Back in 1995, when pogs were still all the rage and TLC advised us never again to go chasing waterfalls, the year became a trifecta of sweetness thanks to the former two revelations and WipEout, developer Psygnosis' incredibly original racing masterpiece combining futuristic hovercrafts, semi-dystopian settings and a thumping techno soundtrack. The series formula only grew more potent in the coming years, excepting the horrendous level design from PS2 disappointment WipEout Fusion. A few years, a PSP launch title, and some laps later and in comes Pulse to settle the score. It's more of the same, but does that make it a bad thing? We lock a WipEout junkie with Pulse and throw away the key to find out.
It might not be as exciting to those who've never played any of the previous games before, but to veterans, this pulse is one beat you just can't stop.
Unlike most genres, racing games have never necessitated running back to old iterations. Pulse heavily encourages this theory, with an incredible amount of modes, unlockables and settings which completely make you forget about all the other games (and especially WipEout Fusion). Visually, it's on par with Pure when racing, though the front-end has received a generous face lift. Modes like Race Campaign illustrate the driver's career through grids, represented as hexagonal plates adjacent to each other. Comparatively it's the exact same system from games like Digital Devil Saga 2's skill tree system, where a bevy of hexagonal plates, unlock adjacent ones when completed. It's incredibly original and leaves the player with the option to join a time trial, a tourney, speed lap or Eliminator mode, granted they have said modes at their disposal. Because not everyone feels like playing a third straight tournament, the power to do something entirely different with your time is incredibly thoughtful and appreciative game design.
Pulse almost comes off as if it's telling you to make your own WipEout game, with Racebox mode offering the player a chance to create their own pre-determined career mode. Multiplayer & Sharing launches several players into either ad-hoc or online (WiFi) play. If the offered soundtrack doesn't strike your fancy, use your own MP3s. And when default hovercraft designs don't suit your tastes you can always just your own (as well as upload them on the game's website). For the statistics whores reading, a player profile is just littered with info on what vehicles you used, how many times, for how long, with which weapons were shot and taken, etcetera etcetera. Fans of the series who will try Pulse will undoubtedly believe that SCE Liverpool purposely tried to cram every innovation or wet dream fans could possibly ever ask for.
Though there's nothing to really complain about, track design in Pulse feels a little uninspiring. It's the same fare you'd come to expect from the series, though this newest iteration feels crammed with too many industrial, metropolis-styled 5+kilometer courses, in place of the mix of organic and industrial sites fans get sampled at every few titles. It's a minor complaint, though the uniformity of Pulse's tracks being confined to nearly the same theme quickens the stale factor on most of the races.
If you've never had your fair shot at the series, though were weary from where you should start, WipEout Pulse appears to be your only solution. It feels more like WipEout Pure 2 than an original title of its own, but there are so many options, customizable features and settings, as well as online play and expected developer downloads, that makes Pulse to go from a teetering try to a full must-buy. It's level of quality is potent enough to warrant being picked up by newcomers to the series or those still using that PSP as a paperweight. It might not be as exciting to those who've never played any of the previous games before, but to veterans, this pulse is one beat you just can't stop.