I’ll warn you now. I love WipEout. It was the reason I eventually caved in and got the original PlayStation – the first pure home game console I ever even contemplated owning (I did own a C64GS, CDTV and CD32 previously, but let’s face it they were all just modified home computers rather than bone fide purpose-developed game consoles).
The original WipEout game – a kind of mixture of Powerdrome and Road Blasters with a smigen of Mario Kart and a sprinkling of Matrix Marauders, was a launch title for the original Sony PlayStation in 1995 here in the UK, from Amiga stalwarts, Psygnosis. As it’s available as a PSN download for the PS Vita, I will be reviewing that separately soon.
Following on the PSOne, Psygnosis also released the hugely upgraded WipEout 2097 and Wip3out as well as WipEout 3 special edition which included tracks from the previous two games in the higher resolution they were squeezing out of the original hardware for the third iteration of the series.
Psygnosis had been part of Sony Electronic Publishing since 1993 (prior to Microcosm’s release on the CD32) but were absorbed into Sony Computer Entertainment as Studio Liverpool in the run up to the PlayStation 2 launch. WipEout Fusion was the PS2 release, and wasn’t as successful as it’s predecessors, either commercially or critically. The next time WipEout would appear, it would be on the PSP in the form of WipEout Pure – almost a reboot of the franchise with a return to the highly regarded play style of WipEout 2097 with some refinements of excellence that then carried over with further development into WipEout Pulse. WipEout Pulse even got a makeover and port to the PlayStation 2 with a release that I have never actually seen in the flesh (more is the pity!)
With the incredibly powerful PS3 on the way WipEout Pure and WipEout Pulse were combined and recoded into high definition for a “digital” only release on the Playstation 3. The resultant game was not only in 1080p but ran at a full 60 frames per second, and this was back in 2008, putting some next gen games to shame. To be brutally honest putting this game on in stores on full HD TVs sold PlayStation 3’s far easier than anything else I ever tried. The game also had an add-on in the form of WipEout HD Fury with an entirely new WipeOut league and campaign with new event types, tracks and craft.
Then with the Vita on the way, Studio Liverpool forged forward by going back to the beginning.
As the name suggests the Vita game is set in 2048, the first year of the anti gravity championships, and the start of ballistic racing, the future of motorsport. The style of the game is immediately familiar yet disparate from the previous titles. The best parts of the previous games have filtered into 2048 via WipEout HD, while the track surroundings are significantly different with large chunks of tracks actually being the streets of Nova State City.
The sound of the game feels somewhat retro with the male voice announcements, instead of female, harking back to the first game, and the sound effects similarly evoke the first game yet suggest something slightly more primitive than even that. As you would expect the graphics are way ahead of all of the previous titles bar PS3’s HD.
With several event types including zone, eliminator, time trials and so on as well as the basic races, there is plenty of variety to the gameplay, which still features the earlier titles speed pads and various pick-ups. What does set it apart is the colour coding of the pickup pads, revealing if they are defensive (green) pick ups or offensive (yellow) ones, making things a little more tactical than the earlier colour changing pads on the previous games.
In the single player campaign you have multiple events in the 2048 championship and then you progress onto 2049 and 2050. You also get an online campaign as well with 20 sets of events to progress through – the twentieth having 15 events to complete. The basic game also offers ad-hoc multi-player and limited cross play against PS3 players using WipEout HD (initially you have only four tracks and five ships to choose from.)
The game is expanded significantly by the additional DLC. You can opt to unlock either the WipEout HD campaign, the WipEout HD Fury campaign, or both. However if you own the download version of WipEout Fury HD for the PS3, the WipEout 2048 DLC is unlocked at no extra cost.
The WipEout HD campaign has all 8 sub-campaigns from the PS3 game (with between 6 and 17 events), though some minor modification has taken place, while the Fury campaign offers another 8 each consisting of between 7 and 13 events. You also get the sound effects, including the female voice from the PS3 title, and of course the tracks and ships. In other words, there is quite a bit of longevity in the normal basic game which is expanded hugely by the DLC packs.
All in all you get 4 event types to try out in the main game; standard WipEout races, time trials (over multiple laps), combat (forget the race – attack the other ships with every pick up you can get) and Zone (survive as long as you can using airbrakes as your craft continually accelerates in a stripped trippy multi-colour environment where the music cosmetically alters the track!)
The WipEout HD campaign adds speed lap challenges, while on the Fury campaign you’ll discover Zone battles (essentially the trippy Zone events with craft and the ability to save up energy to expel as a barrier for other to crash into, while boosting you up a few zones) , and Detonator where you are armed with a blaster and EMP type device to take out mines and bombs in a very similar environment to the Zone events.
The game is presented very well with even the menu/title screens reacting to the rear touch pad and music that is playing. Some of the music is familiar being from earlier games, some remixed, but you always have the option to turn the in game music down to zero and play your own MP3s off your memory card through the music player app – and I transferred my WipEout PS3 playlist (including tracks from other racing games, I may add, like remixes of the themes fromLotus Turbo Challenge II and Split/Second!) The graphics are great – though you do get some frame rate drops occasionally when there is way too much going on, on screen. Having said that the frame rate on the faster events seems rock steady, though the ships tend not to be so bunched up in such races. Regardless you will not see anything as drop dead gorgeous as the tracks, including the DLC ones, running this well on anything else that will fit in your hand.
I must say there is nothing quite like belting around the faster tracks in Fury’s Aftermath sub-campaign with Invaders Must Die from the Prodigy belting out of your headphone as you feel like you are being sucked into the speed on screen – especially on zone events.
Controls are very flexible – you have the option of going button and stick only, but as a game developed specifically for the PS Vita the six axis control is supported, though is a little tricky. The rear touch panel and the touch screen can also be utilised, though the original plan to have a voice activation for weapons don’t appear to have made it to the finished product (or my voice just doesn’t push the right buttons!)
The only real drawback to the game is the pre-race loading time which seems awfully lengthy (on both the download and physical versions of the game) even after a patch post-launch, but at least there is something giving you a clue about the time you’ll have to wait – but even then it usually suggests it take longer than it actually does. It appears the DLC tracks load faster than the 2048 ones, which may suggest that a little more optimisation may have been possible if Studio Liverpool had not been closed. That takes a point off, but I can’t really take anymore off this game, especially with it’s current price point.
On a personal note when tired it is difficult to play on the small screen, but let’s face it when you are tired you shouldn’t be playing anyway – one thing is for certain – once I have my mits on a PS Vita TV, this is getting played on a big screen!
Wipeout 2048 is available from the PlayStation store currently at £11.99, and the physical version can be found in stores for not a lot more. As stated previously, if you own the download version of WipEout HD and/or WipEout HD Fury you get the equivalent DLC for the Vita title for free added to your download list.
However there is a store listing for “WipEout 2048: WipEout Complete Game Pack” at £9.99 which adds the DLC to your download list, and according to the product description also unlocks the PS3 version of the “WipEout Complete Game Pack” consisting of Wipeout HD and Fury too! With all that content it really is a no brainer for a total cost of £22 – but if you want to be a sure a demo of 2048 is available (as is a demo of the PSP’s WipEout Pulse – the majority of which is in HD/Fury.) Go get it!
At A Glance
- Title: WipEout 2048
- Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
- System: PlayStation Vita
- Format: PSVita card or PSN Download
- Cross Buy: PS3 Wipeout HD/Fury to PS Vita DLC – see review for more information.
- Online Multiplayer: Yes
- Local Multiplayer: Via Ad-Hoc networking
- PlayStation TV Compatible: No
- Memory Card Space Needed: Download: 2318MB / Vita Card: 8MB game save