E3 2011: Wipeout 2048
QUICKTAKE: Wipeout Pure was not only one of the best launch games for the PSP, it remained one of the finest games on the platform altogether. Sony is hoping to strike gold again with Wipeout for PlayStation Vita. With beautiful graphics, new near-future track designs, and planned connectivity with PS3, Wipeout 2048 has the potential to be the best Wipeout yet.
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THE DEMO: I got to try two tracks: one brand new track for Wipeout 2048, and a classic track from Wipeout HD. Although there are new "casual" controls being developed for the game, as a veteran of the Wipeout franchise, I stuck to the default standard control scheme.
The new track takes place in 2048's new near-future setting. This is the earliest game in the Wipeout timeline, meaning you'll be racing through cities that look closer in appearance to something you'd see in real life today. I also got to play a Wipeout HD level against another racer playing on the PS3.
DETAILS: PlayStation Vita has a beautiful screen, and Wipeout 2048 did an excellent job of showcasing the colors produced by Sony's beautiful high-resolution OLED display. In fact, I'd argue that 2048 was better looking than PS3's Wipeout HD. (It was an easy comparison to make, especially when they were side-by-side, playing the same track.)
But it's not just the Vita's hardware that makes Wipeout 2048 look so good. The art goes a long way in providing a visceral experience that's unique to 2048. Because 2048 takes place in the near-future, things appear a bit grittier than they did in previous games. The New York City level had me racing down the side of a skyscraper, with the city abuzz in the background. Imagine a roller-coaster ride off the Empire State Building that goes through Times Square, and you'll have an idea of what this race felt like.
The amount of visual information to take in is a bit overwhelming. Not only is it the best-looking Wipeout game so far, it's also the busiest. It's easy to miss the many shortcuts hidden throughout the track. More than any previous Wipeout game, the test track I raced featured a lot of branching paths and alternate routes. Finding the best line is definitely going to be key to victory: some shortcuts can significantly cut down your lap time.
Playing Wipeout HD felt almost pedestrian after the visceral race I experienced in Wipeout 2048. The track was a lot more straightforward, and the design didn't seem as in-your-face. (Of course, having already played that level dozens of times in Wipeout HD and Wipeout Pure might account for the feeling of familiarity.) Seeing a PlayStation Vita and PS3 able to play the same game at the same time was definitely novel, and it's something I want to take advantage of once the game comes out. (The HD tracks may not be in the final game, a producer told me. Instead, the tracks may be released as DLC, as only these tracks will be playable cross-platform. The new 2048 tracks will not be released on PS3.)
Wipeout 2048 is currently planned as a Vita launch title, and its polished presentation at E3 makes me confident that it will, once again, become one of the best games on Sony's upcoming handheld. It's hard not to get excited, especially whilst imagining what Wipeout's Zone mode will look like on Vita's gorgeous OLED screen.
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