WipEout 2048 [Review] – Palm racing

16 Feb 2012  by   Paul Younger
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The PS Vita has got all sorts of fancy gizmos; a touch screen, a rear touch pad, gyroscopic tilt controls and dual-analogue sticks to name a few. WipEout 2048 uses none of those to any great effect, and it’s all the better for it.
It would have been so easy for Sony Studio Liverpool to try to incorporate all of the above in an attempt to demonstrate how they can turn an established, and much loved, franchise into something different – perhaps into something more. Our hats go off to Sony Studio Liverpool for not doing so. Our hats go off to Sony for not forcing them to do so.
WipEout 2048 is WipEout as we know it. It’s fast, it’s difficult, it’s got a lot of weapons, air-braking requires mastery and the track design has just that combination of futuristic madness and real-world believability. If you like WipEout, you’ll like this. If you’ve also got a Vita, this is a dead-cert purchase for you. You won’t be disappointed.
Running on Sony’s new handheld it looks absolutely wonderful. Of those we’ve played, this is easily the best looking of the console’s  launch line-up. The colours are vivid, the frame-rate never stutters no matter how many ships and weapons are crashing around on screen, and the art design is as good as the series has seen.

I don’t usually give this kind of insight into my working practises, but my review notes for this say “looks f***king incredible.” Yes, I’m that technical. An in-game photo mode similar to that seen in Forza Motorsport 4 allows you to catch all your greatest moments in their high-pixel count glory.
Combine that with the franchise’s usual mix of high-tempo techno beats and you’ve got an audio-visual feast that will go a long way to convincing you that the Vita really can get close to what the PlayStation 3 is capable of.
The main bulk of single player is concentrated within career mode, which sees you work your way through a number of yearly seasons, unlocking new ships as you go. Events take the form of standard races, kill-everything battles, time trials and the ‘zone’ challenges first seen in WipEout HD.
A standard season features around eight to ten events, however optional branches from the main path can at least double that number. If you want to unlock all the game’s vehicles, you will have to indulge in the extra-curricular races and doing so will greatly improve your chances in future events as many of the finest ships are locked away until they’re completed.
In a nice touch (screen), all past events are playable whenever you like. That allows you to improve your time and acquire the hallowed ‘elite’ pass for every race, it gives you the opportunity to go back and unlock those ships you’re missing in a bid to progress further.

Long-term players may find the initial stages of career mode a little simple, but trust us, the difficulty spike from season three onwards will give even the very best a run for their money.
Multiplayer has its own career mode in which to indulge, with each event demanding you fulfil a certain objective to progress to the next. Objectives don’t have to be completed on a specific track or against specific opponents. Instead, once you’ve agreed to participate in an event you’re put into a race with the goal of performing a certain task.
Initially these are very easy – score an attack on an opponent, finish a race – but they soon become much harder and demand that you win races or take a fellow competitor out of action. It’s an intriguing setup and one that works for a handheld system as every online race adds to your career progression without demanding a long slog of continuous racing.
The online functionality itself works a treat, with races found quickly and network connections staying stable throughout. Only on one occasion in over two weeks have we had a problem once in a race, and the problem was fixed upon the next attempt.

Being able to use a proper analogue is a veritable God-send, allowing the fine inputs required to guide your ship smoothly through the precise tracks. You’ll soon come to rest on a couple of favoured ships that match your playing style (speed over agility, is what I prefer) and it’s that decision, rather than the controls, that will be the primary determining factor of your success.
The touch screen is used when in the menus, which have been designed to properly facilitate such a thing – there’s nothing worse than standard menus that force you to scroll through them using touch controls. Big on-screen buttons and a heavily contrasted colour scheme create an intuitive and user-friendly system that many other developers could learn from.
Essentially, WipEout 2048 is the perfect advertisement for what the PS Vita is capable of in terms of in-game aesthetics. It also serves to demonstrate that the system’s games do not need to engage with all of its features to pass Sony’s certification criteria.
If you’re getting a Vita, you really should take this for a spin.
 

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