PS Vita Review – WipEout 2048

We might not know what the future holds for the Vita, but if PlayStation series WipEout is anything to go by, the future of racing is bright. And fast.

A fully fledged Vita WipEout title, 2048 immediately sets itself apart from the system’s other launch titles with its looks – Golden Abyss might be more technically impressive, but nothing else tests the OLED screen’s colors like the dazzlingly vibrant WipEout. Unlike the 60fps WipEout HD, the game runs at only 30fps, but you won’t notice. It runs beautifully and smoothly, no matter how much is going on on the screen. In fact, sometimes the amount of colorful chaos exploding on the screen can detract from the experience simply by obscuring the racer and the race track.

As expected with a WipEout game, you’ll need to make clever use of the boost and powerup pads littered along the track, which seem to be more prevalent in this game than previous entries. You’ll need to hit a good percentage of the boost pads to stay in the race, as well as make use of the multitude of defensive and offensive weapons that will either protect your craft or destroy others. Sometimes you’ll have to choose between driving over a boost, a green defensive pad or a yellow offensive pad, with your choice possibly deciding the outcome of the whole race.

That for many is the best thing about WipEout, and for others the worst – there are no second chances in a race. Every single turn matters, every boost, every weapon. Some of the earlier races are a bit more forgiving, but the difficulty ramps up quickly – perhaps too quickly – from B to A class. Tracks are a little wider than in previous games, giving you a little more room to maneuver, but the game is still not for the fainthearted and requires delicate use of the airbreak. Luckily, if a particular track in the campaign is too hard, the game will give you the option to skip it after a few fails.

Playing the campaign is vital to unlocking tracks and vehicles as your original selection is rather limited. The rather long campaign, which spans several whole seasons (of increasing difficulty), includes classic racing, battles, time trial and the gorgeously psychedelic Phase courses. Veteran WipEout fans might be a bit annoyed that they have to grind through a few of the earlier races to get a decent track roster, but it should encourage newcomers to test their mettle on the campaign. The campaign isn’t entirely linear, with some races opening up side levels that are entirely optional – a nice touch if you just want to power through until the end.

Racetracks also aren’t linear, with a few short cuts (called Skillcuts) that require you to time your turn just right. The short cuts don’t give you much of a lead, but with WipEout every millisecond counts. Of course, if you don’t make a turn, you’ll end up smashing into the side of the track, hurting your vehicle and slowing yourself down considerably. Depending on where you are in the campaign, the AI will also use the skillcuts, giving them an advantage in the race. As usual with WipEout, the racers never fail to take a shortcut – they’ll either take it or they won’t, not smash into the middle.

To ensure that you also never fail, you’ll need to get acquainted with the controls. You’ll have a choice of a more classic WipEout control scheme (X to accelerate), generic race controls (triggers to accelerate) and a fully touchscreen and accelerometer based system. More options might have been preferably for some, but most bases are covered. Sometimes the use of the back touchpad can cause the odd accidental hit, and the accelerometer isn’t as precise as it could be, but overall the controls are solid.

Online gameplay is also mostly solid. Bar the odd dropout, and slow matchmaking, you’ll be able to play online against fellow WipEout players relatively quickly. Unfortunately, loading the main game up isn’t as painless – you’ll have to take some time to load up a race, something that would be Ok on a console release, but is disappointing for a mobile product that you might want to quickly play at the bus stop.

While at the bus stop, be sure to bring a pair of headphones so you can listen to the futuristic thrum of your racer, the loud boom of a rocket exploding and the background music from electronic-music artists like The Chemical Brothers, DJ Fresh and deadmau5.

2048 is one of the best launch games on the Vita, and easily the best racer, speeding past Ridge Racer and Asphalt Injection. Compared to other WipEouts, the new edition doesn’t bring that much new to the table, despite being a reboot of sorts, but it doesn’t need to – it’s a refinement of the series that takes most of the best parts of the franchise and packs it into a powerful handheld title.

PlayStation LifeStyle’s Final Score

+ Eye-bleedingly good looking

+ The best racer on the PS Vita

– Slow loading

8 out of 10