Wipeout, the Coolest Racing Game of the ’90s, Is Playable in Your Browser Right Now
Wipeout wasn’t just a racing game—it was a cultural landmark for cutting edge art and music.
It's September 1995. "Creep"—the TLC one, not the Radiohead one—is sweeping the airwaves, America's still awaiting a decision on the whole O.J. Simpson thing, and an edgy thriller about cyber crime with a soundtrack full of all the cool, underground club music that cool, underground kids are listening to called Hackers releases to theaters. Also, the PlayStation will soon launch in Europe, where it will be accompanied by a futuristic racing game titled Wipeout. You would've known that, though, if you caught Hackers in theaters. It wasn't a coincidence.
Wipeout was a cultural force, particularly in the United Kingdom, where an infamous ad depicting what many interpreted as a nod to drugs and rave culture caused a moral panic. It was a racing game, but one where the music and visual style were as crucial—if not, arguably more so—than the physical experience of actually playing it. And while Sony hasn't done anything fresh with Wipeout in more than a decade, one fan has taken it into their own hands to make the classic racer easy for everyone to revisit, in the very browser you're probably using to read this.
The effort comes courtesy of developer Dominic Szablewski, who got to tinkering with the source code behind Psygnosis' stylish anti-gravity racer after it was leaked last year. As Szablewski explains in a blog post dated August 10, this particular source code belongs to a Windows port that had been specifically written to support and be bundled with ATI graphics cards. The code, he writes, is "a mess," with ports of the game for every platform it was released on piled atop previous iterations: PlayStation (first PAL, then NTSC), followed by DOS, then Windows 95, and then ultimately this ATI variant. Presumably Saturn code might be hanging around there too, though Szablewski doesn't mention Sega's doomed 32-bit console.
I am not a programmer, so I won't pretend to understand the steps necessary to transform this pile of slashes and brackets into something you can kill time with right now, but it seems like a lot of work. Most notably, Szablewski rewrote the physics, because he had to for Wipeout to play properly at framerates above the original's 30 frames-per-second target. The developer says the handling now feels appropriate running at even 4,000 frames per second, which is exponentially higher than any display's refresh rate, anyway. Szablewski also said he axed a ton of now-useless code particularly belonging to the PlayStation version, including support for Namco's weird and wonderful neGcon controller. It was a gamepad you twisted, and it was designed for racing games. The '90s truly were the best time ever.
I invite you to read Szablewski's entire account, even if you're just as ignorant at deciphering code as I am. And of course, don't forget to sample his work and vibe to Leftfield next time your mind wanders during a video meeting. This Wipeout port works with both keyboards and controllers, though I've had no luck with my Xbox Series pad as of yet. I highly recommend heading into the game's video options and dropping down the resolution to 480p, ratcheting up the UI scale and enabling the CRT filter for that period-perfect experience.
"If anyone at Sony is reading this, please consider that you have (in my opinion) two equally good options: either let [this port] be, or shut this thing down and get a real remaster going," Szablewski concluded his post. "I'd love to help!"
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