Review: Wipeout 2048 (PSV)
Title: Wipeout 2048
Format: PlayStation Network Download (1635 MB) / Game Card
Release Date: February 14, 2012
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Developer: SCE Liverpool
Original MSRP: $35.99 (PSN) / $39.99 (Game Card)
ESRB Rating: E
Wipeout 2048 is exclusive to the PlayStation Vita.
The Game Card version was used for this review.
Wipeout HD has something in common with Flower. It also shares something in common with Gunstar Heroes and Super Stardust HD. Wipeout HD is one of the few downloadable games on my PlayStation 3 that has never been removed. Other titles come and go, re-downloaded for a fix, or because a friend wants to play them again.
Flower will always remain in my console as a means to relax after a crappy day, and Wipeout will always remain easily-accessible for the days where I want my face melted off by its frenzied pace and amazing music.
After the Fury DLC was released for Wipeout HD, I wondered if this might be the last I’d experience of the futuristic racer. Thus, when it was announced that the PlayStation Vita would be launching with a new (not port) Wipeout title, I automatically knew what launch title I would be purchasing.
Regardless of my excitement, there were obvious concerns. I played Wipeout Pulse on the PSP and found it to be very playable, despite its incredible speed, portrayed on a smaller screen and with less-forgiving controls. So how would all of the color and speed of the PS3 game be handled on such a small screen, and would I be able to compensate with such a tiny little analog stick?
The answer in order of question is: very well, and yes, with a little bit of patience.
The decision to make a Wipeout “Prequel” was one that I will forever praise. While the gameplay for 2048 remains familiar, and any fan of the series will be able to adjust almost immediately, it’s the presentation of 2048 that makes it feel like almost an entirely different game. Since 2048 takes place prior to the other games in the series, we are invited to race during the pinnacle of the hover craft period, where migration from traditional racing was still in its infancy. In fact, the opening movie shows the graduation of the racing sport, from F1 racing to the current Wipeout state.
Again, the fact that the game takes place in 2048 doesn’t make the crafts handle any differently than they do on the previous Wipeout games. My copy of 2048 defaulted to a control scheme that I immediately changed. This scheme has the player using the shoulder buttons to accelerate, and the square button dubs as both your left and right air brakes. No thanks, guys. That scheme works for ModNation, but Wipeout requires a bit more subtle control on the turning, especially at 200mph+. It’s a simple click to change back to the traditional control scheme, and about the only thing missing is the smooth analog brakes that you get with the DualShock, which allowed you to ease into a turn.
From here you embark on the quest for the gold (or in 2048’s case, the Elite). The races in 2048 are configured slightly different than in HD or Pulse/Pure. Instead of first place granting you a gold, second a silver, and third a bronze, 2048 gives you a pass for completing the race anywhere above 5th places, while rewarding you with Elite status for completing the race in first, or meeting other challenges. For example, during the combat arenas, you might get a pass for getting 50 points, but Elite status will only come with 100 points. The hard-core Wipeoutist in me leaves me unsatisfied until I get Elite in each event. All of the events that made it into Wipeout HD and Fury are here in their blinding awesomeness. Combat is back, with a slightly-challenging control issue. On Fury, you could touch a shoulder button and your craft would spin 180 degrees instantly, allowing you to blast enemies behind you. 2048 also allows for this, but you have to tap down on the right analog stick. No, it’s not the worst control scheme change in history, but Wipeout is so dependent on instant decisions, that having to remove your right thumb from the face buttons to turn yourself around requires some practiced dexterity. It’s doable but was simply more convenient on the PS3 controller.
But there is a nice little benefit to the smaller analog sticks on the Vita, one that really sets it apart from its bigger brother. One of the most game-changing abilities in Wipeout is the Left/Right/Left move that you can execute while your craft is in there. The directional sequence sends you craft into a barrel-roll that will send you speeding forward the moment your ship hits the ground. It’s a move that can change the outcome of a race when used well (it certainly helped me during the Vita Hill competition). While this move is easily-executed on the PS3 controller, the fact that the smaller Vita controller has less distance between left and right (due to its obvious size) makes utilizing this speed boost with great ease, not to mention giving you the ability to execute it in more split second moments, where your craft is only air-born for frames, not seconds.
I can’t really put my fingers on it, but there has been some fine-tuning done to the combat in 2048. Most of the time, when I get the “Gatling gun” weapon in Wipeout, I usually absorb it for energy, since I consider it a pretty useless weapon. I don’t quite know if the weapon has been made more powerful, or if the developers have made it seek the enemy a bit more, thus making its damage-dealing a bit more pronounced, but now I find myself hoping for that pick-up during combat events. The rest of the weapons are standard Wipeout issue: Rockets, Plasma, Bombs, Heat-seeking missiles, and the life-saving Quake (unless you’re on the receiving end of course). And every single one of these tools of destruction are presented with such amazing beauty on the Vita’s LED screen that I almost wish I could absorb it all in. Unfortunately, you only have time to process whether or not your weapon made contact with the enemy.
Of course the Vita’s “always online” component allows for a very fun little cold-competition between friends. When you are sitting on the main menu, a small number appears on the bottom left of the screen. If you tap the button with your finger a small list springs to life. This little temptress of a screen reveals to you how many events you have fared poorly in…well compared to your friends. You are given the name of the event, and friend who beat your time, and by how many seconds you have been aced. In my case, I had a friend beat me by .048 seconds.
Much like a list of quests in Skyrim, you have the choice of ignoring these challenges, and continuing with your campaign. But… if you tap on these individual events, you will be asked if you would like to race or compete in the race, and prove that you can, or cannot, beat your buddy’s time. Naturally, I decided to go through each event, and completely put the campaign aside on hold. It’s a fun soft way of competing with your friends when you can’t go online.
Overall, Wipeout 2048 presents an amazing racing experience on the go. In my opinion it does everything that Wipeout HD did, and better. Again, the only thing I miss would be the DualShock’s analog shoulder buttons, but that is neither here nor there. Based on its own merits, Wipeout 2048 plays like a solid game in the series and shows that the developer has taken what made HD so amazing and made it work on a smaller screen, without a single sacrifice to anything that made the console game excel.
When I first saw Wipeout 2048 running at the Vita Hill event, I was blown away. When I finally purchased the game with the Vita’s launch, I was blown away. Yesterday, when I played it, I was blown away. There are quite a few showpieces for the Vita’s capabilities, but rest-assured 2048 is one of them. I made the statement a few months ago regarding the Vita’s place in this day of smart phones and awesome tablets. As a happy iPad 2 owner, I can assure you that the iPad 2 has the capability to display some amazing visuals. And while there are tablets out there now (and in the future) that can display some great polygonal goodness, nothing comes close to this, and the few times when it even hints at coming close, it brings those apps to a painful halt. Wipeout looks vibrant, moves smoothly, and does all this without skipping a beat. No framerate hits, no lock-ups, and no sacrifice to gameplay. It’s solid. That’s where the difference lies folks. In the coming months you will be told that the new tablets of the year sport some amazing graphics, and those people will be right. But at the expense of going off on a little tangent, the thing that will continue to make the Vita stand out among them is that the little system will continue to do so with games that play like their console counterparts, while still maintaining those incredible visuals. Shadows, lighting, motion blur, it’s all there on a solid contrast-strong LED screen. Oh, and your fingers don’t need to cover those visuals when you play.
Wipeout 2048 bring with it the photo tool from Wipeout HD. It was used to take most of the images for this review, and it provides fans of the series a great way to extend their creative juices, with depth of field options, focal points and motion blur (on both the track and/or the crafts), which yields some beautiful results. You can pause the action at any point in time and take a photo. I had to time a missile shot for the following image, for example.
I guess the closer in time the Wipeout series gets to present day, the better the sound gets, it seems. Since 2048 takes place during the advent of hover racing, the racing-craft developers, it seems, haven’t figured out how to muffle the sound of the machines. I’m sure they are longing for the day when these hover crafts can glide through the sky-highways with only the sound of rushing wind to give away their motion. Fortunately for us, that day is not in 2048, so as a result, these machines of speed flash by you with sounds that flirt between that of an F1 Indy racer and our traditional Wipeout hum. If you play this game with headphones, you ears will experience a magnitude of bliss, as your are bombarded by the rushing sounds of machines, explosions, and weapon discharge, all combined with the tell-tale Wipeout electronic soundtrack (which can also be customized, of course). As much as the point of Wipeout is to win, I find myself hoping for some competitor to come rushing by, so that I can hear the amazing Doppler sound coming from each machine.
I wanted to give you guys a good assessment of the online mode for Wipeout 2048, but any time I have tried to start a game, I end up sitting in a lobby with 3 other people who pop in and out, and the required 4-players is never met. I even held off on writing this and tried again last night, but to no avail. Also, the PS3 version of 2048 (or the DLC for Wipeout HD) is not available yet, so I couldn’t try out cross-platform play.
However, this does not factor in the time I spent with the game at the Vita Hill Social Club, where I competed in Wipeout 2048 with other people, in a Vita vs. Vita situation, as well as PS3 vs. Vita scenario. Gameplay was seamless across both platforms. Since it was my first time on the Vita, I did not do so well when playing against someone on the PlayStation 3, mostly because the controller was so familiar. But I’m pretty sure if I had to compete in a PS3 vs. Vita race again, I’d do much better now that I have spent some time with the Vita controls. Lag was non-existent, but we were only playing in ad hoc mode. If I am able to secure a few online matches, I will update this review. But the experience with the demo during the tournament was enough to let me know that multiplayer works.
It’s been said (with good reason) that a console is only as good as its game, and that a strong launch lineup never hurts this concept. Wipeout is one of many top-quality games to launch on the PlayStation Vita. It’s also one of the top three in terms of delivering the console experience (and then some) on a portable device. It improves upon its bigger brother (so much, that I cannot wait for the PS3 version), and it shows what the Vita can do graphically and without breaking a sweat. It screams with amazing sound, and while the available music has always been incredible, you are free to race to Bon Jovi should you choose to. The interface is beautiful, even allowing you to play with the menu background (via back touch controls) while you look for a new race. This game is a sum of great parts, and as such it deserves praise.
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