WipeOut for the next PS generation
Sony's long-running WipeOut series has regularly featured as a launch title for many of the company's consoles. This trend will continue with WipeOut 2048 for the new PlayStation Vita hardware, the successor to the PSP. Studio Liverpool's latest science fiction racing game promises PS3-standard graphics and a new look at the WipeOut universe.
WipeOut 2048 is a prequel to the other titles in the series and shows off the early days of these anti-gravity racing machines. Races take place in real locations instead of the neon-drenched WipeOut circuits that fans might be more used to. This makes for an interesting visual style which contrasts real-world landmarks with the insane speed of these futuristic racing machines. One level shown at E3 this year took place in New York City, the circuit sweeping between buildings at ground level, before spiralling up through the high-rise skyscrapers of the famous skyline. The game also builds up to the beginnings of the original WipeOut series, with the final race taking place on the Altima VII track, the first circuit of the very first game in the franchise.
Vita graphics shine, even with lower framerate
The graphical fidelity in WipeOut 2048 keeps up the high standards that have become expected from this series, regardless of the hardware on which it is running. The game is one of the best looking Vita titles with detailed models and textures and superb dynamic lighting which is almost on par with some PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 games. The only major limitation on the PS Vita hardware is the framerate. WipeOut 2048 might have just as much detail as WipeOut HD on PS3 but it only runs at 30FPS to HD's 60FPS – half the framerate. It is difficult to say how much this will affect the gameplay, but the series relies heavily on speed so it might be slightly more difficult to stay focussed on the track in the PS Vita game.
As well as the change in visual style, Studio Liverpool has made many efforts to adapt the WipeOut gameplay to the unique control interface offered by PlayStation Vita, including the touch-screen and rear touchpad. The touch-screen can be used for firing weapons and absorbing weapons, which restores some of your ship's energy. The rear touchpad is used to control acceleration. 2048 will even make use of PS Vita's microphone in order to use particular weapons which are voice activated. Some of these controls will be optional, though it is not yet clear if all of them will be. It is important that the game makes use of all of the PS Vita features as it is a first-party launch title. However, Sony also needs to be careful not to alienate hardcore WipeOut fans with too many control gimmicks.
Competing against old-timers
Multiplayer will also be a key focus for this title, including cross-platform online play with some (but not all) of the circuits featured in WipeOut HD and WipeOut HD Fury on the PlayStation 3. PS Vita players may be at a very slight disadvantage in these races due to the previously mentioned difference in framerate. However, the footage of the cross-platform play shown at E3 demonstrated the competitors on both platforms were able to have close races and this bodes well for any other PS Vita titles which take advantage of cross-platform play in the future.
In addition to the cross-platform multiplayer, 2048 will also have its own modes unique to the title. Amongst the traditional racing modes found in previous WipeOut games, there will be some objective-based racing in order to allow rookie players to feel a sense of progression, even if they aren't initially doing well against more seasoned WipeOut fans. Objectives could vary from critically damaging a certain number of opponents, to performing a barrel roll, or staying on the highest route through the track for a complete lap. Hopefully this will make races more dynamic and engaging than they are at present on the PlayStation 3 version of WipeOut which is mostly populated with series veterans, making races very difficult for newcomers.
WipeOut 2048 is shaping up to be a fantastic launch title for the PS Vita. We just hope that the controls of the game will not feel too gimmicky, but if all goes as well as planned, this is going to be one of the must-have titles for the new handheld. After all, it wouldn't really be a true PlayStation console launch without a WipeOut game to support it.