New on the Playstation Network this month for the tidy sum of £14.99 is Fatal Inertia FX a futuristic hovercar racer game from Koei “Wipeout Ripoff!” I hear you shout and yes your’e right it’s as blatant as they come… but, there are some interesting ideas and gameplay to be had here and to be honest there has not been a good Wipeout since 2097… so does Koei and Fatal Inertia pick up the pieces… yes… and no.
Fatal Inertia manages to bring some newish ideas to the hoversled genre and some not so new ones. You can customise your cars with body parts, engine mods, aerodynamics and a very limited selection of bland insignia and paintwork which is fun for a while but many of the mods become availible far too late into the game, especially as the AI always seem to have better kitted out rides. The weapons are simplistic but effective with each one having two uses: you can fire a magnetic mine forward or drop it behind you. The grappling rope can be used to sling you around a corner, grab a lift from a faster competitor or used to tie them to other races or even the scenery. rockets can be used as a boost or fired at a competitor and send them into an uncontrollable spin. This dual use adds a bit more depth to the game often persuading you to think before you fire unlike wipeout which could so often be a trigger happy fight.
Early race tracks are fun and offer plenty of racing lines to play with, while the environments are not spectacular they are exciting enough and it’s easy to initially rack up the wins, later on however races are a complex mess of corners and blind summits. I don’t mind challenging tracks but like some of the later Wipeout circuits they are just not fun, offering little variety in racing line… and often only allowing one or two vehicles abreast.
One area where Wipeout wins from word go is the Soundtrack.. Fatal Inertia may as well have not bothered at all, bland forgettable and mostly unnoticeable… stick to your iPod!
Sadly however I found the game doesn’t have that Wipeout sheen, it doesn’t feel as cool and the craft don’t look as chic as Wipeouts racers, too much “hotrod” and not enough italian stallion and japanese technophile. Also, and perhaps it’s me but I never seem to be impressed by the visuals of games powered by the Unreal Engine, colours and objects seem to lack depth and sophistication and look, well “toyish” The vehicle customisation adds a few more minutes of fun but the colour schmes and insignia on offer are unimaginative.
The AI seems to have been developed in a rubber factory, I cannot count the times that i’ve been blasted on the last corner by a shower of magnet mines, or pipped to the post by a superior sled with the rather envious ability to use rockets and maneuvers around tight corners.
So Good Buy?
Despite the dodgy AI, unforgiving and annoying tracks, and lack of “sheen” i’d say yes. For £15 you have a fun racer with some neat weapons, and some genuinely fun tracks, it’s a fun multiplayer but a tough and unfair single player. True, it’s no Wipeout… but then again nor was the last Wipeout. If hover racing is your thing and you can’t wait for WipeoutHD chances are you’ll find this a pleasing filler.