Developer: / Publisher: Activision / Played on: Xbox 360 / Price: $49.99 / ESRB: Everyone 10+ [Comic Mischief, Mild Cartoon Violence]
Occasionally you’ll find a licensed or budget game that defies tradition and provides a great experience. Those moments are fantastic, inspiring even. As a big fan of the TV show Wipeout, I was hoping for a dash of that magic with In The Zone. I like watching fat people fall down. Don’t judge me.
Unfortunately Wipeout: In The Zone doesn’t provide any such enlightenment. It’s awful, and is only noteworthy thanks to having the worst Kinect controls to date. It does feature a handful of good ideas that I can appreciate, but other elements make it feel like the developers were playing a large prank on anyone that bought the game just because it looks like Will Ferrel is on the cover.
Gameplay and Control
The structure of In The Zone makes sense given the source material. You play through a handful of “episodes” that string together obstacles in a manner similar to Doritos Crash Course. Some of these–particularly the ones that don’t involve anything other than straight body tracking–actually function. Everything else is an infuriating mess due to abysmal Kinect controls.
You send your avatar through these courses by pantomiming actions: walk in place to move forward, jump to jump, crouch to slide, hold your arms forward to stop, etc. None of these work properly. The game takes around two seconds to register any of these motions, if it registers at all. I tried exaggerating my jumps to the point that I punched my ceiling, and yet the game only registers about 20% of the jumps you make. On top of that, the delay makes it actually impossible to finish certain courses since the obstacles will pop up faster than the game will react to your movements. You can skip obstacles if you need to, but we really shouldn’t be celebrating a game for allowing you to not play it.
Here’s a good example that sums up this game nicely: before any obstacle you’re given a chance to dance around like a moron before starting your run (presumably to allow you to imitate the part of the show when the contestants scream and flail around). You jump to signal that you’re ready to stop being an idiot. My on-screen avatar, which mimics my movements, would leave the ground in game but it still wouldn’t register as a jump. This is typically when my avatar then mimics my flipping the bird.
Graphics and Sound
Wipeout: In The Zone doesn’t look or sound great, and that’s even adjusting the expectation to “Avatar-based party game” standards. The gameshow hosts–John Henson, John Anderson, and Jill Wagner–are all present in cutesy Avatar form, though the commentary is hastily delivered and does little to enhance any of the game’s enjoyment.
But that’s still a better performance than the game’s music, which will actively offend your ears. Most of the music is easy to ignore, but god help you if you ever hit an obstacle. The game will replay the collision while playing the most grating circus music you’ve ever heard. It’s almost awful to the point of comedy, and will make you want to rip the head off a stuffed teddy bear.
It’s hard to imagine that anyone could enjoy Wipeout: In The Zone. Perhaps a five year-old child that can’t tell the difference between a broken and a functioning game? Maybe a party guest so drunk that any combination of lights and sounds would entertain? There are better alternatives in both of these situations, though, and both of them involve a trash can. Everyone should just stay far, far away.