When people talk about futuristic racing games, two names will come up in the discussion more often than any other, Wipeout and F-Zero. Even though there have been a lot of very good pretenders to the throne, both these franchises remain the benchmark by which all others are measured. I’m sure the related argument over which Wipeout game is the definitive entry in the series would rage on for a very long time but from my perspective it’s Wipeout 3. Aside from a little bit of the pc version of the first game, this was my first real experience of the franchise so it remains my own personal yardstick to this day.
Wipeout 3 Special Edition was the last game in the series to come out for the original Playstation. It came out a year after the original Wipeout 3 in 2000 and was a Europe-only release. It differed from the standard version by having quite a lot of added content including an extra league consisting of tracks from Wipeout and Wipeout 2097 as well as re-worked handling and AI.
I spent a lot of time playing WO3SE in the early 2000s so when I revisited it for this blog I was a little concerned that the game might not have aged as well as my memory suggested. Time has not been kind to a lot of the 3D games from this period, especially where graphics are concerned. Thankfully my fears were unfounded, Wipeout 3 has aged remarkably well. It was a late release for the Playstation so it came out after analogue controls became commonplace, this means you don’t need a NeGcon to play it properly. The graphics have also held up reasonably well. I think the time and effort put into the look and style of the game by The Designers Republic really helps in that regard. I’m not going to say that it looks great by modern standards but it’s certainly a lot nicer looking than you would expect.
I’m not normally a fan of games using licensed music. I find it tends to date the game quite badly and often doesn’t really fit with the gameplay. The Wipeout games have always been an exception. Music has always been an integral part of the experience. The Wipeout 3 Special Edition soundtrack features music from acts such as Underworld, Sasha, Orbital and The Chemical Brothers. It all blends seamlessly into the look and feel of the environment and doesn’t shove the music in your face like so many games that use music by popular artists. The music fits the theme of the game rather than just cashing in on whoever was popular at the time.
Having not played a Wipeout game in a few years, it took a while for me to get re-acquainted with the controls. Once you get used to it, the handling feels really slick and responsive but it takes a bit of time to learn how to drive smoothly. The big adjustment you need to make is learning to drive without a proper brake. The ships in Wipeout 3 have a left and right air brake but no single control to slow you down quickly. The key to cornering without bashing off the walls is a mix of throttle control, use of the air brakes and adjusting the pitch of the ship’s nose. It really helps to ease yourself into things by starting with the slowest speed class and working up. This gradually ramps up the speed and gives you chance to learn each track’s more difficult corners as you go. Knowing the layout of the track is something that becomes essential by the time you’re racing in the fastest class.
The tracks are always going to be one of the most important parts of any racing game and Wipeout 3 Special Edition really excels in giving you a good selection of memorable courses. I hadn’t played this game in years but I could still remember most of the tracks and their key features which is testament to how good they are. I enjoy some of the tracks more than others but I don’t think there is a bad one in the game.
The time I’ve spent with WO3SE recently has been fun but there is one particular aspect of the game that took the edge off things a little. There is so much unlocking to do to be able to see the entire game. There are 8 ships and 8 tracks per league and you have to unlock 4 of each for every speed class in the game. Unlocks do not carry over to other classes. With the extra league in the special edition you need to do all of this from scratch a second time too. It just becomes a bit of a grind which is absolutely the last thing a racing game should be. This doesn’t sour things too much, it’s a great game that I can strongly recommend but I can also recommend looking up the cheat codes online so you can access everything without jumping through too many hoops.