Of all the launch day titles for the Vita, few push the hardware’s GPU quite as much as Wipeout 2048. Visually, it is impressive. The graphics themselves are around the level of late PS2, maybe very early PS3 games, but the impressive part is the detail you can see in the backgrounds while burning through futuristic cities. It is a sight.
But putting aside the look, Wipeout 2048 is the type of game where you hold down the gas and rarely use the brake. Set in…well, 2048 obviously, you race a series of tracks that take you to a variety of futuristic locations. Most are somewhat straight-forward races just set in a fantastic location, while a few of them offer environmental extras (like racing up walls), but these are more for show. They don’t actually change the race mechanics.
Every map offers several routes to take, but most of these are just the choice of going left instead of right, then ending up at the same point. You would think there would be more advantage to these potential shortcuts, but there really isn’t a lot of difference.
Despite the setting, and despite the look, Wipeout 2048 is a traditional racer in the oldest sense of the word. There are plenty of cars to unlock, and a lot of visual customization, but none of it is really necessary, and feels like a later decision to increase the depth of the game. The soundtrack is also decent and filled with electronic hits, some familiar, most not.
The races are all fairly simple, and you should be able to win most easily. Just aim for the boost pads scattered throughout each track, and you’ll do fine. The controls are slick and responsive, and moving through the field is easy — although part of that is due to the nature of the tracks, which feature several long straightaways that are easy to navigate to begin with.
Certain maps also allow the use of weapons, which come to you in the form of pickups scattered along the course. The weapons are actually a low point though, as they rarely seem to do exactly what they should and firing them is more akin to making a wish than tactically executing a strategic move. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.
The game tries to mix it up with things like a career(ish) mode with branching paths to multiple races, and the odd change in gametype from races to things like time trials. But the races are all generally the same: Hold down the accelerator, don’t wreck, and you should win. The races do get progressively harder, but the same strategy tends to see you through most challenges.
The AI is a bit unpredictable at first, and uses the old elastic strategy to catch up. The game tries hard to keep all races fair, so if you are in last you can quickly jump to first. That’s nice, but the opposite is also true, and enemies can pull of miracle comebacks. You can still win easily enough, but you will often be full seconds ahead of an opponent and they will blast right by you. The good news is they are usually easy to catch.
If you are feeling masochistic, you can give the six-axis controls a try and attempt to steer with the Vita. Expect to eat a lot of wall when you do. An interesting gimmick, but not much more.
Now, with all that said, there is a highlight to Wipeout 2048 — the online mode where you can race up to eight players at a time. When you can find a full match, it’s fun. It tends to boil down to who can hit the most boost pads, but it can still be a good time.
Wipeout 2048 is a fun game to look at, and worth a few hours, but there just isn’t much to it. The garage isn’t all that stocked, and while they look great, the tracks are straightforward. All of that makes for a fairly fun game, but a somewhat shallow one too. If you have never played a racer before, you might be impressed with the options. If you have, you’ll probably play this game for a bit, have a decent time, then forget about it.
Score: 7 out of 10
(This game was reviewed on the PlayStation Vita on a copy provided by Sony Computer Entertainment)