In 1995 my mind was blown. The original Playstation had not been out very long, and three dimensional gameplay was truly born. Racing games had an obvious progression from the sprite based or top down racers, but behind vehicle polygonal racers was a natural progression heralded by Virtua Racing. This new world was exciting, but nothing could be more exciting than high speed ship racing around futuristic tracks seen only in dreams.
Wipeout was made even more special for me due to a trip to Duxford Imperial War Museum. Around this time they had a flight simulator cinema – four or five rows of seats which moved as a unit to a Eurofighter 2000 training exercise. That was good, but they had an alternative showing – Space Race. Space Race was a ride developed by Showscan ride developed to run at 60fps which back then looked spectacular (you can watch it on YouTube here: http://youtu.be/0_BIa17R3pE). From seeing this to being able to play Wipeout really moved gaming into a new generation for me.
Yet as good as Wipeout was, it was hard. Really hard. Too hard for me as a youngster, I kept crashing into the side. It was Space Race in idea if not execution. Wipeout 2 upped the franchise a notch with improved handling and features, with 3 and later Fusion cementing the series as one of the great racing IPs. Six years later I picked up Wipeout HD on PS3 – at 1080p and 60fps it was perfect Wipeout, the Wipeout of my dreams. Shortly after however my Playstation went to gaming heaven and it was farewell once more.
On the run up to Playstation 4 release I purchased a Vita after being impressed by the Remote Play functionality in a GAME store. It came with a number of free games, one of which was Wipeout 2048. Yet for some reason I didn’t play it until a few weeks ago. Why didn’t I? No idea, but it turns out that I have been missing out as it is so unbelievably good that I finally can live out that excitement of Space Race wherever I want.
Wipeout 2048 on Vita looks fantastic and plays great. A host of control options let you pilot your ship to your preference and the vita screen really accentuates the crispness and the speed of the visuals. Constantly smooth, the action is relentless as you’re airbraking for turns and pushing tight into them to shave seconds off laptimes.
A pass ranking unlocks the next career track and a further more difficult objective reveals greater rewards. Scoreboards for friends and the rest of the world are well populated despite no longer a very active online community (judging from my inability to get a multiplayer race) but this doesn’t hinder my enjoyment. In fact, besting year old times from my pals is quietly exciting. Whilst they may not care nor will check and see, I can revel in content that I was able to push myself to a split second asychronous victory over them.
The Vita’s sleep mode is a real plus for this. I can instantly get into a zone mode – where the ship just gets faster and faster until you explode. Colours change and pulse along with the music as I find myself sitting openly completely entranced in this experience oblivious to the world around me. This is what Wipeout does best and the Vita is the perfect swansong for it.
How I didn’t play this years ago is beyond me. Yet it’s still available now and for a cheap price – one of the finest racing games ever, perfected over years and supported by present day tech and features to deliver an unmissable racing experience; one that ironically I nearly missed.