Genre: Other Developer: Publisher: Classification: G Release Date: 23rd Feb 2012 Platforms:
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The future promised by Wipeout - one where gravity is scoffed at and vehicles race at near mach speeds for our entertainment - isn't as far away as you might think. In fact, it might be as little as 36 years away.
That's the premise of Wipeout 2048, anyway. Wipeout was probably one of the first games I really got into on the first PlayStation - an awesome combination of speed, visuals and sound, designed to make hover-boat-jet-thing racing cool again.
Still, the question nobody was asking was 'How did it get to here?' Good question, nobody at all - and Wipeout 2048 'prequel' setting aims to answer it.
Except, of course, that it's a racing game - so it really doesn't aim to answer any such thing... Really 2048 is about bringing the game back to its roots, to remind you about what you loved about the series in the first place. Or maybe it's about having an excuse to make a brand new Wipeout game, and maybe you should just deal with it.
For those not familiar with the series, the premise is simple - you race Anti-Gravity hoverjets against other hoverjet racers, probably because you feel the need... the need for speed. It's an unashamedly F-Zero-inspired racing game where the focus is on understanding your hoverjet's handling capabilities more than anything else. Once you're accustomed to your ship it then becomes about learning the tracks - especially if you don't fancy bouncing from wall to wall every time there's a hint of a chicane.
The 'teams' system is pretty odd - made more so this time by the lack of a real 'loyalty' system. You basically choose your ship based on whichever one you feel will suit your style of racing best. There are only five teams to choose from - Qirex, Pirhana, Auricom, AG Systems and Feisar - and they unlock as you gain more XP or complete objectives in the game.
I'd prefer it if I actually got to choose a team to play as - Qirex is my second favourite team (after the not-appearing-in-this-game Assegai) and so even without unlocks I just stick to their ships, while I unlock ships from other teams.
Each team has ships designed to highlight different abilities, split between three areas - the Fighter, Speed and Agility ships. The fourth category is "Prototype" - you unlock these in challenges every 10 ranks, and they have pretty awesome stats across the board.
The ships thing leads to probably the biggest flaw in the game - loading times. This is like the bad old days - loading a race can take more than 30 seconds sometimes, and even 'retrying' a race you've already done still takes 20 seconds or more to load.
Changing ships requires you to quit out to the menu, change ships and then re-enter a race - so if you realise you need more agility to make it through a particularly windy track after you fail to beat it, you're looking at about a minutes worth of waiting before you get back into the race.
Portability requires speed - the best portable games are a quick button press away from having you doing... whatever it is the game has you do. The idea that it could be upwards of a minute before you're actually racing is ultimately a very bad thing - one which relegates Wipeout 2048 to a game you'll probably only play in your home or on long haul flights.
The loading times are probably tied to the spectacular graphics - the game looks fantastic. This is probably best showcased in "Zone" mode, which I'm happy to see was around in the earliest days of the Anti-Gravity racing league.
The music is mostly good - classic Wipeout style tracks keep your heart rate up as you speed through the game's tracks. I'm not a fan of DJ Fresh's Louder, but the rest of the artists - including The Prodigy, Chemical Brothers and Kraftwerk - nail it. It's disappointing that there isn't a custom soundtrack ability - I haven't gotten tired of any of the music yet, but I can see it happenign eventually.
The addition of Cross-Play is probably the big draw for Wipeout 2048 - using a copy of Wipeout HD + Fury on the PS3 and a copy of 2048 on the Vita you and a mate can play against one another. It's the sort of thing you can use to show off your new piece of kit to your mates without having to resort to Augmented Reality gimmicks - and in my experience it's worked quite well, too.
Wipeout 2048 is a great addition to the Wipeout series - the graphics are fantastic, the gameplay is tight and - while lacking the customisation introduced in Wipeout Pulse - the soundtrack is good. It's let down by long loading times and a short-ish campaign, but Cross-Play gives it both a little added longevity and makes it into a bit of a 'feature highlight' game. It's a must-have Vita game - just make sure you set aside time to play it.