The Average Gamer

WipEout 2048 – Single-Player Campaign Review (PS Vita)

WipEout 2048 - SolThe thing that strikes you most about WipEout 2048 is how beautiful it looks and sounds. There are so many intricate details on the ships and scenery and I love the way ships expel all sorts of gases and fumes as they race.

The video billboards plastered onto the sides of buildings bring the world of anti-gravity racing to life like never before, sucking you into Studio Liverpool’s vision of the future. The ships produce fantastic engine noises too, very reminiscent of the Podracers from the Star Wars: The Phantom Menace film.

In the game you race through 10 different tracks using up to 20 different ships from 5 teams across 3 seasons of events. From time trials and combat races to the hidden 10-lap challenges, there is so much to keep you busy.

Previously, WipEout 2048’s game director, Stuart Tilley said that they’ve “made the tracks wider and smoother” so it’s “more about wing to wing combat racing than just surviving the track.” This design ethos can clearly be seen in some of the later tracks which have an embarrassment of space to weave about in. Conversely, tracks like Subway, with its complex network of interconnecting tunnels, give you very little space to manoeuvre making races a real test of skill. This is a game that rewards practice, so don’t expect to complete all the events in a few sessions.

The sheer sensation you get of raw speed when hurtling down a New York street section of track, inches from the ground before powering thousands of feet into the air via an impossibly steep section of track is utterly breathtaking. WipEout 2048 is packed full of moments like these.

“Skill-cuts” are interwoven into each track to really mix up the racing. They are essentially short-cuts but a lot narrower and/or twister than the normal racetrack. The AI-controlled opposition ships don’t shy way from taking advantage of them either, forcing you off the normal racing line and down a tricky skill-cut to keep up.

I found that racing at A class speed, or “Phantom speed” in old WipEout money, learning the track layout was essential if I wanted to come first and get the elite passes. Each track in the game is a lot harder to memorise because of all the different skill-cut routes. Fortunately, you only need to pass an event to progress, which usually means coming around 3rd or 4th. WipEout 2048 is a lot more accessible to those who aren’t veterans of the series.

This latest WipEout game is a US and European launch title for Sony’s PS Vita handheld console. The Vita’s Near functionality becomes available when completing the speed lap challenges in the game. Once I’d set a lap time, pressing the on-screen Near button transformed that time into a challenge available to anyone within ~2km of my current geographic location. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find anywhere to see who’d accepted/beaten my challenges. Perhaps this will change post release.

WipEout 2048 - See Though TrackWipEout 2048 does have its flaws. It features the weakest soundtrack of the series. While the songs by The Prodigy, Future Sound Of London and Orbital are brilliant and hark back to the first two WipEout games, many of the other songs are just awful. During one Zone race, all I could think about was crashing my ship so the terrible music would stop. There’s no feature to turn off the songs you don’t like so I ended up copying all my CoLD SToRAGE music across and using the Vita’s music player for a custom soundtrack instead. Problem solved.

Loading times are criminally slow too. Sure, I can’t think of any other game I’d rather wait to play, but waiting up to 45 secs between races and a sluggish 16 seconds just to restart an event is poor even for a handheld device.

The lack of custom control methods is also a disappointing omission. For 17 years, I’ve played with the circle button to fire weapon and square to absorb but in WipEout 2048 you are stuck with three default control schemes – Wipeout, Racer and touch/tilt. I lost count of the times I accidentally absorbed rather than fired a weapon.

WipEout2048 - SubwayOn top of splitting the powerups into offensive and defensive pick-ups, which does work really well, Studio Liverpool have sneaked in a not-so-welcome change – no autopilot speech. In previous games you were told when the autopilot was engaging and disengaging. However, in WipEout 2048 a little icon appears in the bottom left of the HUD to show when the autopilot has been engaged. This made it a pain to use as you’re forced to take your eyes off the track to see how long is left. I also spent quite a while trying to fly ships that were already on autopilot.

I wasn’t able to test the PS3-Vita crossplay functionality as the patch to enable it within WipEout HD hasn’t been released yet. I’ll review this along with the online multiplayer campaign after the UK Vita launch.

WipEout 2048 is a spectacular game. Studio Liverpool have produced the PS Vita’s must have launch title and one of the best WipEout games ever made. With action-packed tracks, a wide variety of events including hidden challenges, stunning graphics and online multiplayer campaign and cross-play available from launch, WipEout 2048 will keep your Vita stuck firmly in your hands for a long, long time.

Update 15th Feb 2012: Studio Liverpool have been working on a patch to address the extended in-game loading times. According to Dr Stuart Lovegrove, Studio Liverpool’s technical director, the patch knocks ~25% off the load times. This patch is already available to US players and is due to be rolled out for EU players by launch day – 22nd Feb 2012.

WipEout 2048 is released on the 22nd Feb 2012 for PS Vita. Also see our Zone mode video and Rockway Stadium gameplay video

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