Studio Liverpool makes me want to embrace the future. The idea of seeing WipEout anti-gravity racing on my telly in the next 36 years is enough to make me extremely giddy.
If it doesnít happen, then Iím going to go all Demolition Man
and freeze myself until it does. For in 2048, we will all grow out of Formula 1 and be watching incredible levitating cars dash around cyberpunk cities at mach speed to the music of The Prodigy.
Thatís a future I want. Unfortunately, it seems that Iím not going to get it in my lifetime, but ever since the launch of the original PlayStation the WipEout
series has been there to satisfy my yearning. Today, the series still stands as one of the fastest racers you can find - perhaps too fast for some - and although the pumping techno and on-track weapons suggest something of a futuristic chav-fest, the primary focus of WipEout
has always been on technical and elegant driving.
With this PlayStation Vita launch title, Studio Liverpool has arguably created the best WipEout
game in the franchiseís history. The gameplay has been fine-tuned to perfection, the clutter has been swept away and it takes advantage of some of the Vitaís features without ever encroaching on gimmick territory.
Take, for example, the user interface and menu presentation. Itís clean, nicely designed - and created entirely with the Vitaís touch screen in mind. Everything is packed into neat little corners on the screen - your rank and profile sits on the top right corner, any new ships and links to the gameís main menu are flagged on the top left, while you can change game modes in the bottom right and see friend notifications in the bottom left.
Campaign mode is arranged in a honeycomb structure, with different Ďnodesí symbolising an event or challenge. Dragging your finger around the touchscreen allows you to navigate around the vast campaign map. With just a few taps, youíll end up jumping right into a race or combat game against human or computer opponents.
Gameplay is just as you remember it. Classic WipEout
. Hold the accelerator to move your futuristic vehicle really fast, bank using the left stick and weave in and out of opponents with the help of offensive and defensive weaponry.
Corners are exceptionally tight in WipEout
games, and require an understanding of the drifting mechanics. Hereís where 2048
differs slightly from its forebears - instead of using L2 and R2 as your drifts for left and right respectively, all airbraking is done using the Square button.
Of course, thereís an obvious reason why this has happened - and itís to do with the lack of triggers on the Vita - but I very much prefer this particular control mechanic. It does the same job as the gameís presentation in making the game a lot less complex but without compromising depth. There are a number of tricks that Studio Liverpool has transferred from WipEout HD Fury
here too, including barrel rolls, sideshifting and absorbing weapons to regain lost ship health.
As well as regular Races, Time Trial and Combat stages, the Zones mode makes a welcome return in 2048
. For the uninitiated, Zones puts the player on a track with no control over their acceleration - the longer you stay on the track, the faster your ship goes. The aim is to survive (without hitting any of the walls) for as long as possible. Each stage in the campaign comes with a regular Pass requirement and an Elite Pass, which has some additional skill-based conditions for completion.
New ships are unlocked as you progress and gain more experience points. The five racing teams in WipEout 2048
have several hidden ships at your disposal, each with varying statistics that can either give you an edge or be a burden on the track. There are three main classes of ship - Speed, Agility and Fighter - that focus on a specific attribute (no prizes for guessing what those are). But, each team also has a prototype ship that can be unlocked once you beat the Prototype Challenge that goes with it.
Such challenges can be attempted every ten ranks, but the nodes themselves are hidden within the touch-based campaign map, making for a good game of hide-and-seek. While regular races are classed in terms of speed - C Class being the slowest and A Class being the fastest standard - you can also find hidden A+ Class challenges in a similar fashion. Oh, and youíll also be able to unlock additional Mach Class races after you reach rank 29. Put simply, youíre going to be spending a lot of hours into WipEout 2048
if you want to master it.
And if you donít spend the time in single-player, you will undoubtedly be doing so in the online multiplayer campaign. An incredibly addictive twist on the traditional WipEout Ďeventsí setup, here you play against human opponents online to complete challenges. The stages themselves donít factor into it - you can vote for any track you like, but the objectives will always remain the same. Theyíll either be race or combat-based goals, such as finishing above last place or hitting a specific player with a weapon.
Completing these multiplayer lobby challenges will fill the campaign grid in just the same way as the single-player one. With 20 campaign tournaments to take part in, each getting progressively longer as you go around the map, this offers amazing replay value. I guarantee youíll be jumping into the online multiplayer mode whenever you wander into a WiFi hotspot.
All of this and I havenít mentioned WipEout 2048
ís killer feature - cross-play with PlayStation 3 consoles. I wasnít able to test online cross-play with a Vita and PS3 in the same room, but I have jumped into a lobby and raced against others using this mode and the lag - just as it is in online multiplayer campaign - is non-existent.
My preview time with the Vita in the last month or so has included a look at cross-play working with a handheld and console in the same room, and it was nothing short of jaw-dropping then. This aspect of the Vita hardware has real promise, and in WipEout 2048
its been executed pretty much perfectly.
Thereís no doubt about it - WipEout 2048
is the must-have game for your PlayStation Vita. If you can only afford one title to go with your shiny new handheld next week, make sure it is this one.
+ The best version of WipEout yet
+ Great value for money
+ Excellent multiplayer features
- Loading times are painful
- Canít set up private cross-play matches with your PS3
SPOnG Score: 9 / 10