when Wipeout VR eventually happens, hopefully, it should be spectacular and built from the ground up specifically for VR.
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  • Avatar for VotesForCows #4 VotesForCows A year ago
    Interesting take. I agree that its not a series that needs more sequels, but then what series does? It perfectly captures a time and scene that was dear to me, and I get that that might not have any cachet for younger people.

    But the gameplay is sublime for me...and that probably should have greater longevity. I think that perhaps what has seen it lose appeal is that its almost a meditative game; its entirely about flow - and those sorts of games are mostly found in the indie space these days.
    @metalangel Do you mean the original wasn't much fun, or the whole series? I'd agree about the original, but go no further than that!
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  • Avatar for WiegrafFolles #5 WiegrafFolles A year ago
    There have been a lot of AG racing games since F-Zero but Wipeout is the series that worked the best out of all of them. I especially fell in love with Wipeout HD. That bright and shiny look along with its custom soundtrack option and its incredible speed hooked me for months. I'm still a bit sad the series died.
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  • Avatar for soloskywalker #6 soloskywalker A year ago
    Looking forward to picking this up tomorrow, oh and it's 2048 not 2084 ;) At least I'm pretty sure.
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