North American Nintendo 64 cover art
Wipeout 64 is a 1998 futuristic racing game developed by Psygnosis and published by Midway Games exclusively for the Nintendo 64. It is the third game in the Wipeout series and the only for the Nintendo 64. At the time of the game's release developers Psygnosis had been owned for 5 years by Sony Computer Entertainment, for whose hardware all subsequent Wipeout games have been released exclusively.
Set in 2098, just a year after Wipeout 2097, Wipeout 64 introduced several new elements to the Wipeout series: analogue control is embraced (due to the Nintendo 64's in-built analogue stick), to the extent that digital control - familiar to players of the previous games - is disabled, even though the controller has a digital pad. Analogue control left and right was only possible on previous games for owners of Namco's neGcon controller and owners of the PC and Saturn versions which would make use of an analogue stick if available.
Split-screen multiplayer makes an appearance for the first time, as does Challenge Mode – where the player has to complete sets of challenges in predefined classes and tracks: either getting the fastest time through a Time trial, the highest placing in a standard race, or eliminating the most opponents through a weaponry-based deathmatch.
The game was very well received from critics and players alike. Despite reviewers comparing the game with F-Zero X which was released a month earlier, many critics praised the game for its individuality, offering more tracks and racing craft, unique atmosphere and "superior track design". However, despite its praise the game was criticised for its slower frame rate and opinion is divided whether Wipeout 64 is a 'true sequel' to Wipeout 2097.
Wipeout 64 provides exactly the same weapons as Wipeout 2097 - down to the fact that craft may only fire three rockets at a time, and missiles can rear-lock - using the same symbols to represent them. The exception being the Plasma Bolt which is incorporated into a new scheme of craft-specific Super Weapons (it becomes the Energy Sphere, exclusive to Auricom). These introduced devices such as cloaks and energy drains are later made fully available in Wipeout 3. Available in Wipeiout 64 is an unlockable weapon power-up called the "Cyclone" which allows the player to strengthen their weapons. There is also the inclusion of an elimination counter that gauges how many opponents were eliminated in a race by the player. This is what paved the way for the Eliminator mode introduced in Wipeout 3.
Wipeout 64 also introduced split-screen multiplayer for the first time, as well as a new addition named 'Challenge Mode'. Challenge Mode is where the player has to complete sets of challenges in predefined classes and tracks either getting the fastest time through a Time Trial, the highest placing in a race, or eliminating the most opponents through a weaponry-based 'deathmatch'.
Most of the tracks in Wipeout 64 feature mirrored layouts of circuits from select tracks in Wipeout and Wipeout 2097, set in different locations. Some conversions are not perfectly accurate, as some corners were eased or cut entirely, elevations were changed, and there were no split track sections. The only truly original circuit is the hidden Velocitar track, obtained by completing all 6 Race Challenges.
Wipeout 64 was developed by Liverpudlian developer Psygnosis however The Designers Republic were not involved in designing Wipeout 64 (although they designed the successor, Wipeout 3). The game was published by Midway Games - marking the first and only time in the Wipeout series where one of the games were not published by Psygnosis or SCEE Studio Liverpool (as they are known after 1999). The game is one of the few N64 titles to have noticeable load times, disguised by the request 'Please Wait'. Load times in Wipeout 64 are approximately 3–4 seconds long, and as read in a IGN review of the game: "in case you're wondering why there is load-time in between levels: according to Psygnosis, the short break is needed for sound decompression." Psygnosis also made the most of the Nintendo 64's analogue stick, utilising the analogue stick (rendering the D-Pad obsolete) so that ships could respond quickly and more precisely in improvement regarding to the older games.
Despite the limited capacity of a game cartridge, Wipeout 64 managed to fit 9 music tracks, mostly by composers Rob Lord & Mark Bandola (credited as "PC MUSIC" in-game), with additional tracks by Fluke and Propellerheads. Unlike both of its predecessor's, Psygnosis' in-game music team, CoLD SToRAGE, did not produce music for this game although CoLD SToRAGE's works do make an appearance in future Wipeout games.
Race announcers bridge preceding Wipeouts and Wipeout 3 by having a male voice declare what weapons are about to be used against the player, and a female voice welcome players to the courses, announce in-race events and the result.
The game received very positive reviews and considerable praise from many critics. Metacritic gave the game a score of 84/101 - with an accompanying sense of surprise that Nintendo's hardware could present such high quality graphics and sound. Metacritic also stated that Wipeout 64 had "everything a futuristic racer needs, a large variety of tracks, well designed craft, weapons, numerous game modes and speed". Gamerankings rated the game 86.61%, praising the graphics, speed and its new additions including the newly introduced Time Trial and Challenge Mode. IGN gave the game a high total score of 9.1 out of 10, praising the game exceedingly enough to remark that "Wipeout 64 [is] better than F-Zero X. Not just a little better, but a whole lot better". IGN praised the game on its graphics, saying in the verdict that the "visuals are absolutely beautiful" and that the in-game soundtrack and sound-affects were "top-notch" which included "clean boost audio and excellent "scrape" noises".
Most reviews compare the game with F-Zero X which came out a month earlier, with the general feeling that while Nintendo's own futuristic racer offers more tracks and racing craft, Wipeout 64 has better track design and atmosphere. GameSpot gave the game a lower score of 6.9 out of 10, stating that "WipeOut 64 isn't horrible, it just feels like the developer's first effort for the system at times - which it is". GamingAge gave Wipeout 64 8 out of 10 stars, praising its new innovations especially its analogue control, saying that "adapting analogue controls was the biggest improvement racing games made and Wipeout 64 demonstrates that beautifully". GameingAge also noted that the game still had a "learning curve", saying that "it’s not as brutal as the first game but definitely harder than the far easier XL". However despite being complimentary of Wipeout 64, both GameSpot and Gaming Age recommended purchasing F-Zero X instead.
Opinion is divided on whether Wipeout 64 simply merges the good points of the previous two games, or is different enough to be considered a sequel in its own right. Praised elements include "prettier" and "grittier" graphics compared to F-Zero X, although the "explosions are hideous";. Popup and a slow frame-rate are repeatedly mentioned but only as becoming a problem when the screen is split up to three or four times in multiplayer mode.
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