I like to imagine that every decade is defined by its music, audio trends which highlighted a culture of the time. If the 1980s were the age of power ballads and the wider explosion of rap culture’s street knowledge, then the 1990s were ruled by sounds of an electronic variety. Thanks to computers taking a tremendous leap forward in that decade, just about anybody with a demo copy of Fruity Loops could be a DJ.
That’s a decade that gave us the titans of the club scene. I’m talking the Chemical Brothers, Leftfield and New Order. Hell, if you bought the CD soundtrack for the 1998 Blade movie starring Wesley Snipes as a vampire who really didn’t have time for arrogant bloodsuckers ice-skating uphill then I’d bet easy money that you owned that disc solely for New Order’s Confusion track that was played during the blood0-rave scene.
So what’s this got to do with a video game about futuristic racing that gave the Newtonian laws of gravity a high-speed middle finger? Everything. If a decade can be defined by its music, then WipEout is the poster child for that era’s soundtrack. With a selection of tracks mostly handled by Tim “CoLD SToRAGE” Wright, WipEout was the game to have when the PlayStation first launched.
Here was a console that wasn’t just a huge step up in video game technology, but also a device that had more eyeballs on it. The PlayStation One didn’t just revolutionise the gaming industry, it made it more acceptable than ever before. It was mainstream in the best way possible, with games like WipEout being titanic system-sellers at the time.
Almost 22 years later, how does WipEout perform with a new coat of 4K paint? Beautifully.
It feels like the 90s are back with a bang lately. Tekken just released on Friday, the top films at the box office are re-imaginings of chart-toppers from that decade and now WipEout has come racing back into the scene. What you have with WipEout: Omega Collection, a game that wants a new generation of twenty-somethings to get hooked on its beat while roping those of you who are on the other side of 40 to grab a controller and sit back down again with an old friend.
The actual Omega Collection packs in plenty of that nostalgia: You get a compilation of WipEout HD, WipEout HD Fury and WipEout 2048 to jam around with. That’s a blisteringly massive amount of race tracks, vehicles and new music to help you relive the glory days of dancing in a warehouse while some chap with a pacifier in his mouth was stoned out of his mind on ecstasy tablets. Except you know, this time it’s far more legal to be nostalgic for those days.
WipEout: Omega Collection may be internally older than most of its target market by now, but it has aged gorgeously in the years since then. I’m a big believer that the best racing games manage to suck you in and deliver an experience of what I refer to as “the zone”. That unbreakable connection of TV and your gaze, you in the driver’s seat focused only on the task at hand. The very best racing games should be able to capture your mind to the point where you wouldn’t even notice if the house was burning down.
Something that WipEout: Omega Collection still happens to have a knack for doing. WipEout’s core gaming setup was always easy enough to understand, high-speed racing with a touch of combat thrown in for good measure in certain races. Developers Psygnosis and Studio Liverpool hit the nail on the head with their first foray into anti-gravity racing, as they created something that was elegant for the time.
WipEout: Omega Collection still has that elegance to it. The lack of a tactile track to race over provides an experience that oozes fine control. When you’re racing at high speed around the tightest of corners and you’re taking the lead with precision and a cool attitude, that’s where WipEout is not only at its best but also its most graceful.
That’s a term that I pondered this weekend, as “grace” is something lacking from many a video game these days. WipEout: Omega Collection still oozes sophistication, while also being one of the few handful of games out there that’ll have you tapping your foot to the rhythm of the night in its updated soundtrack.
If WipEout: Omega Collection plays as well as you remember it, then it looks even better in the digital flesh. Sony XDev Europe, Clever Beans and EPOS Game Studios work shines, with familiar racing brands like Feisar, Tigron and Pir-Hana’s vehicles looking sexy enough to give your TV a good licking. The tracks aren’t shabby either, as the likes of locations such as Capital Reach, Moa Therma and the Amphiseum still being high-speed works of art.
Here’s where I need to harp back on about the audio of WipEout: Omega Collection. It’s not enough that the remaster sounds good, but it’s also technically superb. It’s a shame that most people won’t even notice it, but when you’ve got over two dozen tracks making good use of side-chaining and multiple electronic stems to keep the soundtrack flowing in a manner that doesn’t break the immersion of WipEout.
There’s a really dynamic range at play here, and if you’re the kind of audiophile who has access to a proper surround system then it’s an absolute crime to jam WipEout: Omega Collection with just a pair of regular TV speakers. A proper crime I say. I hate getting lost in nostalgia, but WipEout: Omega Collection makes me want to make that game the exception to the rule.
The club culture of the 1990s is pretty much dead, while life today has more existential dread to it today thanks to absolute dickery raging amongst people belonging to any particular wing of thought with their isms. The subculture of another age has danced on, leaving WipEout: Omega Collection as one of the few remnants of another time when youth of that age felt more carefree and irresponsible with life outside of high school and university.
It’s weird to imagine a game evoking so many memories of the past, even if I was too damn young for it and had to listen to wild exploits spun by seniors that I looked up to. Can you do other stuff on a Friday night instead of plonking your butt down after a party and throwing down a few tracks with the WipEout that you know and love from yesteryear? Yeah, you certainly could. It just won’t be anywhere near as fun.
Last Updated: June 5, 2017