There’s no anti-gravity racing quite like WipEout, unless you’re an F-Zero fan. But what if you want a taste of speed, but you can’t play the latest WipEout? What if your main console is a Switch, or you skipped the most recent console generation entirely? Fortunately, there’s plenty of alternatives for those who need to go at subsonic speeds.
Formula Fusion (PC)
Launching out of Early Access late last weekend, Formula Fusion (FF) hails from the “here’s a spiritual WipEout successor because you’re never going to get a new one”. And when Formula Fusion launched its Kickstarter campaign over two years ago, that’s what people thought.
Problem is: we are getting a new WipEout. And that’s created a bit of a problem for Formula Fusion, which rushed out the gate a little to beat the Omega Collection to the podium.
I checked out FF last year, and the game was coming along rather nicely. It looked amazing, helped by some input from The Designer Republic, who worked on designs for the original WipEout. The soundtrack had some decent EDM beats, although nothing like the quality of a fully licensed soundtrack.
But while there’s plenty to praise, there’s also a good reason why the game has a 69% user rating. It’s a bit light on content, with only 8 unique tracks at launch, and the UI is minimalist to the point of confusion. A demo is available on Steam, fortunately, and if you want just a whiff of AG racing before making an investment, it’s a good place to start.
Fast Racing Neo/Fast RMX (Wii U, Switch)
If you’re on the Switch and want to get some anti-gravity racing of your own, good news: you’ll never get a new F-Zero. Just kidding. That said, Fast RMX – or Fast Racing Neo as it was first named on the Wii U – is the closest thing to F-Zer0 in terms of racing.
The track size, corner-to-corner racing and number of opponents is a lot closer to WipEout, though. The main differential is that there’s no weapons on the track, and boost pads are coloured strips. Have the wrong colour activated, and your craft will slow down.
It makes for an interesting take on AG racing, and Fast RMX is certainly quick enough at the highest levels. It runs at 60fps without dropping a beat on the Switch as well, even in handheld and split-screen mode. The biggest downside is that Fast RMX doesn’t have a big multiplayer community, so you’re predominately playing it for the singleplayer campaign. But for WipEout fans, around $30 isn’t too bad for 30 tracks. It was patched last month to get support for online friends and a Time Attack mode, too.
Redout: Enhanced Edition (PC, Vive, Rift, OSVR)
Want something that looks just as good as WipEout, just without the name? Redout is currently the best looking alternative, and it’s one of the most well optimised. If you’re into VR, you can try that out for no extra cost, although the game is fast enough in 2D.
Apart from looking a treat, Redout‘s ships also have that slippery feeling that makes WipEout, well, WipEout. Where Redout diverges from there is the career path: you can jump forward to future ship classes, provided you’ve earned the money to unlock them. Upgrades are more extensive as well and each ship has a passive and active ability, although none of the arsenal on offer is especially aggressive.
It’s mostly about staying at top speed, like F-Zero, with more chaotic loops, twists and vibrancy than you’d expect from WipEout. It’s also more expensive though: Redout is currently available for $US35, making it more expensive than not only the Omega Collection (you can get it from Target for $39) or the other indies on this list.
One of the facets of this job is that, on a daily basis, you put yourself out there. And sometimes, you’ll be very wrong. Like Mark on fairy bread. And in nearly two years, I’ve been wrong plenty of times.
Case in point: WipEout games that weren’t called WipEout.
A year can be a long time in games. And that’s especially true for BallisticNG, which has been kicking around for years as a fan project. It made the jump to Greenlight last year, and it’s come an awful long way since. Currently in early access, BallisticNG is sort of a homage to the early WipEout games. It looks like an early-era WipEout game as well, with low-res textures, janky vertices and big fat blocks of pixels.
And, as someone who grew up with a lot of those games, the style works really well.
I’ve spent more time lately with the new WipEout than the fan project it inspired, but the few cups I’ve been able to work through are really good. But you only really need one reason to give BallisticNG a crack: it’s free, and the team behind it has pledged to keep it that way forever.
Not a bad deal.
GRIP‘s lineage doesn’t actually come from WipEout, or even the F-Zero series. It’s actually more a spiritual sequel to Rollcage, the arcade racer from the late 90’s where you spend just as much time driving upside down and blowing shit up as you do actually driving.
Rollcage was plenty fast, mind you, and if you like going at a million miles an hour GRIP goes a good job of emulating that. Funnily enough, it’s also the closest to modelling just how aggressive some of the powerups in WipEout can be. A lot of the indie successors have focused predominately on racing, and not so much interaction between the ships.
After an unsuccessful Kickstarter campaign, GRIP launched directly into Early Access and has been kicking along nicely. It’s $US16 right now, with recent patches adding LAN support (you don’t hear that a lot these days) and multiplayer. The full game is due out later this year, although as is often the case, anything could happen.
Radial-G: Racing Revolved (PC, Vive, Rift, OSVR)
Radial-G pitches itself as an anti-grav VR racer first and foremost, although that comes with some drawbacks. It’s not the most graphically advanced game, a byproduct of being a VR racer, and it also has an unusual, tubular track design.
It’s closer in spirit to F-Zero than WipEout. But be warned: according to the concurrent figures, you’d be buying this exclusively for the singleplayer. The peak number of players a month isn’t even enough for a full race, which is a bit of a red flag. There’s no demo, but here’s some gameplay to give you an idea of what you can expect.
On the surface, Distance doesn’t look like it shares much of a connection with WipEout at all. The game’s default mode is more of a survival challenge, driving through a series of tracks while avoiding pitfalls, circular saws, crashing into walls, and a weird, TRON-esque dystopian future. It’s been in early access for a couple of years, and the game does have multiplayer. And in the multiplayer is an incredible homage to the spirit of F-Zero.
The whole idea with Distance is that your TRON car has an in-built boost. Your car can overheat, but it’ll cool down every time you successfully complete a stunt, go through one of the track’s various checkpoints, drive on the ceiling, and so forth. It’s really a sight when you have eight players flying through the air, doing backflips just before they hit the track, dodging lasers, saws and all other manner of nightmares.
Developers Refract have been working on Distance for a while, although they’ve pledged to launch out of early access later this year. It’s fairly stable right now, though, and there’s plenty of tracks. There’s also Steam Workshop support, which is a huge help for games like these that need as much content as possible.
If the indie offerings above don’t take your fancy, and you have zero luck getting the PC version of WipEout 2097 to work, then there’s always the undisputed king of PC arcade racers: FlatOut 2.
Sure, it’s got bugger all to do with anti-gravity. But it’s also fast and fun as hell. Put simply, there’s a reason people have been playing FlatOut at LANs for the last 11 years. Grab it on GOG if you haven’t already downloaded it from the local network. (And if you did the latter, you dirty pirate, give the developers some money. They deserve it.)
So if you can’t play the WipEout Omega Collection, those are the best alternatives you can play right now. What’s your favourite take on anti-grav racing that isn’t WipEout or F-Zero – and if you had to choose between the two great franchises, which one would you choose?