Also available on: N/A
Developer: SCE Studio Liverpool
For a future-themed game on cutting edge new hardware, WipEout 2048 is ironically rooted in the past. The zero-g racing franchise has been part of Sony's catalogue since the PSOne era, and has barely evolved since its inception. Its PS Vita debut offers the same cocktail of high speed, sleek vehicles and killer tunes that helped its forebears attain classic status, so a shortage of innovation can certainly be overlooked.
Sony has opted to refine existing mechanics here, rather than introduce new ones. Like its predecessors, WipEout 2048 sets itself apart from other racers with its memorable vehicle designs. Players take control of weapon-packing anti-gravity crafts that hover above the track. It handles unlike traditional racing games, and several times as fast.
Velocity has long been a staple of the series, and the PS Vita edition remains true to form. Newcomers may struggle to acclimatise given the level of precision required to take corners at several hundred miles per hour, but there's a pilot assist mode to shoulder the air break mechanic until players acquire the necessary skill to use it manually. Power-ups also play an integral part, with homing missiles, speed boosts and shields adding a layer of strategy to what are already intense contests.
Game types include standard races, time trials, combat events and The Zone. The latter involves completing endurance laps across dazzling Tron-inspired tracks, the object being to avoid the walls until the required number of circuits has been completed. An incredibly vast single player mode strings these events together to form a campaign. You'll encounter some jarring difficult spikes here and there, but it's otherwise more than satisfactory. Players garner experience points for winning races, which can be used to unlock new vehicles and other bonuses.
Multiplayer options are equally deep. As well as cross-play with the PlayStation 3's WipEout HD Fury, there's an objective-based online campaign that sets players specific tasks ahead of each race. These include taking out a fellow racer with a certain weapon, setting new time records, or finishing first. Given the popularity of past WipEout games, a thriving online community is a given once the PS Vita establishes itself worldwide.
WipEout 2048 offers an array of crafts to choose from (once you've taken the time to unlock them), each with their own strengths and weaknesses. Some are built with speed in mind, while others are armour-plated to withstand opponents' attacks. Courses are usually set against glorious neon cityscapes. They are intelligently designed, with tracks wide enough to facilitate combat, and shrewdly placed power-ups and ramps to keep players on edge.
The game's default control scheme uses the left analogue stick to steer your craft and the right shoulder button to accelerate. It's smooth and responsive, but as we previously mentioned, the sheer speed will take some getting used to for anyone unfamiliar with the series. An alternate control method allows players to manoeuvre using the PS Vita's motion sensor and activate power-ups with the touch-screen. It works, but it doesn't offer the same level of accuracy as its physical alternative.
WipEout 2048 does little to promote the PS Vita's unique interfaces, but it's an effective showcase for its graphical prowess. In motion it looks sublime, even when objects are whizzing across the screen at breakneck speed, and the backdrops never fail to impress. Couple this with an outstanding soundtrack featuring the work of everyone from The Prodigy to DJ Fresh and we have an audio-visual feast on our hands.
In terms of drawbacks, excessive loading times is perhaps the most significant. Given how much Sony has been shouting about the processing power of the PS Vita, one would not expect to endure a loading screen reminiscent of the of floppy disk era. This gripe aside, there was certainly room for more innovation here. Being true to the WipEout series' roots is all well and good, but as a launch title on a state-of-the-art device, it could have broken more new ground.
WipEout 2048 doesn't stray too far from what fans have come to expect from the series, but that isn't necessarily a bad thing. Impressive graphics and a blistering soundtrack will hook players from the start, and deep solo and multiplayer campaigns will keep them busy for some time. It may not be the most progressive title of the PS Vita's launch lineup, but it's a worthy addition to its stable.
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