As I've written time and time again, I love me some Wipeout XL. My affection for Psygnosis' seminal futuristic racer for the PlayStation encompasses virtually every aspect of the game's execution. I came for responsive controls and an incredible sense of speed, and I stayed for the gorgeously stylized look and the pulse-pounding electronic soundtrack.
Sony is reviving a lot of its dormant franchises since the original PlayStation era, and Wipeout Pure is the most exciting of the bunch for me, personally. I'd like to acknowledge now that nostalgia can be extremely potent--narcotic, even--and that my fondness for Wipeout XL accounts for a large share of my excitement about Wipeout Pure. However, from what I've seen and heard so far, I'm confident that Wipeout Pure will appeal to more than just 25-year-old game writers who ache for their teen years.
Because, quite frankly, driving sleekly designed hovercrafts on fantastically futuristic racetracks at skin-rendingly high speeds, if executed correctly, is still just as totally rad as it was in 1996. Now, we don't officially know what team is building Wipeout Pure, but I'm willing to wager that its members were either architects on previous Wipeout games or they've played a grand amount of Wipeout themselves. Not only does it appear that they completely nail the Wipeout look and feel, which I'm sure is aided by the inclusion of remixed versions of classic Wipeout tracks, but also they push it into new territory with tracks that are even more abstract and techno-inspired. Check out our screenshots and video to see some Rez-inspired visuals and a healthy helping of soft-glow effects. Pure also promises to make use of some of the PSP's unique capabilities, too, by offering an eight-player Wi-Fi game as well as the spectral promise of downloadable content. Everything surrounding the US launch of the PSP is becoming more and more exciting, and we're seeing additional must-have software cropping up. However, this will be my reason for buying a PSP at launch.
Champions: Return to Arms
Prior to 2002, at gunpoint was the only way you'd find me playing a role-playing game. For someone who has gone in and out (and then back in) of the throes of World of Warcraft, such a stance seems somewhat indefensible. But, frankly, I didn't care for the predictability of the pageantry and melodrama of the Japanese console breed. I found PC RPGs extremely dense and dry, plus they carried the heavy taint of Dungeons and Dragons, which reminded me too much of grade-school pals I had to ditch once they started wearing cloaks in public and began to carry 20-siders in little black velvet pouches wherever they went. (Much love to Walter Guggemos, who I'm sure is living atop a snow-driven mountain sipping ambrosia from a crystal goblet at this very moment. Live the dream, Walt!) Basically, I thought I was too cool for RPGs.
Then, months after its release and at the constant goading of the game's reviewer, by some small miracle, I picked up a copy of Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance for the PlayStation 2. And I was in love. I had actually gone to the game's unveiling the year before, and even then I was impressed by just how remarkable the graphics were. Its gorgeous textures, incredible lighting, and great reflective and water effects were probably some of the best to yet be seen on the PlayStation 2. Trust me when I say the screenshots don't do it justice, and even seeing the game in action isn't nearly as satisfying as playing it. A prettier version of Diablo, though with less depth, is one way to describe it. There are also certainly parallels to Gauntlet, what with its high-fantasy setting and the volume of enemies the game throws at you. I just called it a blast and enjoyed every bugbear-killing, treasure-plundering moment of it.
The developer of Dark Alliance was this no-name upstart called Snowblind, a company that, a few years later, switched publishers and found itself making a similar hack-and-slash dungeon crawler. This game was set in the EverQuest universe, and it was called Champions of Norrath. Despite some pretty awesome showstopping bugs, Champions of Norrath elaborated on the Dark Alliance formula by providing a greater variety of character races and classes, randomizing dungeon designs, featuring a nice upgradable weapon and armor system, and offering online four-player co-op. Champions: Return to Arms is the upcoming sequel to Champions of Norrath, and despite the referential, cross-pollinated history of the game, you won't need to know Dungeons & Dragons, EverQuest, or what a natural 20 is to enjoy it. Other than the inclusion of two new playable races (Lizard-men and cat-men! Woo!), I frankly don't know a great deal about Return to Arms. But Snowblind is two for two as far as I'm concerned, so I look forward to another 20 hours of cutting down hordes of enemies and admiring that wicked new +2 Morningstar of Fiery Wrath.