Electronic Theatre In-depth Review: WipEout 2048

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Electronic Theatre ImageThe WipEout series was once synonymous with Sony Computer Entertainment’s (SCE) videogame systems. Despite its many appearances on other formats – most notably the commendable Nintendo 64 release, WipEout 64 – the series has marked out its territory on every PlayStation console since the original system way back in 1995. As SCE purchased the studio formerly known as Psygnosis, along with the WipEout IP, it’s no surprise that the publisher would wish to make the most out of their investment, but that WipEout still stands as a sign of quality more than a decade later is not such an easy sentiment to overlook.

Here on PlayStation Vita (PS Vita), WipEout presents itself as a launch title once more with WipEout 2048. Promoting a number of different gameplay modes, the most immediate is of course the Single Player Campaign. Beginning with a single race set-up – one craft, one track, no weapons, no prizes for loosing – the player Electronic Theatre Imagestarts to work their way across a map. As certain intervals the map will allow the player to diverge, taking on new routes and different event types, such as time trial and combat challenges. Completion of these offshoots is not necessary for progress through the Single Player Campaign, but they often offer rewards far greater than simply sticking to the beaten path.

There are three types of vehicle in WipEout 2048: Fighters, Speed Ship and Agility Ship. It doesn’t take too long for the player to acquire at least one of each variety, and from then on it’s up to them to choose the right vehicle for the job. There’s little point entering into a time trial event with a Fighter craft, unless you wish to make the challenge even greater. In addition, the weapon types have no been divided into two different pick-ups – defensive and offensive – denoted by different green and yellow pads respectively. It’s a small change, but one that definitely adds a new tactical level on the harder challenges: there’s a world of difference between first and second place in WipEout 2048, and each demands a different tool.

The handling of WipEout 2048 is just an unwieldy as you would expect. It’s a tradition of WipEout’s high speed racing that the first few tracks ease the player in gently before the heat is turned-up, but it’s this punishing difficulty curve that makes it all the more rewarding when you successfully manage to hug a corner at the precise angle of its curve, or predict an opponents racing line. This is never more Electronic Theatre Imageprominent than in the Zone Mode races, wherein the player must keep a constant control over their vehicle while its speed increases rapidly. The challenge here is simply to survive, and when the speeds become so fast that corners have to be judged before they are even in sight, knowledge of your turning arc is essential.

One of the biggest selling points of WipEout 2048 is its multiplayer component. Available in what are essentially three flavours, WipEout 2048 clearly favours online play. A special Online Campaign is available to all, featuring a similar arrangement to that of the Single Player Campaign. A nice idea for sure, and one that lends itself well to online play against friends, but limiting the local ad hoc play in the same manner is a little frustrating. Why players are not granted the ability to customise race types, tracks and other basic settings is never explained, and is a sorely missed asset.

The third aspect of WipEout 2048’s multiplayer is that of cross-platform gameplay. WipEout 2048 is compatible with the PlayStation 3’s WipEout HD, in that players on one format may race against players on the other. Electronic Theatre ImageThe design is so well optimised that entire groups one each system and mix and mingle in a single event, in a similar fashion to Shadowrun’s Xbox 360/PC cross-platform set-up. That being said, it’s clear that WipEout HD is the older, less technically capable edition, resulting in a noticeable drop in framerate for PS Vita gamers.

That’s where WipEout 2048’s technical limitations begin and end however, as the visual and aural quality is practically untouchable. As WipEout 2048 is set as a prequel to much of what has gone before, the visual design blends aspects the hyper-futuristic look of earlier titles with a present-day aesthetic. Amongst all the steel girders, towering skyscrapers and giant inflatable cat heads are grass and tress, muddy paths and lampposts that wouldn’t look out of place in a modern day racer. Then of course, there’s the striking visual change that comes in Zone mode: a neon coating that picks out the close range detail and dispenses with the rest. It’s aElectronic Theatre Image constantly pleasing design that is perhaps only surpassed by the soundtrack. The familiar techno vibe returns with force only this time it has a very British feel to the selection, even though few of the tracks were recorded by UK artists.

As with many titles is the series before it, WipEout 2048 is a flawed gem. Its combination of high speed challenge and personal gratification is only marred by the paring down of its multiplayer modes. As with Rayman Origins, this could be a case of time constraints rather than intentionally limited design, and considering the amount of content available it is easily overlooked. WipEout 2048 remains an enticing experience throughout and is arguably the best WipEout title of the past decade.

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