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WipEout 2048 (Vita) artwork

WipEout 2048 (Vita) review

"You know where you are in a FEISAR."

There's something about the WipEout series that always gets me. I think it's the way the precise speed, neon and electronica cleverly combine to either distract the player, or bring him into a Zen-like state of racing godhood. Or, if one is playing a handheld version like WipEout 2048, the trance may be best described as falling down a tiny hole. That was the sensation I felt when I picked up WipEout Pure along with my PSP back in the day, and recapturing that feeling with WipEout 2048 was my primary motivation to buy a Vita.

Does WipEout 2048 take you there? In short: yes, it does. From the moment you fire up your handheld and the intro sequence plays, you buy into the presentation of a (near) future world in which hovercraft racing (and combat) is the new NASCAR. The menu interface is navigated via the touchscreen now, and, shockingly, it's actually pulled off without being annoying. The seemingly obligatory-for-a-Vita-game unplayable motion+touch control options are also available, but for everyone who seriously wants to play the game, the tight standard controls from the PS3 and PSP titles are an option. The classic weapons, like quake and plasma, have also returned.

I need to hammer home here just how sleek this final effort from Studio Liverpool (formerly Psygnosis) truly is. WipEout's presentation was always slick, but here, everything is just about perfect. The intro movie, which dramatically presents the evolution of auto racing into hovercraft racing, is note perfect and a thrilling introduction to the game. Whether you're a veteran of the series or not, if watching this sequence doesn't make your heart rate tick up a little, perhaps gaming is not for you and it's time to find a new hobby. The themes of earlier games, set in a more distant future, showed increasingly fantastic neon cityscapes that could never exist. WipEout 2048 cleverly degrades this aspect in favor of cities that seem like the upgraded versions of places you can visit today.

All the sheen in the world won't make up for poor gameplay, of course, and I'm happy to report that this title maintains the high standard set by previous games. There are a few notable changes, however. Most important is the widening of tracks. Love it or hate it, the series has always been about memorizing all of a course's tight turns through repetition while relying on muscle memory to get your times down. WipEout 2048 tempers this aspect with straightaways that are downright spacious in comparison to what came previously. It's an interesting change that does alter the gameplay, and veterans will note the increased opportunities for precision combat these areas provide.

“You know where you are in a FEISAR” as they say, and Federal European Industrial Science and Research, along with the other classic race teams, is back. A welcome change in 2048 is that every team now has a series of ships from which to choose. With each team now offering a wide range of vehicles that specialize in speed, handling or combat ability, a player can choose a team and stick to it, if he is so inclined. It's also important to note that everyone who purchased WipEout HD and the Fury DLC on PS3 will get all of that content for free if signed in on the same account. Doing so will also allow the player to play online against PS3 opponents running that game.

There are a few issues you should be aware of before diving in, however. Load times, unacceptably long at the game's launch, are now merely annoying thanks to a patch. Another thing to keep in mind is that this game is still WipEout. If you aren't willing to invest an ungodly amount of time memorizing a variety of tracks, then don't bother. At the higher speed levels, you need to know exactly what angle you'll be taking into every turn, and have a plan for dealing with missing that angle due to being rammed or shot. There might not be a Gran Turismo level of time investment here (unless you want to truly dominate the online scene), but if you want to make much progress, you need to understand that a fraction of a second shaved off of a time trial performance may represent several hours of hard work. If you think this style of high skill racing doesn't lend itself to kart-style randomized weapon usage, maybe you're right, and maybe you should stick to the also excellent F-Zero series.

As for me, I'm a PlayStation guy, and I fell into this final effort from a once legendary studio hook, line and sinker. Studio Liverpool/Psygnosis is no more, and we may never see a new WipEout. That's a real shame. The WipEout titles provide exhilaration that is unlike anything else on the market. In my opinion, WipEout Pure on the PSP ranks as one of the truly great launch games of all time, and my expectations were high for 2048. If it didn't quite meet them, it at least didn't disappoint. I'm older now, and the revolution in mobile screen quality that the PSP arguably helped spark means that even the Vita's OLED graphics failed to produce in me the same jaw drop that the now laughable PSP LCD did way back in 2005. But the speed is there, and so is the beauty and the thrill from a legacy of WipEout titles that extends back to 1995 and Sony's first console. If you have a Vita, give it a go. You just might become a fan.

Germ's avatar
Staff review by Jeremy Davis (February 21, 2015)

Jeremy plays video games, sometimes.

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EmP posted February 22, 2015:

I've never really been a racer guy, but I adore Wipeout as a series and it was point blank the only reason I picked up a VITA. It's more or less the only reason I have to use the bloody thing (Screw you, Book of Memories! You suck!) so I get where you're coming from. Back when the PSX was a new thing and Wipeout was the big release title, I spent hours upon hours perfecting the limited courses and the unforgiving difficulty curve that's been breed out of the series (probably just as well; I was annoyed when Wipeout 2097 nerfed that a little, but coming to an almost full stop if you brushed an edge was probably overkill once the course numbers started to climb above five). Wipeout 2048 is probably the last gasp for the series, which makes me sad, but it's a great game and as good a break-off point as any, I suppose. And I'll always have those soundtracks I've meticulously collected to look back on.

Good review, nostalgic fanboy reminiscing aside. Those atrocious load time certainly needed addressing, though I wonder why the different race aspects were not mentioned. It's a good sign off for your time on staff, and you've done a great job on that too. Don't be a stranger -- I'll be looking out for further efforts on your behalf.
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Germ posted February 22, 2015:

Thanks EmP. I'm glad to know someone else was sold on the Vita largely due to this title. It's a darn shame about Psygnosis.

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