|System: PS Vita|
|Dev: SCE Studio Liverpool|
|Release: February 15, 2012|
|Screen Resolution: N/A||Fantasy Violence|
by Sean Engemann
Sony's long-standing anti-gravity racing series is gearing up for another launch into the stratosphere. Like previous titles, WipEout 2048 provides an insanely fast rip through unbelievable tracks and has you pummeling your opponents with all manner of weapons while trying to finish first. Yet after eight entries to the sixteen-year-old series, the same old formula may be wearing thin even for devout fans. Fortunately, the PS Vita's slew of new control features will be doing their best to bring a fresh approach to this iteration. Developer SCE Studio Liverpool is also changing a few gameplay parameters and taking full advantage of the system's online functionality.
Despite the title's allusion to a futurist racing romp, chronologically the game is first in line, where the anti-gravity sport is just getting off the ground (no pun intended). Taking the backdrop from a suggested representation of New York City in 2048, players will find more concrete and natural environments than in all the previous games combined. Reworking the city streets into high velocity race tracks, the starting line is at ground level, where players will weave in between buildings. Eventually, though, you'll transition into loftier levels. As the tracks move upwards along the skyscrapers and into the wild blue yonder, the technology moves into the more expected light bridges and machinery.
There will be ten unique tracks to master and twenty different ships to choose from, although no information has been divulged about ship customization or pilot-swapping. An upgrade to the track design for WipEout 2048 is the overall width, which has been extended to allow for more versatility and breathing room, but serves mainly to intensify the dogfights between racers.
Piloting your ship will be a whole new experience on the PS Vita, as it takes full advantage of the alternative control schemes. The rear touchpad will act as the vehicle's accelerator–holding your fingers to the back will speed up, and releasing will slow down. Handling can be accomplished using the built in Sixaxis motion-sensing technology, where tilting the Vita—like using a steering wheel—will turn your craft in that direction. The front touchscreen is mapped with your weapon controls. Touching the right side of the screen will fire your weapons, and touching the left side will absorb any damage being dealt by opponents. However, should you feel the need to express yourself vocally, you can also launch your weapons by shouting into the system's microphone. Some gamers may be familiar with the Sixaxis controls from WipEout HD on the PS3, but those who fear the exclusion of the analog stick can breathe easy—2048 still offers a traditional control style.
SCE Studio Liverpool is one of the few launch title developers making use of Sony's cross-platform gaming experience. Being called "CrossPlay," tracks from WipEout HD and the expansion pack, Fury, can be uploaded onto the PS Vita, where players can compete against each other on either system. 2048 will also have a full online campaign, complete with mission objectives. These goals are designed to keep green players from becoming too frustrated with playing against seasoned racers; they offer alternative successes other than having you place first. Simply finishing in the upper tier may be enough to grant you a pat on the back and move your campaign forward.
Trophies and plenty of unlockables will be yours to snag. There are even some fun little diversions with the Augmented Reality feature, where ships can pull up and park on your carpet, table, or other interesting places you can find.
One element that has become synonymous with the series is the techno beats pumping you through the race, all brought forth by licensed, original artists. From the gameplay footage and trailers I've perused, the remixed soundtrack for WipEout 2048 has a great tempo for the fast-paced action, as well as a good mix of treble and bass. With a few of the past games, the soundtrack tends to get a little too liberal with the high notes in places, causing players to crank down the volume to avoid headaches. I don't think my earbuds will do justice for this version, however, so I may have to pick up some new Bose headphones to really feel the vibes.
The WipEout series may be as old as the original PlayStation, but SCE Studio Liverpool seems to be taking the right steps in keeping things fresh without drastically changing what has kept it a staple in the Sony racing repertoire. Unless we get word of an eleventh hour production delay, WipEout 2048 will be available alongside the PS Vita, as will its cross-platform and online functionality.
Date: January 16, 2012