Wipeout: In The Zone Is A Thing That I Played - Review?

By Jeremy M. Zoss in Reviews
Tuesday, June 28, 2011 at 10:00 am
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Foam paddles make us question reality
​I'll admit up front that I've never seen more than a few clips of the TV show Wipeout. But I have seen a few commercials and flipped past it a couple of times while channel surfing. I figured that limited exposure was enough to grasp the concept. It's an obstacle course. I get it. So when the game version was released, I figured that Wipout: In The Zone was as good as any to shake the dust off the device. 

And somehow it sent me spiraling into an existential crisis.


Like the show, Wipeout: In The Zone is not conceptually complex. You (as your avatar or a pre-made one) compete in episodes of the show - which means running obstacle courses. And since this is a Kinect game, that means running, jumping, climbing and otherwise avoiding things designed to humiliate you.

If if sounds anything like a Kinect-controlled version of the free downloadable title Doritos Crash Course, that's because it is. Literally. Same gameplay. Same graphics. Same developer (Behaviour Interactive). Strangely (or not), neither Activision nor Behaviour mention the game on their sites. 

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Are they ashamed because it's awful? Maybe. I don't know. I've played literally hundreds of games in my life, maybe even thousands, but never before have I been so stumped by a review. I think I can say fairly confidently that Wipeout: In The Zone is no game of the year contender - it's simplistic, repetitive, a little buggy and not much to look at. But can I flat-out pan it? No. Because I can't get the damn thing to work. And that may or may not be the game's fault.

As a Kinect game, Wipeout is controlled by running, jumping and other such motions. It only took me a few seconds of gameplay to realize that I was having serious problems making the game work. Walking in place to make my avatar move forward I could handle, ditto running to make him move faster. But jumping eluded me. I tried different timing, different heights, moved back and forth to try different angles. All produced the same results: botched jumps and failed obstacles that resulted in humiliating banter and painfully slow replays of my failure.

The game's fault, right? Obviously it's badly programmed. Maybe, maybe not. The Kinect sensor is typically a bit laggy, so maybe it was the device's fault. I tried moving it around, rearranging things in the room. No dice. I still sucked at Wipeout.

Frustrated, I did something I rarely do: I checked a few other reviews of the game. Some other reviewers had the same problems as me: a game they basically couldn't play. But others had, apparently, no problems at all. As with any game that requires physical controls, I had to consider a third option besides the game or the Kinect. 

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Myself.

Could it be that I am simply too uncoordinated to play Wipeout? Am I so out of shape that a mere video game reduces me to a ragged, sweaty mess? It's possible. But I've been playing games my whole life and reviewing games professionally for years. Can it really be that I can neither figure a way to game Wipeout's mechanic to my advantage or even pinpoint the source of my difficulty? And if that's true, do I have any business reviewing games at all?

Not only did Wipeout beat me physically, it wore me down mentally, forcing me to question my own worth as a reviewer and, thus the direction of my life. Maybe I should be doing something different if I can't figure this out. Maybe games aren't for me at all. It's summer. Shouldn't I be outside? Why should I be running in my basement when I can be running around the park across the street from my house? Maybe it's time to hang this game writing thing up.

Or maybe Wipeout: In The Zone is just a bad game that doesn't work. I don't know.

You win this round, Wipeout. And you've given me enough to think about that I can't knock you too hard for your audio glitches, tedious replay and generally uninspired gameplay package. In fact, you've given me so much to think about that I can't assign a numerical value to your experience at all. So I'll just give you the most arbitrary score I can think of and move on. If you ever get a sequel, I think my soul may break in two.

The Official Verdict: Potato out of 5

This review, if you can call it that, is based on a game provided by the publisher.
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