I remember playing the original WipEout on the PSone. It was a racing game unlike any I had played before, with futuristic locales, great speed, and one hell of a sound track. I even went and bought the CD, which was an import album at the time. Well it’s been about 17 years since the original, and the WipEout franchise has maintained a constant release schedule on all platforms with the PlayStation logo, and the PS Vita is no different. WipEout 2048 is on store shelves as it was released at the same time the Vita was made available to the public. So, does this newest WipEout title for Sony’s new handheld have what it takes?
For anyone who has not played any of the WipEout games in the past, they are about racing in hovering vehicles on wildly designed tracks with insane amounts of speed. Thrown into the mix are offensive and defensive weapons, and the ability to destroy your opponents, but you too can also be destroyed. You’ll also find speed boost pads scattered throughout each track and these can be key in keeping up with the other racers. As the game has progressed over the years, it has only gotten better and better and with some pretty insane tracks resulting in some amazing races in incredible locales.
WipEout 2048 is actually a prequel to all the other games that have been released in the series. It takes place at a time when Anti-Gravity Racing is just starting to get a foothold in the racing market. Given that the time period of the game is so early, in WipEout terms, dedicated tracks have not been built and the game takes place in a futuristic New York City. Tracks are spread out through various locales in New York, so you’ll find your self racing through parks, streets, tunnels, and even up high around the tops of the various skyscrapers.
WipEout 2048’s single player campaign is filled with a bevy of races that encompass a few race types. There are multi-vehicle races with all vying to come in first, there are combat oriented challenges where the goal is to destroy all others regardless of your position all the while trying to stay in one piece yourself, and there are time trial races where you try to beat the clock. All in all there is nothing particularly new here, but there is enough variety for racers to enjoy what is offered.
Zone races also make a return. In this mode you will find your self racing on a set track and each time you reach a specific zone the vehicle you are piloting will gain speed, with the end result being one fast and crazy ride. This race comes to an end after you have hit the walls and obstacles too many times, resulting in your ship being destroyed. It’s a pretty neat concept and something I thought really demonstrated how fast the speed of this game can really get.
As you beat various races, more open up. These events are represented on screen by a hexagon, and as more events open up, more hexagons show up on screen. Interestingly, this is one area where the Vita’s touchscreen is used. You only need to press the specific hexagon you wish to see. You get quick summary of the event and you can then enter that event should you wish to.
If I have one complaint about the game’s events, it would be that you’ll find yourself repeating various events more then you wish. You will have to learn the ins and outs each track, and adjust your control accordingly. To be successful on each track you’ll have to learn how to use your airbrakes to navigate the many turns that are on each track. There were more then a few times, especially early on, when I had to go back and compete in the same event over and over just to reach the minimum level to pass onto the next. These instances can be very frustrating, but when you do finally do what is required, it is a very satisfying feeling for sure.
Should you desire a change in pace, WipEout 2048 has the ability to head online for multiplayer play. One of the biggest selling features of this game is that it is capable of cross platform play with the PS3 version of WipEout HD. This is an interesting feature given that you can head online and race against a mix of PS3 and PS Vita gamers. PS3 owners who own WipEout HD and WipEout Fury can play with PS Vita owners.
Once you have satisfied your curiosity of playing against PS3 owners, you can also head online to play the game’s online campaign against other Vita players. In this mode you need to complete certain objectives, such as winning, destroying an opponent, or using a specific weapon to name a few. These objectives are not tied to a specific track either, so you’ll never know which track you’ll race on when playing the online campaign. The negative aspect to the online campaign is that you don’t have any control in your experience. You just choose a vehicle to use and you are then thrown into the race. This is not very robust as you just end up racing the races on the tracks that the game chooses.
Those looking for some local “Ad-Hoc” play with friends will find that this multiplayer system is the same here too.
For those wondering how the online play is, my experiences were pretty smooth. Lag was virtually non-existent in the games I played, and I found that my opponents were pretty damn good. I did struggle to hold my own now and then, but in the end I had a pretty good time. As for cross platform play, I found that getting into a game was tricky (menu issues), but once I did it was pretty neat to play gamers on the PS3 and Vita all at the same time. Kudos to Studio Liverpool for the work they did in the online arena.
For those wondering, there are PS Vita specific controls separate of using the analog stick and buttons. You can steer your vehicle by using the motion control feature of the Vita and you can use or absorb your weapons by touching the screen. It is great to see Studio Liverpool use the Vita specific functions, but in all honesty I found that they were not as accurate or natural as using the stick and buttons.
If I have one big complaint about the gameplay, it is the loading times. OMG, they are long, and for a game that relies on a memory card-like media (or digitally downloaded), I was surprised with how long each game took to load. You’ll sit there for at least 30 seconds or more, for each race. It seems longer when loading an online race. Sure, some might say that is the price to pay for a game like this on the Vita, but I honestly don’t think things should have taken this long, and when racing multiple tracks in a single gameplay session, this can be quite an annoyance to say the least.
Visually, WipEout 2048 is definitely a solid looking game. The visual representation of what is basically a futuristic New York is pretty cool. Track design amongst the existing buildings, streets and parks is well implemented. To fly down a track, into a park, through a tunnel, and back out onto the track again is pretty neat to see and the transitions are flawless. There is an ample use of neon once again too, but not as much as past games, as this time around the game goes for a grittier look, which in my opinion is to reflect that the time period is before all the other games. The framerate is smooth and the game moves at a speedy clip, especially in the higher class of vehicles. One thing I noticed is that the visual look does make it difficult to discern certain corners and forks in tracks and you will be crashing into various sections until you learn the ins and out of each one. In the end I don’t think anyone should complain how this game looks, as it does look good on the 5-inch OLED screen.
The sound wraps up a pretty nice audio/visual package. The distinct sound of each vehicle, the futuristic weapons, and the crashing into walls or barriers is all found in this game. Of course the highlight of the WipEout series it the game’s music, and WipEout 2048 is no different. The music is a combination of electronica/techno beats from such artists as The Chemical Brothers, The Prodigy, Oribital and deadmou5 to name a few. These beats really keep you in your gaming groove. Although the whole sound package sounds good out of the Vita’s speakers, once again a good set of headphones will pull you into this game all that more.
At the end of the day WipEout 2048 is a game that manages to keep the tradition of the WipEout franchise alive, but on the new PS Vita. Newbies to the franchise will face a bit of a learning curve, but one they get used to using each vehicles airbrakes they should find themselves a whole lot better. I was happy to see that such a game like WipEout made the transition to the Vita in pretty good shape resulting in pretty good game. The only marks against it is the fact that the online is not as robust as it could be, and some people may get annoyed with the difficulty now and then, but overall WipEout 2048 is a good game that people should consider when thinking about a racing game for their shiny new handheld console.