Giant Bomb Review

21 Comments

WipEout 2048 Review

3
  • VITA

The pieces of a tremendous Wipeout game are present in 2048, but it's hard to look past the game's annoying interface, wicked-long load screens, and underwhelming sense of speed.

2048 is capable of producing some awesome static images.

Wipeout 2048 brings the popular and long-running future-racing franchise to Sony's new PlayStation Vita. The action and the basic modes are mostly intact and it offers a passable number of options for the price. But it can be hard to look past the game's technical issues, which include insane pre-race load times and a frame rate that tends to rob the traditionally breakneck hover racer of its sense of speed. Toss in a UI that's a little too slick for its own good and you end up with something a little more ho-hum than you might be expecting.

As the name might tell you, the game opens in 2048. But in case you haven't internalized the Wipeout timeline by this point, it'd help for you to know that this is the earliest entry in the series, fictionally speaking. It covers 2048 to 2050, but the first Wipeout game is set in 2052. The upshot of all this is that the game's tracks are designed to look a little more like sectioned-off parts of a future city instead of race tracks built specifically for anti-gravity racing. It's sort of a minor distinction that mostly boils down to "you will see buildings and other city-like structures along the sides of the game's 10 tracks." But this at least gives the game a centralized focus and jumping-off point, aesthetically. The team list looks a lot like Wipeout XL's, so you'll unlock and control vehicles from Feisar, AG Systems, Qirex, Auricom, and Pirhana. Each team has four different ship types that unlock as you earn experience points in events, giving you access to ships balanced in favor of speed, handling, or combat. The fourth ship for each team is a "prototype" ship that has unique features. The Feisar prototype, unlockable once you reach level 10, increases its top speed every time you fly over a boost pad, potentially giving it the fastest top speed around if you can keep it from crashing into too many walls. I ended up sticking with the Feisar Speed for most of the game, but in the combat mode you'll probably need something a little tougher.

The game's primary mode is a single-player campaign that gives you a grid of events. It looks like a shinier version of the Ridge Racer 6 grid, and it doesn't give you enough information. All the grid shows is the type of event. So you'll know if the next thing is a race, a combat event, and so on. But you won't see which track it's on or what your goal on the track is until you tap into the event. This isn't a huge deal on its own, but the game doesn't have a custom race (what Wipeout HD called "racebox") mode to let you build your own events. Want to practice a track? Unless you've opened up the hot lap events that have you racing alone on a track against your ghost, you'll need to clumsily fumble around the campaign menu until you find the right track. The races you need to beat to unlock the prototype vehicles are "hidden" on the map, forcing you to scroll around the grid in search of discolored areas that pop out when you rub the rear touch panel.

An in-game photo mode lets you carefully take the screenshot of your dreams.

The actual racing isn't dramatically different from Wipeout's past. By default, the game uses a friendlier control scheme that gives you one air brake button that works in both directions, rather than giving you separate air brakes on the triggers. You can swap that default scheme out for the more traditional Wipeout controls or opt for one that uses the Vita's tilt control. You can side shift and bust out barrel rolls and, if you're feeling crazy, you can tap up on the right stick to spin around and drive in the opposite direction. This little move comes in handy when playing combat events online, since players seem to like to just drive up and down the same small stretch of track, grabbing weapons and blasting each other quickly. It feels like they're probably grinding out XP in an attempt to climb the game's long ladder and unlock all the optional events and ships.

When you're playing alone, the racer AI feels a little rubber-banded to keep things close, but the game's default goals don't start out too difficult. Some of the early races require you to finish sixth out of eight racers. That's... not so hard. But as you go deeper into the campaign, the minimum goal gets tougher and the races get faster. Finishing third in the 2050 races can get pretty tricky. In the event that you can't scrape by, the game will ask you if you want to skip an objective after a few failures. This usually happened in race events. Stuff like the combat mode and the great-looking zone mode aren't especially difficult, even at higher levels. You'll also find some optional events, and these usually lead you to trophies, provided you can get the top goal in an event, which usually requires you to finish first or double the normal goal. The eventual task in the campaign is to get an "Elite Pass" on every event, which won't be easy.

Personally, I'd take a big sacrifice in image quality if it meant getting the frame rate up. This is Wipeout! Speed is everything!

Online, the game gives you a campaign and a different grid to light up, but here you're fed objectives that apply to any event on any track, rather than forcing players into different player matching buckets. The objectives are fairly simple, usually just asking you to "finish the event" at the lower levels. Between races, the players (up to 8) in your game vote between two different track/event combos. Combat seemed to get the most votes during my time online, but again, I suspect that's because players were attempting to grind out levels. Or, at least, I hope that was the case, because it's hard to imagine those other people having any lasting fun by playing the same short, boring combat events over and over again. At least the whole thing has great music, with a soundtrack featuring The Prodigy, The Chemical Brothers, Deadmau5, Noisia, Underworld, and more.

If the 2048-specific multiplayer isn't your speed, perhaps the cross-play will be. This lets you get at a few tracks and crafts from Wipeout HD and play with PlayStation 3 players. Unlike the easy player-matching of the 2048 online campaign, though, playing in the cross-play portion of the game requires you to choose a class and track up-front, before the search even begins. It's a pretty neat idea that'd be cool to see make its way into more games. It's also worth noting that, as of this writing, all of the online servers that power the leaderboards and player matching across all modes appear to be down. The game was working fine prior to the US "early" launch and I was able to get in with players from other regions and play a bunch of multiplayer, so hopefully this will all be fixed and behind us shortly.

The things you want from a Wipeout game are here, but they're surrounded by a bunch of caveats. The UI to get into a race, as mentioned, is pretty poor and needs more options. The load times, even though a patch was put out to shorten them, are ridiculously lengthy. And once you're in-game, you'll find that, even under the best of circumstances, the game just doesn't feel fast enough. The frame rate is usually pretty stable, but it's stable at a lower rate that makes all the action look choppy and feel sluggish. Add in a bunch of other racers and have them all firing weapons and you'll find that even this less-than-ideal frame rate takes a noticeable hit. With these problems, the whole thing is effectively neutered. The assets are often wonderful, but the execution is decidedly lacking.

Jeff Gerstmann on Google+
21 Comments
Posted by Twinsun

Wipeout is still wipeout it seems.

Posted by Zanetsu

Those load times were loooooong.

Online
Posted by DJmizuhara

Jeff must be piss poor at Wipeout, "underwhelming sense of speed." Hmmm...When racing in 2050 A+ the races are stupid fast and sluggish doesn't even come into. Watch these videos and you'll see that wipeout2048 isn't slow.

Posted by MormonWarrior

Finally, I can take the screenshot of my dreams.

I guess I technically own WipEout HD/Fury since I got them free with Sony's Welcome Back promotion, but I don't have a PS3 anymore...if I were to pick up a PSP would Pulse still be worth playing?

Posted by berva

User Interface is fine, I think its as good as any other Wipeout game. You lost me on the sense of speed, in fact I doubt you have even finished the single player content as the speed is ridiculous in some of the later events.

Load times are long and the patch knocked off around 5 seconds per load but it's hardly a deal breaker.

Also the frame rate is fine for me, hardly ever slowed down and I have played a lot. I'm playing the digital version of the game if that makes any difference in frames not sure.

I consider this right at the top of the PS Vita launch line up along with Lumines. In all honesty I think you spoilt by choice and it shows in this average review.

Edited by MormonWarrior

@DJmizuhara: Um...all those videos look kind of slow-paced, especially if they're the fastest ones and even though they're tricky. I see exactly what Jeff's talking about now - thanks!

You know what game had an almost nauseating sense of speed? F-Zero GX. More developers could learn from that game.

Posted by Curufinwe

It's also worth adding to the flaws mentioned in the review that you can't customize the controls like you can in Wipeout HD.

I'm gonna wait and hope for a 60 fps version on the PS3.

Posted by ZeroCast

Man this is like 2005 all over again. When Wipeout Pure came out for the PSP.

Posted by TwistedGamer

they say that the load time will be patched in a title update fyi

Posted by dezvous

@berva: I think Jeff equates most of that sense of speed to the lack of a rock solid frame rate, or a higher one at that. But I agree with you, even in the quick look I thought the game looked fast. Sense of speed didn't seem to take a real hit, it just isn't as smooth as Wipeout on the PS3.

Oh well. Still is an awesome game.

Posted by PandaShake

@DJmizuhara: That looks sweet. I couldn't see any frame rate issues during the live stream either. Are you on digital or cart? Maybe that could make a difference.

Posted by cavemantom

@MormonWarrior said:

Finally, I can take the screenshot of my dreams.

I guess I technically own WipEout HD/Fury since I got them free with Sony's Welcome Back promotion, but I don't have a PS3 anymore...if I were to pick up a PSP would Pulse still be worth playing?

Pure and Pulse are still two of the best PSP games.

Edited by HarlequinRiot

@MormonWarrior said:

@DJmizuhara: Um...all those videos look kind of slow-paced, especially if they're the fastest ones and even though they're tricky. I see exactly what Jeff's talking about now - thanks!

You know what game had an almost nauseating sense of speed? F-Zero GX. More developers could learn from that game.

God, F-Zero GX was amazing. I've always felt the Wipeout games were "slow" too (not easy, by any means, though; also I don't just mean speed wise). The cars just feel really heavy with too much of an emphasis momentum and weight (the cars feel like they're practically stuck to the track). I much prefer the more twitchy feel of F-Zero. I got Wipeout HD for free with the Welcome Back offer thinking I'd love it since F-Zero is one of my favorite franchises, but it just didn't do it for me. It looks incredible though and the music is pretty sweet.

Posted by project343

@MormonWarrior: The Wipeout footage provided looks faster than that. Maybe it's all the environments flashing by really quick. But F-Zero looks super easy to follow.

Posted by Addfwyn

A reasonably fair review, since as with any review, it's largely opinion based and I certainly can't say an opinion is wrong, per say. The load times are indeed long, but I never understood why some games get raked over the coals for technical issues and some games get a huge pass (looking at you, every game ever made by Bethesda). I'm in the category that every company should be held to task for bugs, incomplete games, and technical issues so I'm glad that the game gets called out for poor load times. Hopefully they will be patched further in the future, as that is by far the game's biggest issue.

Interface and sense of speed...well, I can't say I ever had a problem with them. I suppose the interface is up to an individual, but I am a bit confused by the sense of speed comment. The game feels blazingly fast, almost excessively so at times. It does start a bit slower than a typical Wipeout game, but once you put some time into it things really ramp up. Unless I just misunderstand his english and he means it starts off slower, which is a fair point. The lack of a race box is a fair point as well, and maybe the biggest gameplay feature that the game is missing. However, with that being the only real notable lack vs its console counterparts, it's a pretty awesome package altogether.

Posted by Imsorrymsjackson

I have been playing this game pretty well stop for a few days and I completely agree with the review. All the points are fair and people will see when they play it for a prolonged period themselves.

Posted by Rekt_Hed

Well that's a shame. What I saw in the quicklook kinda echoes in this review. Looks like its time to make a new custom soundtrack for without hd and just play more of that :)

Posted by Blackhebrew2

If I were ever to get a PS Vita at launch, this would be the game of choice for me.

Posted by igl

How is it compared to HD/Fury? They made it even slower? Thanks casual crowd. We love you.

Posted by Orbitz89

I'm a little confused as to how exactly loading times can be long on a Cartridge.. but I guess Sony found a way.

Posted by BisonHero

@project343 said:

@MormonWarrior: The Wipeout footage provided looks faster than that. Maybe it's all the environments flashing by really quick. But F-Zero looks super easy to follow.

I agree that the track is easy to follow in that video, but those 2 tracks are in the easiest cup in the game. And it's besides the point: yes, the environments flash by quickly in F-Zero, and that's how you give a sense of speed.

The Wipeout series has never felt especially fast to me. Sure, the tracks can require you to move your vehicle around precisely to boost pads or item pads and you have a narrow window of time to do that in, but despite the futuristic setting, I get a terrible sense of speed or scale. It feels like I'm in a vehicle that's doing about the same speeds as an F1 car does today, on a track whose scale is also comparable to a larger F1 track.

Comparatively, F-Zero has you zipping through these enormous environments, and your vehicle is about the size of an F-16. That scale succeeds in making you feel like you're covering a lot of ground very, very quickly. Wipeout just feels like I'm driving around the same kilometer or two of track over and over. I'm not making any comment on which game is better or takes more skill to play, but F-Zero does a much better job of making everything feel like super fast future racing.