WipEout has been the staple for futuristic racing titles since 1995 when SCE Studio Liverpool — then Psygnosis — launched its début title on the original PlayStation; ever since, there's been a steady stream of games released across the PlayStation family. The newest addition to the series speeds its way onto PlayStation Vita as one of the top launch games for the remarkable new handheld.
What sets WipEout apart from the other racing games of this generation is the sheer feeling of speed. Reaching insane speeds, pilots will manoeuvre around loops, crests, steep banks, boost pads and use a range of devastating weapons as the fight for first place ensues.
One of the most remarkable attributes of this Vita title is the amount of content packed into a single portable title. This isn’t simply a rehashed title from the past as it not only offers a great deal more amount of gameplay, but also huge improvements to the visuals, sounds, and controls. With a massive single and multiplayer campaign, there's more than enough WipEout to go around for any speed enthusiast.
Single player campaign modes include the standard race where you must compete against seven other racers for first place; time trial runs; combat mode, where you must deal enough damage to opponents in a limited about of time; and the ever popular zone run, where your only goal is to keep the ship in one piece as it constantly accelerates around a track. Each mode feels different enough to keep the content feeling fresh and fun even after hours of playing.
The graphics have always looked gorgeous in the previous WipEout titles but as difficult as it might be to believe, the visuals in WipEout 2048 are easily comparable to, if not better than that of the PS3 title WipEout HD. Tracks range from brightly coloured neon tracks to the beautiful skyline of New York City where the game takes place. Newly added effects to the ships such as more prominent boost trails and exhaust ports improve upon an already stunning world.
The modern soundtrack features plenty of dubstep and techno tracks that both fit the atmosphere of the races and the intensity of the competition. Complementing the music tracks is a host of new sound effects, with more prominent engine sounds and ambient noise when speed picks up. These slight tweaks and one of the series' best soundtracks really lift the sensation of speed above previous titles.
The hover ships remain similar in design and functionality from past games: some are better at cornering, while others might be slower but feature devastating firepower. Selecting the right vessel for each of the modes and tracks is vital to your success.
Being a launch title, it might be expected that WipEout simply tests the waters with each different control scheme to get a feel for what the console can do, but each and every input feels natural, intuitive and, above all else, fun. Whether it’s using the touch screen, standard buttons or SIXAXIS, each configuration feels responsive and usable. None of these control methods will give unfair advantages over another, making it well balanced for individuals with different styles of gaming.
Occasionally, the tracks will feel slightly too small and narrow for eight pilots at once, and at times can cause a noticeable drop in the frame rate. While rare, these occurrences can sometimes mean first or last place in a race: in tougher challenges, a split second is all it takes to turn victory into defeat. This is most noticeable during the Combat events as ships usually stay in a pack and fire off weapons constantly; luckily, slowdowns in these situations don't have as big a negative effect since position the pack doesn’t matter as much. Loading times slow the experience down, too; it's not uncommon to wait 40 to 60 seconds while the game loads the next track. Neither problem is game-breaking, but for a game all about speed it's a shame to contend with lengthy loading times and occasional slowdown.
The multiplayer is as solid as ever, whether that's Vita vs. Vita or Vita vs. PS3. There's an entire multiplayer campaign mode with challenges that can be completed to earn new ships, extras, and trophies, and the huge number of these challenges will keep most completionists busy for a very long time. Your matchmaking mileage may vary and finding your way using the touch-only interface around can be somewhat tricky the first few times, but when the races start, the action is smooth and intense.
WipEout 2048 really has it all for any fans of racing games or for those just looking for a good time. Great visuals, sounds, controls and overall gameplay make for a remarkable experience on a portable device. It's the ultimate WipEout title for gamers on the go and should be considered a must have for any Vita owner with a need for speed and looking to live “Vita” on the edge.