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Wipeout in the Zone: Activision Fails Forward

Company: Activision

With Call of Duty selling in the millions and loads of great games set to be unveiled shortly at E3 2011, Activision is doing anything but failing. "Failing Forward" refers to the design philosophy behind Wipeout in the Zone, Activision's Kinect-enabled version of the ABC's reality series Wipeout.

If you haven't seen Wipeout, you should - it will quickly become one of your guiltiest pleasures. The show challenges contestants competing for the best time through an outlandish obstacle course. Survivors are then given the chance to compete for $50,000 in the Wipeout Zone.

Wipeout in the Zone mirrors the show, and its courses, to near perfection. The game takes place over nine episodes split into three rounds culminating in a chance to compete in the Wipeout Zone. John Henson and John Anderson provide commentary during replays, while Jill Wagner interviews contestants before each round. You can't actually respond back, though the opportunity does give you an opportunity to goof off in front of the Kinect, which is one of those small pleasures I've come to love about the controller. All three are available as unlockable contestants, leading to some cool pre-round banter.

You can also bring your custom Xbox Avatar into the game, unlocking a really cool feature. As far as I can recall, Wipeout in the Zone is the only Avatar-enabled game where your physical dimensions actually matter. During the demo time, I noticed certain obstacles were harder when playing with a taller Avatar. I'm short, so this may be some pent-up dislike of tall people coming out, but I absolutely loved that players will need to consider their height when deciding on how to tackle obstacles. It's a cool idea that I think brings players closer to the "in the game" experience Kinect attempts to deliver.

Besides, watching height-gifted friends suffer is just good clean schadenfreude. Another aspect that really stood out is that everyone gathered around the game was laughing and having a great time. It's fun to watch friends running, jumping and otherwise flailing around as they try to complete each course. As an added bonus, a multiplayer "perk" is included that let's other players harass contestants with a small, ball-launching cannon. It doesn't do "damage," though a well-timed shot can provide just enough motivation to turn a stumble into a massive tumble into the water.

Playing is just as much fun as watching others provided, of course, you're not too proud to laugh at yourself or look silly. Gameplay involves running in place as you try to build up momentum to carry you through obstacles. Some require jumping, others require dodging at just the right time. It is a challenge and a half, and I royally screwed up both times I attempted a course, but I really like how the gameplay and motion controls sync up. Each obstacle requires a different motion. For instance, getting over the spokes requires jumping, while you'll need to bob-and-weave to avoid the Sucker Punch's flurry of wall-mounted jabs.

The best example of Wipeout in the Zone's "fail forward" mentality is the show's signature obstacle, The Big Balls. Once in the air (either by jumping or with a little help from The Motivator), you need to lean left and right to keep yourself bouncing until the end. It is all about momentum, so even if you get a bad start, its possible to recover.

Pairing Wipeout with the Kinect is a stroke of obvious brilliance. Based on the few rounds I played, the two seem meant for each other. Wipeout in the Zone will sell Kinects and should prove to be a really fun party game.

-Starscream, GameVortex Communications
AKA Ricky Tucker

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Game Vortex :: PSIllustrated