Racing is a delicate balance of speed and control. Knowing how and when to shift that balance from one to the other is the key to victory or failure. This is true whether you are driving karts, supercars or even futuristic racecars that travel faster than anything we can fathom today. Of course the entire dynamic gets tossed out the window when you add in weaponry, which is probably why I never felt at ease with Sony’s premier Vita racer, Wipeout 2048.
Wipeout, Sony’s long running futuristic racing franchise, takes place in a world where racing consists of more than just rubbing out your opponent. Featuring pickups to enable combat weaponry and effective countermeasures, racing in Wipeout is just as much about balancing offensive and defensive tactics as it is about balancing speed and control. Wipeout 2048 brings this all to the Vita, in a package that may be the best showcase for the system out of the launch lineup games.
Like any good racing game, Wipeout 2048 delivers a great sense of speed. This is all the more impressive considering the futuristic nature of the vehicles. Balancing the speed is simple to learn, yet hard to master. Screeching out of the gate is liable to get your vehicle a one way ticket to the junk yard though, so mastering braking and sliding on the track are musts. Then comes the combat power-ups, running over an active pickup spot will activate the power-up on the craft, which can then be easily deployed via a simple button press. I had more than enough trouble adjusting to the ultra high speeds of the races that combat was something I never got a good handle on, despite seeming so simple. While being a well rounded racer is certainly beneficial to success, to the Wipeout 2048’s credit the game allows for players to play to their strengths. All of this together helps to make Wipeout 2048 one of the more easily accessible Vita games to launch with the system.
Wipeout 2048 utilizes a honeycombing node structure for both its single player and multiplayer career modes. Each node has a specific set of challenges that need to be achieved before it can be cleared. Focusing on both the racing and combat aspects of the game, these challenges offer quite the variety in gameplay and did a great job in keeping me interested as I progressed through the career. Being able to select nodes that work to my strengths, particularly speed trials, also did wonders to keep me engaged.
While the progression of the single player and multiplayer career nodes are two separate entities, overall experience is shared between the two. For someone like me, that mostly plays single player, being able to jump in and still be competitive in the multiplayer career was a huge bonus and it made me actively want to play more. Unfortunately, due to some sloppy design choices the game itself made it quite difficult to remain engaged in any of the multiplayer features for any length of time.
For a game that revolves around speed, Wipeout 2048 surprisingly takes inexcusable amounts of time to get players into a multiplayer game. Wait times can be upwards of five minutes and considering the battery life of the Vita, these extended waiting periods can add up to a small amount of time actually playing the game. On top of that, the lobby system implemented by the game is atrocious. In my time with the game, I found no way to communicate with other racers while waiting instead being forced to stare at the same few screens available to me.
Compounding the issue even further is the excruciatingly long track loading times. To load into a track, both single player and multiplayer, load times of over a minute are common place. Some may see this as a very nitpicky complaint but I do not care how great the game actually looks and plays, these load times are completely unacceptable for a game on a portable device. When I take out my Vita, I want to be able to jump into a game as quickly as possible and Wipeout 2048 makes that process exceptionally difficult.
Despite these functionality issues, the gameplay is top notch and visually it looks stellar; all of this combines to make Wipeout 2048 one of the premier releases on the Vita system. It is a definite showcase piece for Sony’s portable system. But more importantly it is a fantastic racing game, not just on the Vita but on any system.
- Exceptional Sense of Speed.
- Great looking.
- Seamless crossplay with PS3 players.
- Brutal load times.
- Lobby system for multiplayer leaves a lot to be desired.
4 / 5