Wipeout 2048 Review

Wipeout 2048, the latest game in the Wipeout franchise has released as a Playstation Vita launch title. Despite being the most recent release it’s the earliest in the Wipeout universe. 2048 invites us to play in a period where the Wipeout racing league is just getting off its feet. Featuring Wipeout series staples and brand new mechanics, 2048 feels like a brand new game – but is it one fans and newcomers alike will enjoy?

Starting up Wipeout you’ll notice the first startling change, a brand new interface. It’s a pretty obvious move given that it’s now on the Playstation Vita, but the menus are very touch-orientated. You can move through the basic set of menus by pressing pretty-typical of touch screen games, what’s nice though is the new campaign interface. Instead of simply selecting the next race through a series of menus you have one large screen filled with events. You can move across this screen moving your finger left and right, or zoom in and out with a simple pinch / pull motion. It makes the game very accessible, and it’s easy to hop to and from the various events the game has to offer.

Whilst selecting events is simple and easy, they also present the players first hurdle – loading times. The game features kind of long loading screens. Fortunately it is nice enough to give you an extremely accurate % completion meter, however this is little comfort to the games 30 second wait times. On console these probably wouldn’t bother players, but it really eats into your time if you’re trying to get a quick race on the train ride home.

The campaign offers a typical variety of modes, Race, Battle, Time Trial, and Zone. Zone, the only one which needs an explanation, has the player run endless laps with the speed steadily increasing, until the players craft explodes from wall damage. It featured in Wipeout HD, and has a cool, new retro visual style in 2048. Race modes as fun as ever, however the tracks are a little more technical this time around. Whilst most of the track has been widened compared to previous Wipeout games, they now have multiple routes, most of which offer more technical challenge than the main path, and in exchange provide the player with a speed boost or weapon reward. This risk vs reward mechanic works well, and makes the game very ‘easy to play, hard to master’.

What lets the campaign down is battle mode, whilst this makes relatively small portion of what’s on offer. It mode certainly downgraded the experience, for me. Battle mode plays out as you’d imagine, pick up weapons off the track, shoot them at other ships – very simple. In-fact it’s a little too simple. These events are won in many cases on the basis of luck, rather than ability. Destroying another ship earns a +5 to your total score, only problem with this is that there’s no ship health display, so it’s purely luck which earns you the actual kills and in turn, score reward.  Worsening problems, weapons like ‘quake’ will often net you a whopping +15 points, unfortunately these weapons are rare pickups, and as a result the outcome of a game can be dependent on your luck with the dice, so to speak. Even more frustratingly there’s no way to evade incoming attacks, there’s a shield pickup you can get, if you’re lucky, however generally you’re just stuck having to eat the missile, lame. It’s unfortunate, because all in all it makes these events unsatisfying, and frustrating. Something that’s worsened considering the events are forced upon you in both single and multiplayer campaigns.

It’s far from all bad though. There’s plenty to unlock in the single player campaign that’ll keep you playing for a fair while. Wipeout 2048 has perhaps the most ships of any Wipeout title to date, although the designs of some seem pretty similar to each other, particularly compared to other Wipeout games. Some ships even have special properties, for instance the Feisar prototypes maximum top speed increases with the number of boost pads you hit per lap. This can really add a strategic element to gameplay as you have to play to the strengths of these special ships.

On top of the singleplayer offerings there’s also two online modes. Crossplay with PSN, on Wipeout HD, and Wipeout 2048s own online mode. Unfortunately I can’t comment on Crossplay. Every time I tried to get it working I was presented with an error code. I can’t tell you if the problem is my Vita, Sony’s Wipeout HD servers, or the Crossplay technology itself, however I imagine it’ll be resolved with a patch later. I was able to play 2048’s own online modes without hassle.  2048 features something a little special for online called ‘multiplayer campaign’, in Wipeouts multiplayer campaign you select a cell on the board, but instead of a specific race and mode. These simply come with criteria, like ‘finish above 3rd and destroy an opponent’, fulfil the criteria and you can move onto more cells. Ultimately these are very similar to ‘challenges’ offered in games like Call of Duty, the way 2048 presents them is very well executed and makes you feel like your progressing by completing them. This adds a little substance to a multiplayer component which otherwise doesn’t seem to offer any unlockables.

In terms of content the game offers just 10 tracks, all of these are visually stunning. From the breathtaking vistas visible atop of skyscrapers, the winding turns above a baseball field, or the thrill that comes from flying at 500 mph along a rail-less track in the sky, each track is a feast for the eyes, provided you can find an interval to take them off the track.  However I can’t help but feeling that with only 10 tracks, the game falls a little short of what other high quality racing games are offering, especially when a lap around each track only takes around 30 seconds.  What’s there is very well designed mechanically and aesthetically. The ships have been crafted with equal care, although they don’t feature quite as diverse designs as seen in previous Wipeout games, they’re all very well designed in their own right, with incredibly high quality 3D models. Generally the game is very well textured, and runs at a stable 30 frames per second. Unfortunately this is lower than prior Wipeout games so veterans of the series may notice the game feels a little less responsive as a result, although I can’t imagine most will even notice. As with all Wipeout games the game features a pumping soundtrack, with tracks Invaders Must Die from the Prodigy however these seem to be older and less relevant to modern taste than what we’ve seen in prior Wipeout games.

Overall Wipeout 2048 is an enjoyable experience. It feels like the first significant innovation the series has seen in absolutely years, the multi-route track designs make the game feel fresh, and the gameplay is as solid as always, yet further refined. However at the same time it’s not all a step in the right direction. A reduced framerate may hamper the experience a little for some, load-times can be a minor annoyance, and battle mode comes off as tacked-on compared to race or zone.

Verdict

If you’re looking for a racing game this is by far the best the Vita has on offer. It’s stunning visuals also serve as a fantastic tech demonstration of your Vita’s capabilities, but the game simply doesn’t offer enough content to keep you coming back. (8.4/10)

 

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