WipEout 2048 Preview
- Posted August 25th, 2011 at 16:38 EDT by Steven Williamson
- 2 Comments
Despite the WipEout franchise now reaching the ripe old age of 15, it still resonates through the hearts of PlayStation gamers and all those who remember its spectacular PlayStation One debut. With the launch of PlayStation Vita, SCE Studio Liverpool will once again deliver a WipEout title that will be among the first games to grace a Sony device, and it’s great to see that the development team are not about to let that golden opportunity slip by creating just another incremental update of its high-octane racing series.
At Gamescom 2011, WipEout 2048 game director Stuart Tilley and Graeme Ankers demonstrated their continued enthusiasm for the series with an impassioned presentation, which we eagerly followed up with some hands-on time with the racer. WipEout 2048 on PS Vita mixes the old and the new by delivering familiar visuals and audio while introducing cutting-edge multiplayer options and a more aggressive race around the circuits. Courtesy of Vita’s touch-screen capabilities and the internal accelerometer, it also offers a variety of new control schemes that give you a unique take on this retro-infused racer.
While WipEout 2048 does offer a familiar visual experience to previous games, there are some marked differences. With its cascading neon-lit tracks, sneaky short-cuts and array of turbo boosts, mines, shock waves and missiles, some things certainly haven’t changed. However, because WipEout 2048 takes place much earlier in the WipEout timeline - in an era when the new sport of anti-gravity racing is beginning to emerge - it does embrace a slightly different design to previous games, with multi-tiered levels and new ships creating specifically to represent this new age.
Tilley tells us that the environment in WipEout was designed in three tiers. The lower level is your typical street level, with structures you're likely to see in a current/near future setting as racers weave in and out and around brown stone-clad buildings. As you move upwards, these buildings turn subtly into futuristic-looking skyscrapers made entirely from metal and glass and as you reach the top tier you see a representation of the future. It's at this top level where Studio Liverpool has reverse engineered structures from the distant future of previous WipEout games to create sleek sci-fi tracks with iconic tall buildings and see-through platforms. It's quite a sight.
The impressive architecture and level design looks set to deliver a unique series of courses that allow you to weave up and down through the three tiers and experience variety through the ten new courses. Furthermore, it looks seriously good on PS Vita’s screen and performs impeccably as you whizz around the tracks at speeds of 500mph. When hooked up to a HDTV, WipEout 2048 looks just as visually arresting as WipEout HD on PlayStation 3, which goes to prove just how impressive Vita’s hardware really is, and the potential it has to be a real powerhouse of a handheld.
Familiar game features, such as barrel rolls and ramp jumps, feel timeless on the new tracks and just as exciting as ever, while executing a double tap of the air brake to strafe to the side feels immediately familiar and intuitive. One of the major gameplay changes appears to be the tweaking of A.I behavior. In WipEout 2048 other racers challenge you far more aggressively than in previous games, which make for some thrilling races where you're constantly encouraged to keep pushing your ship to its limits, take risks, and think tactically about the way you race.
Studio Liverpool has cleverly balanced this difficulty curve with a wider variety of creative driving aids, which are split up into two distinct offensive and defensive classes. These power-ups are colour coded on the track, so there’s even more emphasis on tactics as you try to make split second decisions to grab shields or mines, or pick up something more aggressive like a machine gun or homing missile. WipEout 2048 does look and feel immediately familiar, but this new focus on increased tactical play - and the way that other ships will fight you to the bitter end - is a real evolution of the series that should provide a new challenge for even the most hardened WipEout players.
As old school gamers, we much preferred the standard control scheme and the responsive analogue sticks of Vita, but for those looking for a novel experience you can also use tilt and touch, and tap the screen if you wish to send a missile up the backside of another racer. These novel control methods work well and show off Vita’s other functions impressively, but WipEout 2048 is undoubtedly meant to be played as an arcade racer with arcade-style controls. Indeed, WipEout 2048 already looks set to be a console-like experience on handheld that runs like a dream. With social connectivity, party and voice chat confirmed, as well as a string of online game modes and the hilarious ‘Glory’ moments - where you can take a picture of yourself at a key moment and send it to you opponents - WipEout 2048 has all the potential to be one of Vita’s most memorable launch games.
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