The Average Gamer

E3 2011: WipEout 2048 – Hands-On Preview (PS Vita)

WipEout 2048 - LogoOne of my personal highlights of this year’s E3 Expo was getting my hands on the beautiful PS Vita hardware and meeting some of the team behind wipEout 2048. If you’re an avid Average Gamer reader then you will already know that I’m a huge fan of the futuristic racing game series starting with the original wipEout game in 1995. So I leapt at the chance to chat about all things wipEout to Graeme Ankers, Game Director at SCEE Liverpool. I also talked Stuart Tilley, Game Director of wipEout 2048 into a bit of multitasking as I videoed him playing and commenting on wipEout 2048 at the same time. He did a great job.

PS Vita Goodness

Usually when you get to play with pre-release hardware, especially at big events they tend to be chained to something or someone as if they are a wild animal. However, Ankers was important enough to merit his very own free-roaming PS Vita unit. This gave me a better feel of what it’s like to hold and play games on the unit.

PS Vita

PS Vita - Isn't it just lovely

The first thing that struck me about the PS Vita is its much-vaunted 5 inch OLED screen. It is a thing of beauty; big, bright and colourful. The rest of the PS Vita oozes quality and power from every sculpted corner. I had the same reaction when first laid eyes on my shiny new PSP back in 2005. Promo shots and videos can only go so far in conveying just how stunning the PS Vita is in real life.

The PS Vita also fitted nicely into my hands with all the controls within easy reach and most importantly I felt that I could play for hours holding it. That’s a feeling I don’t get with Nintendo’s 3DS handheld which feels just slightly too small for my hands. At the rear of the unit is the much vaunted touchpad which wipEout 2048 uses to allow players to “pop-up” menu items so they can be selected by tapping the front touch screen. This is a nice way of jazzing up the already futuristic looking menus.


Once I’d finished groping every little part of the PS Vita and selected a single race, Ankers told me to smile. Huh? Snap! The forward-facing camera captured a photo of me whilst I was idly gazing at the screen. These player mugshots are more for the multiplayer wipEout races against other PS Vita players so you can see who you are racing against. The game even takes a snapshot just after a race has finished capturing your victory/defeat face or the “wipEout glory moment” as the SCEE dev team are calling it. Hmmm, not sure I’m keen on this feature. No one wants to see my big grinning face after I’ve won.

Campaign And Control

WipEout 2048 takes place 4 years before the first game, at the dawn of anti-gravity racing. It features 10 new tracks, 20 new ships and a new speed class – Super Phantom. There are new game modes and new weapons too. In one of the new game modes, called online campaign, players are set different objectives depending on their skill level. For instance a new player might only have to avoid finishing last in a race to complete their objective whereas a seasoned player will have to actually win the race. Studio Liverpool is hoping that this mode will make the game more attractive to a wider range of players.

WipEout 2048 - Keep Clear

Where we're going we don't need roads

WipEout 2048 has 3 distinct control methods available – touch and tilt, racer mode and classic. I tried out the touch and tilt mode and really didn’t like it. This wasn’t surprising as I’m really not a fan of tilt controls. I don’t find them accurate enough, especially when playing high speed racing games like wipEout. Also in this mode you tap the front touch screen to fire a weapon and the rear touch pad to absorb them. The last thing I want to do is cover the screen with my sausage fingers during a race to fire a weapon. Voice activation for weapons is also planned, which could help, but wasn’t available to test in the E3 2011 build. The racer mode was described by Tilley as a method of making the game easier to play for people used to arcade racers with LB (air) breaks and RB accelerate. The pilot assist feature, originally introduced in wipEout HD will be present in wipEout 2048 to help players become accustomed to flying the ships.

Finally, we have the best control method of them all, the classic wipEout controls. D-pad to steer, L and R shoulder buttons for air brakes, square button to absorb weapon, circle button to fire weapon, triangle button to change view and X button to accelerate. At least that’s how I set up the controls. Don’t worry, you can customise them to your own preferences. The left stick can also be used to steer if you don’t like feel of the D-pad.

Time To Race

I selected my usual ship from the Feisar team and once the racing had started I felt immediately at ease. I could feel the nimbleness of the ship under my control and with the occasional dab on the air breaks I was powering around the tight corners and speeding around the track. As a 16-year wipEout veteran who has finished all the wipEout games up to Fury, I’ll admit I wasn’t really challenging myself by chugging around in a Flash Speed Class race and I was in first place coming into the second lap. My fellow competitors weren’t that aggressive either, making it an easy race win.

The New York City track on which I raced felt very much like something from the film The 5th Element. The start of the track was down at street level surrounded by the hustle and bustle of the city life. Following a near-vertical climb up the side of a skyscraper using a magstrip on the track I was then racing around the tops of futuristic buildings. Through the semi-transparent track I could see the older, smaller city buildings far below and something that looked like Central Park. It was all very impressive, as was the rollercoaster like descent down to ground level. The track was also slightly wider than those found in previous wipEout games making the close quarter racing last longer as I had more room to manoeuvre rather than just having to avoid the track walls all the time. There were quite a few different routes on offer making the racing a lot more interesting as I tried to find the fastest one.

The weapon system has undergone changes too with the weapon pads on the track now split into two types; yellow pads for aggressive weapons and green pads for defensive weapons. This change puts even more pressure on pilots to fly over the right pad at the right time. Just collecting defensive weapons is not going to win you races. It will be interesting to see how this affects gameplay. Studio Liverpool will be adding some new weapons to the game but Ankers wouldn’t reveal any details about them. Bah.

I also watched a PS Vita – PlayStation 3 cross-platform race with someone playing on a PS Vita against Tilley playing a modified PS3 version of wipEout HD Fury. After a short delay to set-up the system link both players were off and racing. It all worked seamlessly with each player clearly identifiable from the label above each ship. It was a tight race too. Take a look.


The original wipEout game is also responsible for sparking interest in the music from a guy called Tim Wright aka CoLD SToRAGE. In the original wipEout game half of the music tracks were composed by Wright who was the Senior Sound Artist for Psygnosis. Following the release of wipEout 2097 in 1996 the focus on recognised chart artists took over and CoLD SToRAGE’s music disappeared from all wipEout game soundtracks. To me this was a mistake. Wright’s music is part and parcel of the wipEout experience.

WipEout 2048 - City Down Below

Nice view above New York City

If wipEout 2048 is set at the dawn of anti-gravity racing surely the soundtrack should contain some remixed CoLD SToRAGE tracks to bring the game series full circle. That would seem logical right? Well, after Ankers had listened to all my CoLD SToRAGE talk he did say that wipEout 2048 will feature remixes of some of the original music tracks as well as an exclusive track from Orbital. As far as the rest of the artists and music tracks are concerned Ankers remained tight-lipped as he said everything was still to be finalised. I did ask if Wright had been approached, to which Ankers smiled and just repeated that they weren’t ready to announce the artist list just yet.


WipEout 2048 is shaping up to be the best game in the series. With new ships, wider tracks, modifications to the weapon system, stunning graphics and cross-platform multiplayer, wipEout 2048 is going to be that must-own launch title for the PS Vita.

I should be getting some more time with wipEout 2048 at Gamescom next week. If there’s anything you like me to look at or any questions for the development team then leave your questions in the comments.

WipEout 2048 will be a launch title for the PS Vita.