Wipeout is a series I only recently discovered, but almost instantly fell head over heels in love with. Unfortunately, it’s also a series that’s been almost entirely confined to itself, with little in the way of similar games to be found on other platforms, and whose future looks incredibly bleak with the shutdown of its developer, Sony Liverpool. As such I’ve been clamoring to find something to fill this soon to be gap, and the unapologetic clone that is Flashout 2 seemed like a good stopgap while I waited for a more fleshed out experience. How very, very wrong I was to assume even that much.
If you’ve (sadly) never gotten the chance to play Wipeout, it’s a futuristic racing game set at an absurd speed as you careen through gravity defying courses, shooting off missiles and hitting speed boosts along the way to fend off competitors. Flashout 2 recreates this almost exactly, but what it loses is everything that makes Wipeout such an addictive, visceral game in the first place.
First on the chopping block are the controls, which have the dubious honor of being among the most unnecessarily convoluted control schemes of any game I’ve ever played. Every pickup is tied to a different button (or direction on the analog stick), and these are explained through a horrendous button map screen and almost hilariously bad tutorial, which couldn’t even be bothered to remove the “tap the screen” text from the original mobile version.
Secondly, the racing itself is plagued by extreme repetition and a noticeable lack of any sense of speed. Each of the games ten tracks are almost entirely indistinguishable from each other, and are so plainly designed that I was already tired of them the first time around, let along the hundreds you’ll be seeing them throughout the campaign. The different ships you can pilot all feel more or less identical, with the only difference being each is slightly faster than the last and takes more to blow up, but even when you’re flying at seemingly impossible speeds it doesn’t feel like you are. Flying through races in Flashout 2 is unbelievable dull and tame in what it attempts, which for a game that bills itself upon light-speed futuristic racing is a huge problem.
Further to this point, the handling is especially odd, with a bizarre alignment problem that feels halfway between an overly controlling assist and another person trying to steer your vehicle at the same time. It’s awkward and I have no explanations for why it is how it is, or what reason the developer could have for making it this way (assuming it’s not simply another of the many bugs of the game). Online multiplayer is a joke, lacking any way to invite friends, and opting to use your PC’s name instead of your Steam handle.
Graphically there’s a lot happening on screen, but none of it is particularly impressive. Textures are blurry and simple, and the color pallet virtually unchanged from every race in the game. Particle effects lack any power behind them, seeming more like excessive lens flare than explosions. If there is anything nice I can say about the game, it would be that the soundtrack is actually not half bad, and in another context I might actually enjoy listening to it.
I had high hopes for Flashout 2, despite its always questionable mobile origins, but it failed on a fundamental level to deliver even a small dose of the excitement I get whenever I play the series that “inspired” it. Even taken by itself, there’s nothing fun or impressive about anything Jujubee S.A. has done, and the more I dug into it the lazier they seemed, with an abundance of bugs and mobile-port carryovers that have no business in a PC version.
At this point I guess it’s time to make another sacrifice at Sony’s altar and hope they bring Wipeout back, because this just isn’t cutting it.