Speed. Danger. Beauty. Portability. This is Wipeout 2048
Wipeout 2048 goes back in time to when anti-gravity racing was first established. As the title suggests, that year is 2048. Racing vehicles have been stripped of wheels, combustion motors have been replaced with jet engines, and the contours of the vehicles have been transmogrified to no longer resemble cars but spaceships. If racing in ships that defy the laws of gravity isn't extreme enough, weapons have been added making these futuristic events not just dangerous, but deadly. If you aren't at the top of you're game, you're bound to wipe out.
Wipeout 2048's single-player campaign is a branching path of events that lead to different championships. Along these paths are events such as the standard Race, Time Trial, Combat events where you score points for damaging and destroying opponents, and Zone which pits your steering skills to the max as the thruster is always on and each lap gets faster and faster. Races can also have certain restrictions to them, such as only using one type of weapon, or being forced up against a group of fighters with only a vehicle specifically suited for agility.
After you complete an event, you're awarded experience points. Earn enough XP and your rank increases, eventually unlocking a new ship. Every event has a goal to be met that earns you a Pass, as well as extra criteria to earn an Elite Pass such as destroying an opponent while taking first place. When enough events have been cleared, you unlock speed laps where you race continuously to set the best lap time you can. Also, there are special hidden events that unlock, and you must move the campaign screen around looking for a pulsating area to find it.
There are five different teams to select a vehicle from, and each team has three variants plus one prototype. You can select from Speed, Agility, and Fighter, and each variant is suited best for specific events and tracks. The prototype variants are interesting vehicles, but they're not quite practical. One ship has a very low acceleration and top speed, but both increase exponentially each time you pass over a speed pad. Another ship is incapable of picking up defensive weapons and has unpredictable handling, but it is virtually immovable by weapon fire or being rammed into. Experimentation is encouraged if you want to do well in these events.
If you're new to the Wipeout franchise, it may take you quite a while to get used to the controls. Since there is no friction coefficient taking place, you have to learn how to feel momentum shifting when steering around tight curves. Hitting the air brake helps to take sharp turns better, and you'll need to memorize these courses well, because races only get harder when you enter faster classes. Plus, the competition can be extremely fierce, nailing you from behind just when you've gotten ahead. Even though Wipeout 2048's difficulty leans on the inconsistent side, it still maintains that sense of satisfaction for sticking with it and finally coming out on top.
Wipeout 2048 requires an online pass to access its multiplayer content, but it's a big disappointment, and isn't worth purchasing if you bought the game used. Instead of being able to select the tracks and events you want to play in, you're thrown into a random string of events in an online multiplayer campaign. When you first join a room, you're thrown into one of two events: Race or Combat. You can then vote for the next event, but pray to God that no one else votes for Combat. Combat in multiplayer simply doesn't work. It involves players basically changing their directions back and forth with the hopes of landing a hit, and when it boils down to the last two people left, it becomes a tedious bore. Plus, Elite Passes are handed out like Halloween candy, since the only objective required to get one is hitting an opponent and finishing, regardless of place.
Visually, the game's a work of art. This is one of the best launch games to show off the power of the PS Vita as the graphics are very sharp. The textures are rendered incredibly well, especially on the vehicles, and the courses are beautiful thanks to excellent track design. They incorporate a mix of modern construction with futuristic architecture to produce a new age renaissance feel. The special effects are also fantastic, with glowing trails that follow speeding vehicles, translucent sections of track, and explosions that belch smoke and emit bright flashes. One of the most visually attractive moments of the game are the Zone events. The tracks put on a coat of psychedelic paint and make it look like you've entered the world of Tron. There are some instances of frame rate drops, but they're seldom and are over as quickly as they happen.
The soundtrack takes front and center in the game's audio department. With songs from artists such as The Chemical Brothers and Deadmau5, the music has a techno vibe to it that very easily gets you into Wipeout's futuristic atmosphere. The campaign map even thumps along to the rhythm of the music. The sound effects are terrific as well, delivering exhaust that sounds reminiscent of pod racers from Star Wars movies, screaming missiles that detonate with a thump, a rumbling rippling effect from the Quake weapon, and the ear-ringing deafening boom from running nose first into a bomb. This is one of those games best played using ear or headphones.
If you love Wipeout, 2048 delivers enough to make you happy, but its paltry multiplayer offering won't keep you clamoring for more after you finish the relatively short single player campaign. Although it does feature Cross-Play with Wipeout HD on the PS3, you might as well be racing a ghost town as at the time of this review, not a single player was found. If you're up for a serious challenge, A+ Class events unlock after you pass level 40, but in order to do so, you'll need to do some serious grinding as the single player campaign can be finished at roughly level 20. Still, it's exhilarating to play Wipeout on the Vita thanks to its magnificent graphics and classic gameplay. Wipeout 2048 is a solid launch title worth adding to your collection.