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Wipeout 2048 review

Great
AT A GLANCE
  • Terrific backdrops look even better than those of Wipeout HD
  • Objectives make for an interesting and creative online mode
  • A lovely and easy to navigate interface
  • The slightly chunkier handling
  • The reduced framerate
  • The removal of modes such as Detonator

Going back to the days of the original PlayStation, Wipeout has been the game that gets made when Sony wants to show off. That ambition has never been more apparent than in Wipeout 2048, which is  clearly meant to show the new Vita at its best. For the most part it does just that, but there are a few noticeable dents in what ought to be the showcase game for Sony's new handheld.     

To their credit, SCE Liverpool has done their best to shake things up a bit with this one. Wipeout 2048 is a prequel, meaning that the ultra-futuristic look of the later entries in the series is (mostly) out. Instead, you'll be racing across more conventional locales like the Brooklyn Bridge. It's hardly a traditional racer though, which is most apparent in moments like racing over the Empire State Building.

These environments are Wipeout 2048's biggest selling point compared to its predecessors. Sony's Liverpool Studio has always been an ambitious studio -- Wipeout HD was a high water mark for the PlayStation 3 in terms of graphics -- and they've clearly relished their first experience with the Vita. It's not always apparent when you're whipping through a stage, but the environments look every bit as good as the PS3 games, maybe ever better. An impressive achievement at this early date.

The visual glory comes at a price though. Wipeout 2048 runs at 30 frames per second -- a step down from the franchise's traditional 60 FPS. The Vita version's rough edges aren't always apparent, you can sense them when you're playing. They were most apparent when we went back to Wipeout HD and immediately felt a sense of relief. Yes, Wipeout is known for its visual fidelity as much as its sense of speed, but it still feels odd to trade textures for framerate on a handheld platform.

Other changes become apparent the more you play. Past modes such as the rail shooter-like Detonator have been cut, and tournament events are gone too. It's also a bit harder to control this time around; though whether that's down to the Vita's smaller thumbstick or the actual design is unclear. Liverpool seems to have noticed though, because the tracks are somewhat wider now. We count that last bit as a positive though, if only because they ease the franchise's notorious difficult just a bit.

Things have changed for the online mode as well; though thankfully, they are also generally for the better. Liverpool has opted to experiment with race objectives this time around, with some interesting results. They can range from simply completing the event to executing a barrel roll; and in a strange twist, they can include intentionally losing a race as well. Make of what you will of that last, but it's pretty hilarious to see an opponent cruising toward a win abruptly decelerate and politely wait for you to pass them. But then, it's not really in the spirit of Wipeout's traditionally hyper-competitive play either.

All that said, the online campaign is a credit to Wipeout. It's well-executed in addition to being highly accessible, and it's quite easy to get a race going. In fact, the interface in general is excellent -- a clean, shiny, touchscreen-driven menu system that is a pleasure to behold. Clearly, this game is as much about showing off the hardware as much as being a quality racing game.

Thus, Wipeout 2048 stands with Uncharted as one of the Vita's best launch titles. It's still Wipeout, after all, and when it really gets moving, it's easy to leave behind any misgivings and just roll with it. As the game progresses, there's a sense that Liverpool is moving steadily into familiar territory. And when we at last reach the likes of Sol, Liverpool seems to really cut loose with the design, throwing in terrifying drops and all manner of other devious tricks.

But there's also no denying that Liverpool has overextended itself just a bit with Wipeout 2048. At its best, it's incredibly fast and beautiful; breathless, even. The little compromises chip away at the experience though, from the framerate to the slightly chunkier handling. It’s a tremendous racer as always; but as far as grand ambitions go, Liverpool has fallen a tiny bit short.

More Info

Available Platforms: PS Vita
Genre: Racing
Published by: Sony Computer Entertainment
Developed by: SCE Liverpool
Franchise: Wipeout
ESRB Rating:
Everyone 10+

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8 comments

  • RareHero - April 1, 2012 5:03 p.m.

    This is my favorite Vita launch title and one of my favorite games in the series. The track design is some of Liverpool's best, the graphics are as good as HD's, and the gameplay is classic Wipeout - even with half the frames. Unless you go right from playing HD to 2048, you won't notice much of a difference. And the drop in FPS pays off when you consider how great this game looks. Now is it better than Wipeout 2097? Not quite. But after the Pure/Pulse/HD era, it's nice to see a new take on the series that isn't set so far ahead in the future. Driving over the Brooklyn Bridge 40 years from now might rank as one of my all-time favorite gaming moments.
  • degozaru55 - February 14, 2012 5:39 a.m.

    I know it's off topic but does anybody else want a racing game based on the intro starting at 1:15.
  • Imgema - February 13, 2012 7:57 p.m.

    Sacrifice frame rate for graphics, in a game that is all about sense speed. FAIL.
  • elsnichkum - February 13, 2012 9:53 p.m.

    pffft, play the first one and then come back.
  • Imgema - February 17, 2012 3:57 a.m.

    I played it first day it was out. it was a nice game for time and a good graphics demo for the system. 30 fps was the norm in 3D graphics back then and maybe an improvement compared to sub 20 fps in eD games before that. But things get better. More recent Wipeout games run at 60 fps. That's called progress and improvement. This one runs at 30 fps. That's called a step back. But then again, many racing games run at 30fps instead of 60 in this generation. In PS2/XBOX/GC there were more 60fps racers (and games) than today. I guess this generation is all about as flashy graphics as possible for the average joe.
  • SomeOddGuy - February 13, 2012 6:33 p.m.

    Hmm... I'm very glad and all that you guys have reassured me that this game does indeed seem as promising as it is, though there is one thing that's itching the back of my head in concern since I had a minor issue with it when I played the demo version. I didn't have a watch on me exactly(I forgot to pull out the timer on my iPod since I didn't really expect it) but when I started up a race on the demo unit, it took absolutely forever just to load up that single track while restarting it took at least 10 seconds. Are the loading times still just as long? I'm curious because I'm hearing this listed from other sources while it's not even given a mention in your review.
  • Ravenbom - February 13, 2012 5:18 p.m.

    I was never really a Wipeout fan. I always preferred the Bat-shit insane speeds, always just on the edge of control of F-Zero. Which is why I really enjoyed Excite Truck. Despite looking like ass it had that F-Zero feel of being just on the edge of control.
  • MasterBhater - February 13, 2012 1 p.m.

    Seems like Uncharted: Golden Abyss and WipEout 2048 are the two shining stars of Vita's launch. I think I'm going to go with Wipeout as my first game. It's cheaper and has online.

Showing 1-8 of 8 comments

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