The racing games have evolved to the point where there are now several sub-genres that various franchises cater solely to. Wipeout is one those franchises, and it’s stood its ground over the years and still delivers that pace-filled experience for casuals and regulars alike, while also simulating aspects of a vehicle brawler. Making its first mark on Sony’s shiny new Vita, Wipeout 2048 attempts to live up to the expectations of the fans of one of Playstation’s oldest first-party franchises.
First up, the game deserves praise for presentation. Right from the intro screen to the menu, everything is beautifully done. You’re promptly given four game mode options to choose from – single player campaign, multiplayer campaign, ad-hoc and cross-play. The Single player campaign is quite a blast. It sports four game types – race, combat, zone and time-trial. The player is tasked with completing a series of main events with optional side events. Completing the passing criteria unlocks the next stage(s) while a player can compete for the Elite pass, which rewards you with lot of extra XP.
The brilliant structure allows for smooth progression, with the bonus XP earned from an Elite pass allows players access to new vehicles. The balance between Pass and Elite pass is also well implemented and gets tougher later on, delivering a more intense experience. Race and time-trial modes are fairly self-explanatory, while the combat mode is specifically designed to give a vehicle brawler experience that comes close to Blur on steroids. Zone mode is unique to this franchise, wherein the player is required to go through a stage over and over while the speed gets progressively higher. There are also secret rounds to unlock through progression, and speed runs for players to practice on the various maps.
It was interesting to see a multiplayer campaign in a racing game rather than a standard multiplayer mode. I had my doubts initially, but it was a nice change that sees the game borrow key elements from the single player mode with a continuous progression system. The game types involve completing objectives to earn XP and unlock further objectives. The lack of an option to choose the game type till a much later stage is a bummer though. Another letdown is the inability to join lobbies; the game automatically puts you in one. Unlocks across both SP and MP modes are common, and this continuity works in favour of the game. You can also share your picture with your competitors before a race gets underway.
Gameplay is spot-on for a handheld. Controls feel tight enough, while allowing for sensitivity on the analog stick to provide a very fluid experience and a good sense of speed. The crafts are divided into various categories based on their performance and class for best game type. A major issue that many racing games fail to address is the speed-handling ratio. Wipeout totally nails it in that regards, even with the fastest of crafts. Combat crafts have added combat abilities in the form of damage control and additional weapon capabilities, while precision cars are best suited for narrow chases. The game also supports a control scheme that makes use of the Vita’s accelerometer and gyrometer, but that’s only good for a few laughs, as is the voice-based system for weapon activation.
A total of ten tracks are present in the game, which are seemingly wider than we’re used to in Wipeout games. This does make things easier in terms of control and also opens up more combat opportunities in races. Making things interesting is the multiple paths that the tracks possess, both horizontally and vertically, offering different experiences with different sets of objectives and crafts.
Wipeout’s soundtrack features a small playlist of 14 tracks, but it still does a good job, featuring the talents of deadmau5 and The Chemical Brothers, amongst others. I was slightly disappointed by the in-game sound effecrs, however, which don’t seem to match the speed at which the crafts travel. Instead, the sounds often sound like they’re borrowed from modern real-world cars. Unfortunately, we were not able to try the Ad-Hoc mode or make use of the Near app at this time. Also, the cross-play feature that lets players on the PS3 and Vita play on a common platform is unavailable until the Fury DLC pack is released for the Vita version.
Wipeout 2048 presents racing in a manner that keeps your eyes glued to the screen at all times. High speed racing with elements of combat set in futuristic environments is always an interesting concept, and the way Wipeout does it is just plain awesome. Minor gripes aside, Studio Liverpool has done a fine job with bringing Wipeout to the newest Playstation platform, and 2048 is definitely a star in the Vita’s launch line-up.