Often labeled as “what F-Zero would look like in HD”, the WipEout series is one of which I’ve never really been a big fan. My first real venture was as a result of WipEout HD‘s PSN giveaway, when despite being one of the best looking games I’d seen, I mostly struggled with the game and didn’t think much of it.
2048, part of the PS Vita’s launch lineup, didn’t seem like something I’d pick up either. After trying out the demo for it though, the controls seemed to click with me in a way the console version didn’t, so I gave it a shot. Needless to say, after some time with 2048, I’m starting to wonder if I didn’t pass on WipEout HD too soon.
As someone who isn’t used to the racing genre, the variety of playable modes in WipEout is nice to see. While the biggest brunt of the game is spent in normal races, these often allow weapons to be used in the middle of races for added tactical advantage (think high-speed F-Zero with Mario Kart‘s item use.). The weapons themselves are nicely varied, ranging from normal rockets, missiles and cannon fire to weapons like the Leech Beam, which saps your opponent’s health while recovering your own as long as you both stay in range of each other and have no obstructions. In Combat mode, the goal is to attack other races, which gives you varying points depending on what weapon was used to land a hit.
Probably the most interesting and challenging mode is Zone mode. During Zone, your vehicle is automatically in constant acceleration while the player is simply asked to steer and survive for as long as possible, with every wall collision reducing your vehicle’s health. Other variations of modes include single lap sprints, time trials and modifications of existing modes, such as Combat maps where you can only use mines, or races where only one class of vehicle is allowed.
One thing that really impressed me, though, is 2048‘s online mode implementation. While I’m not a big fan of pairing off with random people online, the multiplayer is no different than playing a single-player stage. While the overall event rages on, each player has their own set of challenges they must complete in the middle of it the event, all depending on how far you’ve made it into multiplayer. While players start off simply needing to play an event or hit a single enemy with a weapon, people who’ve cleared a majority of the multiplayer objectives might need to hit five different players with weapons, while not reaching less than 4th place.
Because of this system, even if your first time online is against people who are at a much higher rank and have better vehicles unlocked, everyone is making progress in their own game, whether one happens to get 1st place or finishes dead last. It’s easy to see how this approach can please both people who get frustrated at a lack of progress as well as skilled players who strive to win every event. Heck, 2048 even allows crossplay with WipEout HD on the PS3, for those who want to try out that kind of thing.
What’s also nice about the way events work in WipEout is the inclusion of both a Pass requirement and an Elite Pass mark. In case of a race event, simply finishing a race at 4th or higher will let you clear the event, but Elite Passes are only gained for finishing in first. It helps create a “one more try” scenario, where one may have cleared an event, but is willing to retry it as a result of feeling they can reach the extra goal. Elite Passes extend to both the single-player and the multiplayer events, so there is always a higher skill level to improve to at any point in the game.
Really, the online implementation in the game is just fantastic. Course times and records are always one or two button presses away, showing one your and your friend’s best times in an event. Everything done in the game, from hitting a speed pad to winning a race, gives you progress on your account rank. The game constantly does status updates on the game’s live page, showing which vehicles you’ve unlocked and what your current stats are. It’s quick, non-intrusive and done while you play the game, which is the ideal for this kind if implementation.
But really, WipEout 2048 is a shining example of a polished launch title. Solid controls, steady framerate, and a nice amount of content are enough to make the game worth picking up, even to people who wouldn’t normally consider this a genre of choice. 2048 is fantastic for both bite-sized and long play sessions, and I can’t recommend it enough for any Vita owner’s library.
Pros: Lots of content, great online implementation, solid racing controls and options
Cons: Courses take a fair bit of time to load, camera feature in online play can’t be disabled