If I found a magic lamp and a genie gave me three wishes, one of them would definetly be to take the Wipeout series and turn it into a reality. It’s one of the most exhilarating and fun series of games I’ve played, and I would love the opportunity to try it out in real life. As for the other two wishes, I would have to pick the ability to manifest cakes out of thin air and a time traveling DeLorian… but I digress.
Wipeout 2048 is the latest zero-G racing game from UK based developer Studio Liverpool. Set in the first three years of the Wipeout tournaments, making this a prequel to the other games in the series, it’s also one of major launch titles for Sony’s new console, the Playstation Vita.The game’s striking visuals are what’s most prominent and likely to encourage a purchase from the average gamer. The Vita has an impressive screen and Wipeout 2048 capitalises on its technology extremely well; the backgrounds are detailed, rich and fluctuate between styles based on the diverse range of locations, with tracks located all over the world. Graphically it’s truly wonderful, bravo Studio Liverpool. However, it does take some getting used to. The amount of detail, particle effects, reflective surfaces and glowing things absolutely everywhere can be quite distracting during an intense race.
As for the Zero-G vehicles, they are also wonderfully detailed, with signature brands, and sponsors’ slogans covering them. Fans of the series will recognise the race teams such as Feisar, Qirex and AG Systems, who all return with their own unique style of racers and specialisations. The racers’ chassis are shiny, vibrant and colourful, exactly what you want in a racing game, with a selection of about 20 in total. They control much in the same way that motorbikes do, leaning left and right to get around corners, making it a lot of intuitive fun. Some racers are fast and nimble, while others control and fight more like tanks, and everything in between. There’s a lot of satisfaction to be had from learning how to handle each race team, and memorising where the boost pads are and where the best power ups are located in each track.
I found the whole experience to be very gratifying once I took the time to learn how to play the game properly. Wipeout is notoriously difficult and inaccessible to anybody lacking serious dedication. The average player will probably be able to scrape by in second or third place in the majority of races, but in order to get the most out of the game you’ll need to put the effort in to come first. Is it frustrating? Well yes, it is at times, but your tolerance levels will increase as your skills improve. You may also gain encouragement from your PSN friends that play the game as their lap times update in real time into your notification window, taunting you.
2048 has taken advantage of the Vita’s impressive technology in other ways as well, with the touchscreen being used to fire weapons and the rear touch pad for acceleration. You can even use the microphone to fire weapons by shouting “FIRE” or even other words like “Butt” and “Cake” as I found out…. this also have the added bonus of making you look crazy on the bus. In all seriousness these controls are a little redundant, but it’s good that they’re there as an option for those that want to use them. The traditional control method works perfectly, with the shoulder button used for acceleration, the left stick to steer and the X, Square and Circle buttons for weapons and brakes, it all intuitive and responsive. I also found that the gyroscopic tilt controls can be surprisingly fun after some practice, more so when in first person view.
The racing campaign itself is lengthy and broken up nicely with time trails and combat races where your goal is to score as many points as possible by blowing up everybody else around you using a variety of weapons ranging from Mines, Missiles, Rockets and even Earthquakes. There are plenty of Trophies to unlock as well as additional vehicles, encouraging you to put that much extra effort in to getting first place.
The main campaign is where you’ll spend most of your time when your not engaging with other people via LAN play or online. The online campaign differs slightly in that each person will be given specific objectives which must be met in order to qualify. You can play with owners of Wipeout HD, another visually spectacular Wipeout game on the PS3, which is a welcome addition that’ll ensure you’ll always have people to play with. Other features like being able to rotate ships around in the menu with the touchpad are satisfyingly nerdy, but there are a few notable omissions, including some inventive ship customisation. While it isn’t the end of the world it would have been nice to be able to create your own personal vehicles.
Speaking of Vita tech, there are a few innovative uses of the touch technology that offer an amusing distraction. For instance winning mutiplayer races will unlock new “secret” tracks in the single player campaign. These can be found by searching the background by touching the rear touchpad, making the menu’s background bump up. One of my favourite parts is the use of the front facing camera in multiplayer races which, before the start of the race, will ask if you want to take a picture of your face, mocking or celebrating for when you either win or blow up an opponent. The picture appears on everyone else’s screen in real time, adding that extra personal touch to your victory. It isn’t exactly a new idea, but it’s implemented well.
A staple of the Wipeout series has always been the high quality soundtracks, 2048 delivers the same level of quality, featuring artists such as The Prodigy, deadmau5, Orbital and Kraftwerk, with more songs available via the PSN store and unlockable songs using the Vita’s Near services. The Music rarely gets dull and the sound design for 2048 as a whole is absolutely brilliant, with some particularly delightful sound effects, and unique voices for each race team. The explosions never fail to impress either.
Graphics: 5/5 - Visually 2048 cannot be faulted, I defy anyone who fails to be impressed by its looks, especially during the “Zone” stages of the game, which make you feel like you’ve zoned out after one too many doses of hallucinogenics .
Sound: 4/5 - The sound design as a whole is highly polished creating an exciting atmosphere with a great soundtrack featuring some appealing artists. Having said the fact that there are a significant number of tracks available through Near or as DLC is a bit annoying.
Gameplay 4/5 - The gameplay in Wipeout 2048 is about as simple as it gets, your main objective is to win all the races and blow everybody up. There isn’t much else to the game but it rarely stops being fun, addictive or challenging.
Longevity: 4/5 - The game’s high difficulty and almost endless replayability makes it a great handheld game. You’ll always be tested to your limits and there’s lots of fun to be had in the unpredictable online modes.
Overall: 4.5 Last Second Losses out of 5
Wipeout 2048 is a finely crafted racing game that looks stylish and dynamic. It takes advantage of the handheld technology very well and is fun to play. It would’ve been nice to see more new features or game modes, but as things stand it is a fine racing game and an essential purchase for Vita owners.
- Adam Radcliffe