March 8, 2012
As the name of the game suggests, you start off in the 2048 season of the Wipeout championship. By this point in the Wipeout timeline, the sport of anti-gravity racing is still quite fresh and as you play through the game, you'll also get a taste of what followed shortly after in the 2049 and 2050 seasons.
While this doesn't affect the core gameplay that much, it does mean that the courses are rather different than in previous Wipeout titles. No longer are they all hi-tech, purpose built tracks. Instead, you'll be racing around city streets that offer varying degrees of difficulty.
Speed has always been a core part of the Wipeout experience, but with WipEout 2048, this isn't always the case. There are a few different events to pick from, which range from straight-up racing, to time trials, the classic zones and frag contests. Sometimes the game will also challenge you to try and race with "fighter" class ships - something that is a lot more tricky than it sounds due to their poor handling. In general, you're able to choose whichever type of ship you want, for any type of race, so there is that element of choice. And trade-offs are in there. For example, speed class ships can't use certain weapons.
When it comes to the racing, not much has changed. Outside of the pure combat races, you'll want to traverse the tracks are quickly and fluidly as possible. And this is where Wipeout excels over many other racers. Due to the technology that's implemented, if you managed to get into a groove, you do just glide around the track, in the literal sense.
As you progress through the game, the tracks will get harder, the AI will become more ruthless and the ships go faster. But when it all comes together, Wipeout is a beautiful experience. That is, until someone shoves a rocket in your face and you come crashing down to earth.
Although racing is the core part of the experience, combat is just as important. In Wipeout 2048 there are offensive and defensive weapons and you'll want to think carefully about the type you pick up, depending on your situation in each race. For example, you may find a shield rather useful if you're sitting pretty in first, but if you're in last position, that's not going to help you very much. Allowing you to make this distinction is a welcome addition and it makes the racing a bit more tactical - the chance doesn't play such a crucial role.
When you start tackling the more difficult races, you'll think this isn't the case though, as whether you win or lose - however you performed - can depend quite a lot on luck. You could absolutely nail the entire thing, but somehow end up coming 3rd or 4th, just because you got unlucky with weapons, or the AI decided that they were going to have an absolute blinder. There's nothing wrong with this though, because Wipeout is a game that makes you strive for perfection. Even if you're racing against yourself in a time trial, you know that you can shave off 0.2 seconds from your time, and the game will push you to achieve it with its grading system.
It all points to a experience that has been fine-tuned over time. Sony Liverpool are very in tune with their audience, but that's not to say that Wipeout isn't accommodating to newbies either. Sure, they may find it a little bit difficult at first to get used to the tracks, the handling and the difficulty. But if they put the time in, they'll be using the air brake like a pro in no time.
Let's not forget about the more advanced gameplay mechanics either, such as doing barrel rolls and performing side shifts. Learning when to use these correctly can really help you shave a few your lap times down.
The visuals displayed in Wipeout 2048 are impressive to say the least, but this is something that's always the case. The most important thing though, is that despite the chaotic action, the frame rate stays rock solid. There's never any lag and that's crucial to a game like Wipeout keeping the illusion of manic speed and carnage. The variation of the tracks is also pretty good and playing zones always adds a rather different spin on proceedings.
If you want to take things further, there's always the prospect of playing the campaign online or checking out some ad-hoc multiplayer. But even if you just want to stick to the single player campaign, getting Elite Pass in everything, including the hidden branch events, is going to take quite some time.
WipEout 2048 is a solid launch title for the PlayStation Vita, offering hi-octane action with great visuals and carnage. However, despite this, it doesn't do a whole lot different from the previous Wipeout iterations. It's nice to see some proper combat in there though and the single player will keep people occupied for quite some time. Definitely a game worth checking out.