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WipEout 2048 Review - Pie Reviews


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#1
Elliot - Pie

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WipEout 2048, developed by SCE Studio Liverpool and published by SCE, is the latest in the long-running WipEout series, games which are all about insanely fast antigravity racing, similar to the F-Zero series. It was one of the PS Vita's launch titles, and is to this date, if PSNProfiles' numbers are to be believed, one of the most popular full retail titles available for the platform. It's the next game in the series since the spectacular WipEout HD, so it no doubt had a great deal to live up to in the eyes of the many, many fans of that game, as well as carrying the heavy burden of trying to sell PS Vitas at launch. It is both a formidable success and a crushing disappointment. I like it, but I can't find it in myself to love it in the same way as I do WipEout HD.

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Blazingly fast anti-gravity racing that F-Zero can't hope to compete with.

The tight, polished racing is still here in all its glory, mostly unchanged since the series was revamped with Pure on the PSP back in 2005, which is an excellent decision, as there's no point fixing what isn't broken. If you're not familiar with what that means, then WipEout is a little different to most racing games. It's all about careful use of the airbrakes - two on either side of your ship - to help navigate your ship through the tight turns of the track, in order to avoid slamming hard into a barrier or worse, flying off the edge of the road into a skyscraper. Scattered along the track are speed pads, which will give you a brief speed boost when you fly over them, and weapon pads, which allow you to attack your opponents with missiles, cannons, rockets, mines, bombs and plasma. The balance of choosing between when to go for speed or a weapon, when to use your weapon and when to absorb your pick-up to restore your health and keep you alive adds a hectic element of strategy to the already challenging racing.

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Playing against the upper levels of the AI, expect a few photo-finishes.

It's still eye-wateringly fast on the highest speeds to the point where it takes such precision and skill just to keep your ship from bouncing between walls, never mind keeping an eye on the other racers, and the brutal difficulty of the past games is here if you want it, in the form of "A+ challenges" which are, if you can believe, as hard as if not harder than the hardest of races that WipEout HD's Meltdown zone had to offer, but mercifully these are optional. The rest of the game, if you choose to play it on Elite, is pretty tricky, but is still scaled down and decisively more sane than some of HD's content. Mechanically, this is tried and true, and it's comforting to have something so familiar yet still so enjoyable in the palms of your hands.

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Perfect your lap times in time trial mode.

Also returning are the awesome electronic soundtrack and beautiful graphics of previous times. The soundtrack consists of 11 tracks by mostly well-known artists (Deadmau5, The Prodigy, The Chemical Brothers amongst others), and whilst I can't say I'm a huge fan of every single track, the quality of the music and how well it fits the mood and tone fans have come to expect from WipEout games is remarkable. Whilst I don't like it quite as much as WipEout HD's soundtrack which was also of stellar quality, it's just a matter of personal taste. What I can't say has suffered at all in the transition from big screen to small is the game's visuals, which are incredible, and completely unrivaled for the title of best on Vita. The game looks beautiful in motion (though rarely do you get the chance to inspect the gorgeous level design properly, being too focused on not crashing horribly), and the quality of the constituent art assets is really shown off in photo mode, which is accessible from the pause menu at all times (and also where the review's images came from). The game is one of the most technically impressive launch titles I've ever seen, and it should be lauded for this.

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Environments are gorgeous and grand in scale (Fury DLC).

Also new are the tracks and ships, which reflect the setting of the game - the eponymous 2048, the beginning of the anti-gravity racing competitions. As such, most of the tracks are much more near-future than might be seen in HD, with races taking place, for the most part, in and around cities - beautiful cities. The attention to detail in the track design is awe-inspiring, and it would be a crime to overlook it. My favourite little details are the Queen's Mall (one of the tracks) sign in Empire Climb, indicating their relation to each other, and the delightfully cute giant balloon animals in Downtown. As for how much fun the ten tracks are to race on, they're a mixed bunch, but there's something to like about all of them. There's a real emphasis on hiding secret routes for those who deploy a boost pick-up in the correct place, which is nice to see, and most tracks have at least a few memorable moments in them, even if they aren't as unique as those in HD.

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The trance-like visuals of Zone mode.

Sadly, where the game really falls down is its interface and its gameplay modes. There are only four types of event in the campaign - race, zone, combat and time trial, which seems like an utterly bizarre choice. Where's speed lap, zone battle and detonator? Couldn't there be one or two new modes? And most importantly, where on earth did Racebox go? The game gives you 80 events to play across the ten tracks (along with the option to do laps around any track at any speed, once unlocked - but this isn't speed lap, they had times and targets and this is just free-play) and nothing more. Why are we not allowed to set up our own events like we did in Pure, Pulse and HD? There's no good reason to restrict us to just these arbitrary combinations, and it means that some combinations are completely impossible to play. Why, when the game launched, did tracks take about 40 seconds to load on a cartridge based system (though this has been improved drastically through patches)? Why can the menus only be navigated via the touch screen and not buttons when the game's default controls don't even use the touch screen? This is a real disappointment, and the lack of customisability spreads to the other modes. Want to pick a track or event type for online play? Too bad, you'll get what you're given and like it. I cannot, for the life of me, understand why they utterly crippled the interface, and thus the longevity of the game, in such a way.

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Oh, how good it is to have you back, Anulpha Pass (HD DLC).

Whilst I'm focussing on the flaws of the game, it's necessary to bring up the combat events - they were terrible in Fury, and they're still terrible now. They're not fun, nor are they skill-based - the majority of points are awarded for getting the last hit on opponents and eradicating their ship, but there's no way to tell what their health is, so it's impossible to judge when or whom to strike. This, combined with the fact that the pick-ups are entirely random, means that all skill is lost and the game is entirely luck based - the quake pick-up is horribly overpowered, so the mode quickly becomes "who can get the most quake pick-ups". It's not clever at all, it completely squanders the best features of the game, and it's forced upon you far more than you'd like - the only two modes in the online campaign are race and combat, so if you want to get through the 210 online events, be prepared to suffer a lot of combat events. If you can make it through through these major interface gripes, then the online mode is impressively smooth and lag-free for a handheld machine.

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The unique Detonator mode in action (Fury DLC).

The HD and Fury DLC packs (which seem to be free if you already own the relevant content on PS3, which is awesome) are more of the same, for better and for worse - they still lack the customisability, and let you play only the events they dictate, but they are still fluid, visually impressive and great fun for the most part. They lack any online support for their content and even worse they lack the HD Fury soundtrack.

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There's no real justification for this shot, it's just damn pretty.

Can I honestly recommend you buy a Vita specifically for the opportunity of playing this game? No, I can't - the frustrations with the interface and game modes run too deep for me to pronounce this as a true system seller, unless you're a hardcore WipEout nut, in which case you hardly need telling. Can I recommend it to people with a Vita already? Absolutely, it's one of my favourite titles for the system, it's still brutal, exhilarating fun no matter what design stupidities SCE Liverpool inflicted upon it. Just know very well that your time with the game will have a pretty hard cap on it once you've finished everything there is to offer - so it'd be an excellent idea to get WipEout HD as well as a companion piece to this game if you own a PS3 as well.

Still, when the series' first outing on Vita is as good as this game is, I can't wait to see the second. Oh, and Studio Liverpool - hold the bloody combat events next time round.

#2
Parker

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Great review. I love the pictures as well. B)


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#3
dgaustin

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Man, outstanding review.
I absolutely agree that this is one of the most attractive vita titles so far. 
The combat modes are still a pain in the arse.



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#4
KillCount2121

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bit late to comment on the thread - but the combat on the online is the most enjoyable thing.


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