WipEout 2048 Preview – Back to the Future!
Written Tuesday, December 20, 2011 By Lee BradleyView author's profile
The inspiration for Wipeout 2048's most interesting feature came not from the game's racing rivals, nor from its respected history, but instead from a board game. Mocked up with paper and dice by the devs, this most digital of racers is born from the most analogue of sources.
At an early stage in the project's life, one of the bosses at Sony Liverpool approached the Wipeout 2048 design team and said, “I've promised everyone an online campaign.” It was a grand sounding promise, exciting even, but one that the team were ill-prepared to respond to. “What the fuck is an online campaign?,” they asked. The boss didn't know.
Rather than just sit and scratch their heads, however, the Wipeout 2048 devs got to work. Sitting down with just some paper, a pencil and dice, they prototyped an online multiplayer component that allows you to work on your own narrative, while competing within everyone else's. That exact same component now exists in the game.
What this means in practicality is that each player has a string of challenges to work through, unbeknownst to their rivals. The first few may just ask you to finish a race, or avoid coming last, but as you progress they ramp up significantly, eventually tasking you with taking out a particular rival, or winning while destroying a competitor in a unique fashion.
These targets exist for everyone on the track. So whether you've pumped hours into the game or are playing it for the first time, there is something for every player, regardless of skill level. You may be a low-level player tasked with hassling an experienced pro, or you could be a vet who needs to destroy three competitors and win the race. It's a neat little trick. They may not have known it immediately, but that's what the fuck an online campaign is.
Elsewhere and Wipeout 2048's multiplayer mode has more evidence of neat design. The futuristic racer is set to provide cross-platform play that allows players to go head-to-head with those at home playing Wipeout HD on PlayStation 3. Rather than an across-the-board compatibility, however, this function is instead confined to a selection of tracks.
With just a flick of a button on the menu you can access the courses shared across both games. Another flick and you're competing against people on the Vita's big bro, the PS3. It worked flawlessly when we tried it, but then perhaps that's not surprising considering the lab conditions in which it was tested. Regardless, it's a mighty impressive piece of functionality.
Indeed, the only minor concern is the advantage offered to PS3 players in this situation. For as refreshing it is to have two analogue sticks on the Vita, their diminutive size means they are still no match for a Dualshock 3. Perhaps that's even more reason to herald the approach taken by the online campaign.
Despite the two game's overlapping content it's important to understand that 2048 is a very different beast to HD. The series' trademark anti-gravity racing may remain largely the same, but the effect of shifting the timezone back to a less distant future actually has a noticeable effect on the way it feels.
It's all about speed. What Wipeout has done since its inception in 1995 is convince you that you're travelling at ridiculous, breakneck pace. Sony Liverpool feel that by taking the franchise further and further into the future, they have abstracted the environments to such a degree that you are no longer able to relate to them in a meaningful way.
So in 2048 you have roads and cars and lampposts and such. You now have a frame of reference for the shapes whizzing past your eyes. Hurtling up a skyscraper and then plummeting down towards a busy pavement has a dangerous thrill that fizzy, blurry, colourful shapes could never hope to replicate.
It's not a revolutionary development, certainly, but it does breathe new life into Wipeout, refreshing the look and feel of the project considerably. Series that run for this long often struggle to be distinctive. Wipeout 2048 has no such problems.
It helps that the game is incredibly attractive, perhaps the most compelling argument yet that a Vita constitutes a PS3 in your pocket. It's crisp and clear and clean and smooth, with draw distances that stretch long into the distance. It may not be running at 60fps, but this is certainly one of the best-looking games on the system.
It sounds pretty good too, with a pulsing selection of electronica to push you through each race. Pleasingly, the soundtrack features both The Prodigy and The Chemical Brothers, a tip of the hat to the series' roots. In 1995, the inclusion of One Love and Chemical Beats was nothing short of a revelation.
Indeed, the way that Wipeout 2048 intends to thread the past, present and future together shows that Sony Liverpool see this as far more than just another Wipeout game. From the online mode sketched out according to old-school design principles, to the campaign that overlaps with the original Wipeout's very first race, this is a game that knows where it has come from and where it's going.
Without a whiff of handheld compromise, Wipeout 2048 is an exciting prospect.