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E3 2011: WipEout 2048 Hands-on Preview

on 12 June 2011

Sony’s new PlayStation Vita stole the show. Like every other person with a media badge at E3 this year, I wanted to get my grubby hands on the successor to the PSP. While our time at Sony’s booth included hands-on demos with PlayStation 3 games, the new PlayStation TV, and even some 3D action, the bulk of our rushed visit was spent trying out Vita. If there was one game that truly showed off the potential of the PS Vita, it was WipEout 2048.

Going into E3 I was initially concerned that Vita would dumb-down, or be more focused on the iPad generation. WipEout 2048 blends the new touch screen, rear touch surface, onboard cameras, and PS3 connectivity to provide a highly advanced version of Sony’s popular franchise. Beyond the new features, the raw graphical horsepower of Vita allows Sony’s Liverpool Studio to create a WipEout game that looks as good as any that has appeared on the PS3.

Stuart Lovegrove, technical director for WipEout, demonstrated some of the new touch screen features, allowing you to fire weapons by simply tapping the screen, and the ability to steer your gravity-defying vehicle by tilting the handheld device. This particular feature took me quite a while to figure out (although that’s not saying much as I spent about 15 minutes with the game), but Lovegrove seemed to have a real grip on driving his vehicle without any buttons.

I joined Lovegrove and Mr. Bishop for a three-way match, both of us PSU staffers played on Vitas while Lovegrove played on the PS3. This new layer of connectivity is going to make a huge difference for PlayStation fans. Not only is the concept great, but it works perfectly in practice. WipEout 2048 plays just like any other WipEout, in fact, it reminds me of some of the earlier installments in the franchise. The demo had us race through a recreated city skyline, over tall buildings, jumping over bridges and onto different layers of tracks.

In our short time with the game we could see the almost ridiculous detail put into the graphics. The task of competing at such high speeds is extremely exhilarating, but I also enjoyed simply watching others compete so I could take in the sharp graphics. It’s a technophile’s dream wrapped into a package that comfortably fits into your hands. When you mash together the game’s new features via Vita’s capabilities, the stunningly sharp and robust graphics, and the incredibly smooth gameplay, you have a must buy when Vita is finally released to the public. It’s hard to believe the game we played at E3 can be improved, but as we were shown an early version, I can’t wait to see what the game is like at launch.