So just as our fingerless glove and jorts wearing friend Crash Bandicoot began life as a Sony exclusive killer app before whoring himself onto every system imaginable and then fading into relative obscurity, there but for the grace of Ken Kutaragi went WipEout, extremely British developer Psygnosis’ ultra cool “F-Zero at a Rave” would-be 32 bit hovercraft racing dynasty. Unlike Crash though, WipEout wasn’t relegated to the IP graveyard after the PS2 era but instead became a flagship franchise for Sony’s technologically impressive but somewhat unwieldy and unpopular portable systems, and now those PSP and Vita releases return home, remastered on PS4 as WipEout Omega Collection.
Omega Collection contains content from WipEout HD Fury (PS3), a compilation of WipEout Pure and WipEout Pulse (PSP), which featured reimagined ships and tracks from the original PS1 WipEout and WipEout XL, so given that it’s a remaster of a compilation of rerelease, there’s no wonder why OC has an almost Nintendo quality level of polish.
The WipEout series has always been AV reference material for Sony’s systems (WO 2048, the other, admittedly lesser part of this collection, even having been developed in tandem with the Vita), so the fact that this game looks and sounds fantastic is no surprise, but really, the gleaming futuristic vistas and trademark thumping U.K. techno soundtrack here go toe to toe with any current triple A release, and are miles ahead of the type of eye roll inducing cash grab shovelware that typically encompass HD remaster/rereleases.
Gameplay wise, the newer content from the 2048 release is surprisingly the weak link, with an odd single player progression and a starting selection of craft that leave the player feeling woefully slow and underpowered. Stick with it for a handful of events and sure, you’ll start to slowly, agonizingly progress, but why subject yourself to such torture when the WipEout HD/Fury half the collection is right there on the same disc and feels so goddamned great.
The HD campaign features traditional 8 ship races, lap and track based time trials, and zone races (where you speed through different areas with a Tron-esque retro minimalism, your top speed gradually increasing until your ship literally explodes), with a reasonable difficulty arc and an addictive progression of unlocking additional, more outlandishly designed ships. If that brand of blindingly colorful break neck speed demon-ing is too staid for you, the Fury content kicks it up a notch, focusing on the combat and battle aspects of the game engine, offering almost a Mario Kart level of satisfying chaos. There’s just a ton of game to get lost in here, so much so that even of you do completely ignore the annoyingly uneven 2048, the HD Fury portion is still highly engrossing and well worth the 39.99 price of admission.
With Fast Racing Neo and Fast RMX currently available for WiiU and Switch respectively, alongside the upcoming multi system release of Redout, there’s no shortage of F-Zero-alikes out there to overcompensate for Nintendo’s refusal to update its hovercraft classic, but WipEout was always a cut above the other contenders to Captain Falcon’s throne. So until the Blue Falcon emerges once more from Nintendo’s Disney-style vault, WipEout Omega Collection will do quite nicely.