Developer: SCE Studios Liverpool
Platform: PlayStation Vita
Release Date: February 23, 2012
Price: $29.95 (available here)
Wipeout 2048 marks the return of the series to the handheld world, and whilst 2048 is by no means a weak title, it doesn’t really bring anything new (or anything Wipeout HD beating) to the table, and what changes it does make are actually a bit of a step back. Fans will still have a ball with the game and newcomers won’t find any problems, but it’s not the most outstanding title on the Vita, and will face stiff competition from other titles for a spot in your collection.
In gameplay terms Wipeout 2048 brings little to no surprises. Apart from moving the setting to 2048 rather than further in the future and thus making this a sort of prologue for the franchise, what you get from Wipeout 2048 is what you’ve got from previous titles in the series. Fast pacing racing powered up with copious boost pads and weapon pick ups, with effective air braking the name of the day and a sideline in smashing up your opponents. The single player campaign offers a slowly unfolding series of challenges, set up with the usual unlocks of more vehicles and teams.
Challenges include straight up races against the AI competition, solo time attacks and everybody’s favourite -zone racing. Things are handled pretty well, with many of the challenges designated as ‘optional’, giving you bonus gear and unlocks, but not necessary to complete the campaign. You’ll need to use different styles of ships to beat certain challenges, hopping between speed freak and fighter vehicles. The track selection is a little on the small side, and despite the fact that the numerous challenges are mixed up with them to give some sense of variety, the fact that all the challenges are familiar too doesn’t do the game any favors in the freshness department. The core gameplay is by all means very strong, speedy and as fun as ever, but if you’ve already got a copy of Wipeout HD there’s little to make 2048 stand out.
One real fault and a massive buzz killer is the time spent waiting for tracks to load. For a game that’s all about speed, waiting up to a minute for a single race to load can take an awful lot of enjoyment out of the game – and players would surely be willing to sacrifice the opening animation stuck on the front of every race in order to get to the action that bit more quickly. A portable racing title should be up and ready to go as quickly as possible, not hanging about for a minute every time you want to get your race on. Thankfully the in game pace is more than up to scratch and keeps up with past Wipeout entries – you just have to wait a little longer to be hit by it in the first place.
One cool feature in the multiplayer is the ability to access all of Wipeout HD’s tracks and play cross platform, allowing a better chance for a match up thanks to that game’s already huge install base. The main multiplayer mode is a little on the odd side though, mainly because it doesn’t allow you to choose what you’ll be playing. Whilst it does streamline the match making process, it’s a more than a tad frustrating to be railroaded into races of a particular type or speed – ad hoc races are also mystifyingly chained by this design decision.
Audio & Visual:
The game opens with a gorgeous cinematic chronicling the evolution of racing vehicles, from the most primitive of cars to the sleek and powerful machines of the Wipeout universe. It’s a gorgeous and sleek sequence that provokes the same sort of feeling as the opening movies from the Gran Turismo series, and for a handheld title that’s a particularly impressive thing to conjure up. The in game graphics are also a feast for the eyes, although the 2048 setting does mean that the colour and style are sadly toned down compared to previous entries, with only the zone style races and a small number of tracks still bringing a vibrant neon glow to the races. It’s a bit of a shame to lose one of Wipeout’s most defining features – it by no means looks bad, but I would rather see the track style of Wipeout HD anyday. The music is by far pretty awesome, matched perfectly to the action with the usual dance and dub step numbers.
Wipeout 2048 is a solid entry into the series, but unfortunately one that’s spoiled slightly by the restricted multiplayer and lengthy loading times. It has some neat features and the general racing gameplay is still great, but there’s not a whole lot of unique selling points to set it apart from it’s bigger console brother. If you’re a fan of the series it’ll be a nice title to add to your collection for some on the go racing, but even in the early launch days of the system there are other more interesting titles, that whilst also based on console counterparts, offer a more solid, comprehensive experience.