wipEout 2048 review for PS Vita

Platform: PS Vita
Publisher: SCEA
Developer: SCEE
Medium: Vita Card / Digital Download
Players: Multi
Online: Yes

wipEout 2048 for the Playstation Vita is a pretty amazing looking game. Even though it fails to lock in that 60 frames per second that we?ve come to love from past wipEout titles, its 30fps is steady throughout, and it still evokes a strong sense of speed in a beautiful sci-fi setting.

And really, you?ll find yourself quickly forgetting about that one technical shortcoming. The game looks flawless, it runs exceptionally well, and the soundtrack is absolutely oozing classic wipEout. Even the controls, of which you can opt between standard racing controls, touch screen, or classic wipEout, feel spot on. Right down to double tapping the airbrake to glide a foot or two to the right and left.

There?s also a whole lot of content on this tiny Vita cart. The single player campaign boasts three distinct sections spread out across a map filled with hexagon shaped event markers. You?ll participate in standard races, battles, time trials, psychedelic Zone events, and a few secret races scattered throughout. There are a number of ships to unlock, and every event you complete will earn you a certain number of experience points that go towards an overall player level that remains present in both single player and multiplayer modes.

Multiplayer consists of another standalone campaign mode, which fills out the other racers in events with actual players. Connecting to the online lobbies has been flawless for me, with no lag or connection issues to speak of across the multiple events I participated in. You can even upload a picture of yourself from the Vita?s camera prior to an event, which I found to be neat little touch.

The various control schemes all seem pretty viable, even the touch screen mode which did take some adjusting too, but I could definitely win a few races with it enabled. The classic wipEout controls seem to be the best option still, which divides your airbrake controls between the top right and left buttons on the handheld, as opposed to the racer controls which only gives you the square button for airbrakes.

The difficulty ramps up nicely throughout the campaign, but does spike a little too much once you hit the A class races. I had to grind out a little more experience to unlock better vehicles to try and keep up with AI at this point, but that was a pretty painless bit of grinding as I just switched to the multiplayer campaign to do so.

The game is a visual breath of fresh air, containing tons of bright, neon colored skylines, tracks and backgrounds. The real stand out is the Zone races, which puts everything into this high contrast, video game infused look that contains some super colorful neon lighting against jet black backgrounds and lines that just looks amazing in motion. Seriously, as good as the screenshots might look; they pale in comparison to seeing it all live.

wipEout 2048 contains a number of familiar wipEout tropes, like weapon pick-ups in both standard races and battle modes, which outfit your racer with one-time uses of rockets, guided missiles, and so on. There are defensive and offensive pick-ups present in almost every race, and destroying opponents in the race only events will knock them out of the race permanently.

Battle modes are scored, and you?ll need to ratchet up a certain number of points to pass a match, or exceed that point goal to get an Elite Pass, which nets you extra experience points. Elite Pass is also present in the other events, and usually involves meeting certain requirements, like finishing first, hitting a couple opponents with weapons in one race, and so on.

The game doesn?t go too crazy with the Vita hardware gimmicks, but does contain a full touch screen control set-up that actually didn?t feel too bad to play with. As I mentioned earlier I found myself adjusting to it well enough, but as the difficulty ramped up I had to go back to a regular control set-up. It?s nice to note that nothing is forced on the player, so you can freely opt to between the three set-ups.

The online mechanics work flawlessly with PSN, and the time it takes to connect with players through the campaign menu is pretty slight. Loading is a bit much across all modes, but I found myself adjusting to it over time. It?s not incredibly long, but it certainly seems to have the longest load screens when booting up events compared against any other Vita game I?ve sampled so far.

I definitely think wipEout 2048 is worth checking out, and from what I?ve seen it seems to be the racing game to beat amongst the Vita launch titles. I?ve heard and seen dubious things from both Modnation Racers and Asphalt (and Ridge Racer is MIA at the moment), so if you need to get your racing fix this seems like the way to go. It?s a legitimately great experience on the new handheld, and looks absolutely fabulous on the OLED screen. I highly recommend picking it up.

Grade: A-