Wipeout 64 is a fast paced hovercraft racing game set in in the near future (circa 2100). Society has gotten sick of the "vile pollution of airplanes and rockets", and a group of scientists have created a pure, pollution-free solution to such attrocities: hover technology. This hover technology has allowed vehicles to be created that can further define the word "race" in undreamt of ways.
The graphics in Wipeout 64 are clean-cut to say the least, with some minimal background pop-up. As with most N64 games, the graphics are nothing we haven't seen already. Originally, Wipeout (on the Playstation) was made to be a beautiful and intricate racing title which flexed the Playstation's graphic muscle. It emphasized being a showcase of the Playstation's technology, obviously neglecting key points like fun factor (arguably), and content (such as a wider choice of hovercraft; more varied race tracks). Wipeout 64 is basically the same, only the graphics aren't as refined. The scenery, backgrounds, and racing track's graphics can be considered bland but tolerable at least.
Wipeout 64's tremendous amount of speed is most likely the primary reason for it's graphic flaws. Although not extremely detailed, the racing engine in Wipeout 64 is extremely smooth and fast. No amount of slowdown can be found, with the bland backgrounds sometimes blending into a blur from the game's blinding speed. This lends credence to the fact that the graphics were somewhat sacrificed in the hopes of being unoticeable juxtaposed to the relative speed of the game. The developers didn't think good graphics would be relevant (or noticed, for that matter) compared to the games speed, which is very true. Music in Wipeout 64 can best be described as simple and repetitive techno tunes. Nothing special compared to almost any Playstation game, and common among most N64 games. As with most N64 games, the music also tends to get annoying after a while. Sound effects are almost non-existant, with generic sounds played only when you hit a wall; fire a weapon; or a weapon hits an enemy or yourself.
Control is an entirely different story. It is intuitive, simple, and smooth. Depending on which hovercraft you use (and which speed class you choose), controlling your craft through each track is always challenging (especially in the later speed classes), but not always fun. A good degree of racing can be aggravating due to the complicated steering expertise needed to navigate the lightning-fast hovercrafts. However, once you've warmed up to the controls of your hovercraft and have the basics mastered, both challenge and fun merge together into a complex tapestry of sadistic self-abuse (if you like that sort of thing). Weapons are also implemented in the game, but usually you are going too fast to pay attention to them. They are a good addition if you have to chance to use them, but usually a player must focus on winning the race. Altogether, they warrant moderate attention, and can even be turned off (in the options menu) to assure no interference in your racing by enemy pilots. Also, weapon affects aren't very eye-catching or state-of-the-art (which is unbecoming of any N64 game). More weapons options, such as the ability to buy new weapons and customize your hovercraft, would improve the overall gameplay immensely.
Few race tracks are available in Wipeout 64 (7 tracks in total), with a complement of even less hovercrafts to choose from (five). The hovercrafts do have recognizable differences in control, ease of movement, and speed, but what good is that if there aren't enough tracks to test and refine your racing skills? Multiplayer mode offers a bit more excitement than your average one-player race, but don't expect it to be another Goldeneye. Although it allows up to four players to join in, player screens are sometimes too small to fully realize the the racing environment that one-player mode offers. Keep in mind how fast this game can go, and how challenging it is to maneuver your hovercraft at such speeds. In Multi-player mode, the player's screen is 1/4 the size of a normal screen. As a result, track bends and turns, weapon pick-ups, and other important items can be hard to spot at times. Still, it's more fun than challenging the computer.
If there was one truly redeeming quality in all Wipeout games, it would be speed. Wipeout 64 is fast, very fast. Depending on hovercraft class and team (of which there are 4 classes and 5 teams), racing in Wipeout 64 can reach almost intolerable (and sometimes even uncontrollable) speeds. Controlling your hovercraft is the key to sustaining the adrenaline rush this speed brings, and at some speeds it is extremely challenging. But, with challenge comes victory, and all of it's rewards. This in it's own right offers a breathe of life to Wipeout 64 that most racers can't offer.
Wipeout 64 is a challenging and fun title. The tried-and-true racing style it brings to the N64 is far from outdated, but it still contains some of the same problems inherent in its earlier incarnations. Ultimately, Wipeout 64 is a solid entry into the gem-laden N64 library. Although it doesn't break any new ground, it's a fast-paced thrill ride worthy of its title.