Mar 9, 2012

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Wipeout 2048 Review

Wipeout 2048 Review

The Wipeout series has been a staple for Sony over the years, having appeared at least once on each Playstation platform. So, it’s fitting that Wipeout 2048 would be one of an array of launch titles that kicked off the Playstation Vita’s life cycle.  Wipeout 2048 is the ninth game in the franchise, superseding Wipeout Pulse (PSP, 2007) and more recently Wipeout HD (PS3, 2008), and is a solid addition to the franchise and to the Vita game library.

Wipeout 2048, a game devoid of a narrative, structures itself around gameplay and the intricacies of racing.  Studio Liverpool, the developer, is able to create an experience that is not only entertaining but also challenging. The challenge comes from both the intelligent AI of the other racers and from the demand to master the controls issued by the brilliant track design.  Hitting speed pads, using vehicles appropriate for the event type, and making sharp turns are crucial for success. This leads to a steep learning curve that can be frustrating for those embarking on Wipeout’s futuristic thrill ride for the first time but can also produce a sense of accomplishment when you finally win a difficult, demanding race. Some of the frustration induced by the challenge of the game is alleviated early by not being too demanding in regards to placing in a specific position during a race (i.e. placing 5th allows you to pass an event rather than placing 1st or 2nd). The ability to skip an event after multiple failures also ramps down the difficulty a bit, along with inclusion of a turn assist. Six axis controls, however, are best when left unused due to the precise controls needed to maneuver your vehicle during a race.

There are four main types of events included in the title: time trials, traditional races, combat events, and zone events.  The first two are geared towards fans of traditional racing games, with time trials focusing on completing a solo race within a specific time limit and conventional races pitting you against other racers with the main goal of finishing in or above a certain position.  Combat events, in contrast, add a twist to the game by no longer focusing on positioning or finishing a race but rather on dealing out the most damage to other racers. These events, which are based on a point system and a time limit, are addicting and challenging, forcing you to dole out damage while managing your own health meter.  Zone events, which have you moving through an empty track while your speed increases as time passes, also add a new dimension to the gameplay by forcing a player to adjust to blinding speeds in an attempt to pass a certain number of zones without crashing (ship energy reaching zero).  Both the combat and zone events are able to keep the game feeling fresh and all four events offer distinct gameplay experiences that cater to a wide audience.

Wipeout 2048, along with different event types, keeps you enticed by providing a lengthy single-player campaign littered with events, a myriad of unlockables, an interesting ranking system, trophies, ad-hoc, cross-play, and online play (which requires an online pass).  Cross-play functionality is fun and allows you to race against Wipeout HD racers on the PS3 as well as Vita owners. Online play can be hit or miss due to a lack of options when it comes to choosing match types and weapons, however. During online play, the game also suffers from a few frame rate hiccups here and there that can be bothersome during a frantic race. Another negative about the online play is that due to your lack of control of the options, many times you are thrust into a match you don’t want to be in or are left waiting to join a match, which can last for a good minute. Ultimately, Wipeout’s online modes lack customization and have a few frame-rate issues that end up leaving you disappointed. But even with these online issues, the amount of options you have to choose from, along with the unlockables and trophies, will keep you playing for a long time.

Wipeout 2048 is a visually stunning title, showcasing the technical merits of the Playstation Vita while running at a constant frame rate (for the most part). Racing on tracks that rollercoaster through concrete jungles while dodging incoming missiles and rockets is a blast, creating a visual style that contrasts murky browns and grays of cities with vivid, futuristic tracks, all while adding splashes of orange and red during explosions. The game looks its best when playing zone events, though, opting for a Tron-like look that pops on the Vita’s OLED screen. The soundtrack suits the game’s futuristic vibe well by showcasing artists like deadmau5 and Orbital, who complement the in-game action with heavy bass drops and electronic beats. One thing to note about the presentation that did cause an issue is the load times between each race, which could last over a minute at times.

Wipeout 2048 is a great launch title for the PS Vita and a great addition to the Wipeout family. While it comes with some problems, like long load times and less-than stellar online play, the game excels at creating a fun, beautiful racing game that has an enormous amount of content.  Wipeout 2048 stands as a great title for the Playstation Vita and will definitely keep you entertained for a long time.

Wipeout 2048
Platform: PS Vita
Genre: Driving
Release Date: 02/15/12
Developer: Studio Liverpool
Publisher: SCEA
ESRB Rating: E10+
MSRP: $39.99