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WipEout 2048 review – Like a book about anti-gravity, it’s impossible to put down

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Every time I get a new Sony gaming device, there are a few certainties: I will be playing Final Fantasy or Kingdom Hearts on the damn thing.

Also, there will be WipEout and Ridge Racer. But does WipEout follow in the footsteps of Jim’s favourite racing game?

In a word, no. In a few more: I am addicted to this game.

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WipEout 2048 does a fantastic job of delivering what fans want on the Vita. Wipeout’s formula of futuristic vehicles, breakneck speeds and combat is tried and tested. Zooming around, doing barrel rolls and almost never letting go of the accelerator while sending missiles up someone’s tailpipe just doesn’t get old.

Set as the prequel to the franchise, WipEout doesn’t add anything new. While I don’t see why they couldn’t add a few weapons that were then ‘banned’ in the later games, it does keep the action familiar: Four different vehicle manufacturers each with their distinct look, feel and parameter priority. QIREX loves heavy hitting sluggers, while FEISAR aims for the fastest machines.

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Vehicles are split into 3 broad categories: Speed, Fighter and Agility. Regardless of manufacturer, vehicles are geared towards the specific category they fall into. Speed ships have high top speeds (wow), but at the cost of health and ability to fire off the bigger weapons. Fighters can use the biggest weapons in the field, and some of them fire multiple rockets when using that power-up. Agility ships take the middle road and offer superior… handling (nearly said Agi.. argh!) with reduced top speed but better acceleration. The starting stable of vehicles is rather slim, but improves as you unlock vehicles through certain events and by levelling up. Each manufacturer has a prototype vehicle that embodies their strength and design focus, so keep an eye out!

Races are the perfect length for on-the-go mobile action. The frantic pace of the game means that most races, except those with far too many laps, only last 2 or 3 minutes.

2012-03-29-124716The levelling system feels half implemented. There is no list of what you will get when you level or a guide as to which vehicles are unlocked in challenges and which require grinding.

The game makes clever use of the bells and whistles of the Vita, without shoving them down your throat. Of the three control schemes, only one makes use of the accelerometer and touch screen controls. The menu interface is touch only, with the rear touch pad acting as a kind of sonar for discovering hidden events.

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The multiplayer lobby felt awkward and managed to crash the Vita for me. The multiplayer *looks* like a great idea, with races awarding XP based on completing challenges, which were basic tasks. Sadly, it seems either my net hates me or I am too stupid as I have yet to play a game of MP.

Scoring:

Design and Presentation: 8/10.

Massive levels result in initial load times being a tad too long. This is fine if you play games while surfing or channel hopping, but can be annoying when you are lying in bed watching that load bar trudge along. Thankfully replaying a level doesn’t take as long, but there is no way to choose a new vehicle without going back to the menu and loading the track again. Whether there is a reason for this or it is just a gaping design oversight is left to debate. The stages are brilliantly designed and rendered, offering glimpses of amazing vistas as you zoom around the track. Sadly most of the time the action is too frantic to enjoy the view, but that is where the photography mode and replays come in handy.

Gameplay: 8/10.

The game gets progressively harder as you play, but the curve is forgiving. Every season has a max speed, decided by the class of the events, meaning you have 2 seasons to hone your reflexes, learn how to use the airbrakes and stop holding accelerate down all the time.

Value 9/10.

The game will keep you busy for a long time as you aim for those elusive elite passes and vehicle unlocks.

Overall: 8.5/10.

This game is smooth and polished, with massive tracks looking great without suffering from performance issues. While I kick my router and hope it will let me play some MP, I end up just doing more races instead. This says a lot, as I am not one to go out and buy a racing game. If anything, I just wish there were more combat events, or a race mode where weapon pads are half as ubiquitous as in the combat events. Sigh, yes, I want to shoot them even more…

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