North American 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 remains the only one published on a Nintendo console. At the time of the game's release, developer Psygnosis had been owned for five 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 including analogue control which benefited from the Nintendo 64's controller, new weapons, teams and tracks. The game received mixed opinions from critics. Comparing the game with F-Zero X, which was released a month earlier, many critics praised the game for its individuality among the Wipeout series, offering more tracks and racing craft, unique atmosphere and "superior track design". However, the game was criticised for its slow frame rate, and opinion is divided whether Wipeout 64 is a 'true sequel' to Wipeout 2097.
Most aspects of the gameplay did not differ from the previous two titles. Wipeout is based on a futuristic anti-gravity setting where pilots would race against each other or computer-controlled AI opponents to finish in the highest position possible. Wipeout gameplay takes inspiration from Formula One parallels; rather than using aerodynamics to increase wheel grip by down-force for faster turning speeds, Wipeout uses a fictionalised method of air braking for ever greater turning force.
Wipeout 64 provides most of the same features as Wipeout 2097 along with new weapons unique to each team. New additions to the weapons interface include the ability to fire three rockets at a time and rear-locking missiles. Returning weapons include the homing missiles, machine guns and plasma bolts. Exclusive to Wipeout 64 is an unlockable weapon power-up called the "Cyclone" which allows the player to strengthen the power of 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 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 through either getting the fastest time in 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.
As with all games in the series, Wipeout 64 was developed by Liverpudlian developer Psygnosis and 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 SCE Studio Liverpool (their future name). The game is one of the few N64 titles to have noticeable load times, disguised by the request 'Please Wait'. Load times between levels in Wipeout 64 are approximately a few seconds long due to the need for sound decompression, according to Psygnosis in a later interview with IGN. Psygnosis used the Nintendo 64's analogue stick to their benefit; thus 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 nine 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 predecessors, Psygnosis' in-house 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; a female voice welcomes players to the courses and announces in-race events and the result.
The game received mixed reviews among both considerable praise and criticism from critics. The game received an aggregate score of 84/100 from Metacritic. Reviewers were generally impressed with the innovation and complexity the game offered; mostly stating that Wipeout 64 had "everything a futuristic racer needs, a large variety of tracks, well designed craft, weapons, numerous game modes and speed".
The graphics were well received from critics. IGN remarked that Wipeout 64 was a superior game to F-Zero X. 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-effects were "top-notch", and that it included clean boost audio and excellent "scrape" noises. Despite the considerable praise, a negative review came from Joe Fielder of GameSpot, saying that regarding the graphics, the visuals in Wipeout 64 did not meet the par set by Wipeout 2097 that was released for the PlayStation two years prior. Fielder noted, however, that the new multiplayer mode was the game's main advancement over the previous titles.
Most reviews compared the game with F-Zero X which was released a month earlier, with the general assumption that Nintendo's own futuristic racer offered more tracks and racing craft, but Wipeout 64 contained superior 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". "Sayewonn" of Gaming Age 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". Sayewonn 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. Pop-up and a slow frame-rate are repeatedly mentioned as problems, but only when the screen is split up to three or four times in multiplayer mode.
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