Once again the WipEout series brings anti-gravity racing to a new PlayStation platform. But this futuristic racing is so old-fashioned!
The WipEout games have long been a mainstay of the Sony consoles, all the way back to the original PlayStation. This futuristic brand of anti-gravity racing, with its roller coaster tracks and dance-encouraging soundtrack, has appeared on each of the consoles with uniform success and popularity. They may not have always been to everyone’s taste, but if you have owned a PlayStation console then the likelihood is that you have at least tried one of the WipEout games. So the fact that there is a brand new WipEout game available for the Vita at launch shouldn’t really come as a surprise.
But what may be a surprise is that this futuristic racer has gone retro, back to its roots if you will. WipEout 2048 is, chronologically speaking, the earliest of the games, giving Vita owners a glimpse of the sport in the early days of its evolution. This theme is carried out through all aspects of the game, from the vehicle handling to the setting, and even the soundtrack. Fans of the series will likely be wetting themselves by now.
Gone are the futuristic environments of previous games, replaced with something far more recognisable. Being set in the early days of the sport, the tracks are all created in and around settings that could very well exist today. These are not the custom built tracks that you would expect, but tracks that weave in and out of skyscrapers or through parks, all of which could exist in modern cities. In fact, there are even some famous landmarks to be seen, if you can slow down long enough, that is.
The tracks, of which there are 10, are all beautifully designed to provide that same adrenaline rush of the older titles, whilst offering new players a chance to compete with out bouncing off the walls at the first corner. The tracks are wider to start with, to cater to the beginner, but still offer hair-raising short cuts to the more experienced racer that wants to try their luck and gain a slight advantage. Each track encourages the player to explore different racing lines or routes, with many areas offering different levels of the track to try out.
As previously mentioned, the handling has been toned down a touch to cater to the newcomers, with such complications as the air brakes being rarely needed. Even the controls are simpler, although old hands will be pleased to know that classic controls are also available. However, it wouldn’t be a true Vita game without some wacky control scheme that makes use of all the shiny new Vita functions. Players can steer using the Vita’s motion controls, accelerate with the rear touchscreen and use weapons with the front screen. For anyone who is used to using motion controls in a racing game, this is not a bad setup at all.
As would be expected, power ups make a return. Alongside the general speed boosts that can be found along the tracks, there are both offensive and defensive pick-ups which add another dimension to the racing. Playing through the single player campaign will see the player earning experience and thus unlocking further challenges or shiny new vehicles to try out. As they all have slightly different handling, the replayability in this respect is high.
Interestingly, the online and ad-hoc multiplayer also follows a campaign-style path. This is all well and good, allowing the player to earn even more experience and such, and keeping the more advanced players within their own class. But as a result it doesn’t allow for the custom races that many players will be yearning for.
Visually, the game looks stunning. As a Vita launch title, this is only what you would expect. However, it should be noted that the game runs at only 30fps, which may surprise some gamers. As for the soundtrack, in keeping with the not too distant future setting, the tracks consist of offerings from such current stars as Orbital, Deadmau5 and The Chemical Brothers. Oh, and it is also banging – turn up the volume!
The WipEout games are not for everyone, some gamers just can’t get used to the lack of wheels and the “floaty” handling. Whilst the developers have tried to make WipEout 2048 the most accessible game in the series thus far, it still will simply not appeal to all gamers. That being said, the game is not only ideal for handheld play, but is also one of the best launch titles for the new handheld. If racing is your thing, pick it up now and enjoy the ride.