European cover art
|Developer(s)||Sony Studio Liverpool|
|Publisher(s)||Sony Computer Entertainment|
Wipeout 2048 is a futuristic racing video game developed by Sony Studio Liverpool and published by Sony Computer Entertainment as a launch title for the PlayStation Vita. It was first released on 19 January 2012 in Japan, and on 22 February 2012 in both Europe and North America. The game is the ninth instalment of the Wipeout series and was the last game to be developed by Studio Liverpool prior to its closure in August 2012. Wipeout 2048 acts a prequel to the first game in the series, and takes places in the years 2048, 2049, and 2050. The game revolves around players piloting anti-gravity ships around futuristic race tracks.
The game was developed alongside the PlayStation Vita console itself, and acted as a "testbed" for the device. Throughout development, members of Studio Liverpool sent feedback to Sony regarding how the game would play on the new console—with some staff affirming that they had directly influenced the design of the device. Among these ideas included a rear touchscreen device and two separate analogue sticks; both were not conceived by Sony at the time and eventually made it onto the console.
Wipeout 2048 caries over some of the technical aspects of its predecessor, Wipeout HD, including downloadable content, online multiplayer, and cross play functionality with PlayStation 3 owners of Wipeout HD. The game received mostly positive reviews upon release; critics unanimously agreed that its graphics and visuals was a showcase for the then-new PlayStation Vita, however its long loading times and minor technical issues were criticised.
Wipeout 2048 is a racing game which involves players piloting anti-gravity ships through various forms of races. It is set in the near future, and relative to previous games, takes place much earlier in the Wipeout timeline, thus making it a prequel. As such, dedicated racing tracks are yet to be built, and so races take place in city streets. The single-player campaign progresses through the first three years of the A.G.R.C. (Anti-Gravity Racing Championships): 2048, 2049, and 2050. There are four types of ships in the game: speed ships, agility ships, fighters, and prototype ships. Speed ships are lightweight, Formula 1-like vehicles which are centred around acceleration and momentum; as such, they are mostly used for speed-orientated game modes such as time trials. Agility ships are compared to rally cars and feature increased manoeuvrability and handling, whereas fighter ships are heavily armoured craft which sacrifice speed for combat power.
The game features a variety of weapons which may only be picked up during a race by flying over different coloured weapon pads. Yellow pads will equip the player with offensive weaponry focused on destroying other races, whilst green pads provide defensive weapons such as mines, shields, or speed boosts. Returning game modes from Wipeout HD includes standard single races, tournaments, time trials, speed laps, and the "Zone" mode; which involves the player's ship automatically accelerating to extreme speeds.
Online multiplayer is similar to the campaign structure, featuring the same form of races and modes that are featured in the single player campaign. Additionally, the game features cross-platform online racing, allowing players from the PlayStation 3 version of Wipeout HD Fury to play the Fury tracks against those on the handheld console. The game also featured downloadable content (DLC); namely the HD/Fury DLC, which offers more tracks and ships for cross play. It was released on 19 June 2012 and also includes the entire campaign from Wipeout HD, with some modifications.
Wipeout 2048 was developed by Liverpudlian developer Sony Studio Liverpool (formerly known as Psygnosis). According to Stuart Lovegrove, Studio Liverpool's technical director, the game was developed in parallel with the PlayStation Vita itself, and had acted as a "testbed" for the console. Lovegrove was aware of the fact that the next Wipeout game was going to be a launch title, and stated that it was something Studio Liverpool had done before. Chris Roberts, the game's director of graphics, tools, and technologies, said Sony Computer Entertainment had involved the Liverpudlian studio early on in the development of the PlayStation Vita hardware, and reflected that they had a "fairly good idea" of what the console's specifications were capable of. Jon Eggleton, former senior artist for the Wipeout franchise, had claimed in a retrospective interview that Studio Liverpool had an influence in the design of the PlayStation Vita itself. When the staff of Studio Liverpool were given development kits for what was then dubbed as a "Next Generation Portable", a group was set up within the Liverpudlian studio to brainstorm hardware details. Among these ideas included the proposal of a touchscreen device, which was not yet conceived by Sony at the time. Eggleton also speculated that the sole reason why the console was released with two sticks was because "Studio Liverpool said it needed two sticks". During the early stages of development of both Wipeout 2048 and the PlayStation Vita, the studio constantly gave feedback on the hardware and libraries to Sony, along with sending updated application code to their firmware staff so that they could test their compilers.
The development team recognised the differences in making a game for the PlayStation Vita as opposed to the PlayStation 3. Lovegrove revealed that designing the game for the PlayStation Vita's smaller screen had made it easier to develop, as it alleviates "old problems" with designing a game targeted for an HD screen, whilst the studio had to ensure that the game in question could run on all resolutions. Roberts agreed with this reasoning, saying that "it's less of a headache for artists" who wanted to tweak lighting effects. When asked about the major differences and commonalities between the PlayStation 3's RSX 'Reality Synthesizer' graphics processing unit (GPU) and the PlayStation Vita's ARM architecture, Roberts said that the "most obvious" difference was the Vita's lack of stream processing units (SPU). In the case of Wipeout HD, Roberts reflected that most of its code contained on SPU was directed towards GPU support, which included features like geometry culling, lighting effects, and rendering. Roberts realised that the GPU and ARM architecture on the PlayStation Vita were more capable and had handled Wipeout 2048 "very well" without any compromise. Lovegrove, who had previously worked with ARM architecture on the BBC Micro, remarked that the team did not have to optimise anything in order to accomplish their goals, and also mentioned that it was enjoyable to see the same architecture running the game.
Although Wipeout 2048 and Wipeout HD share the same shader system and did not require any re-tooling for the Vita's new architecture, Roberts claimed a "great deal" of time and attention was spent fine-tuning the game's shader effects for the Vita's GPU. Lovegrove thought that the methods of working on a PlayStation 3 and its handheld counterpart were the same, and noted it was a sentiment felt generally throughout the rest of the team, whereas Roberts similarly asserted that the similarities of the two systems had helped the team "get moving quickly". In addition to the shader effects, Roberts said the game's lighting system was also identical to that of Wipeout HD's, and disclosed that both of the game's ships shared the same image-based lighting with blended diffuse and specular highlights effects, along with the same same vertex-based lighting system used for weaponry. Roberts revealed that the main differences between the two games was that PlayStation Vita utilised both of those effects via the GPU, as opposed to the PlayStation 3's reliance on SPUs. The team also took the decision to use anti-aliased colour buffers for real-time shadow rendering as opposed to using depth buffers. This technique allowed the game to have greater transparency effects as the memory cost of using anti-aliasing only required 8 bits per pixel, therefore using 4x MSAA (multisample anti-aliasing) buffers contained the same amount of memory as a 32-bit depth buffer. Another feature which Roberts thought had improved over its predecessor was tone mapping—partly due to the PlayStation Vita's superior support for buffer formats—which had resulted in Wipeout 2048 featuring better quality exposure control and bloom effects.
In order to accommodate for the visual fidelity featured in Wipeout 2048, the team had to compromise on frame rate. Roberts recalled that this decision was taken early on in the stages of development, as they initially expected the PlayStation Vita could run existing PlayStation 3 assets at 30Hz. The team used existing code from Wipeout HD as a "starting point" so they were able to make the development process more efficient—the arts and technical teams of Studio Liverpool worked in parallel with each other. Lovegrove echoed that 30 frames per second was always the goal for the game, as the team wanted to prioritise visual quality. In a retrospective interview, Eurogamer acknowledged that Studio Liverpool were one of the first developers to use a dynamic framebuffer on the PlayStation 3—an algorithm which automatically lowers resolution whenever the game's engine is under stress in order to maintain performance and optimise frame rates. Roberts stated that the same technique—known as "resolution throttling"—was carried over from Wipeout HD to Wipeout 2048, stating: "If you are dead set on locking frame-rate and resolution your whole game is (graphically) restricted by the worst-case scenario".
Release and subsequent closure of Studio Liverpool
Wipeout 2048 was released as a launch title for the PlayStation Vita in early 2012. As early as 2010, Sony Computer Entertainment restructured Studio Liverpool as part of a "project prioritisation" of Sony's global assets—as a consequence, several of Studio Liverpool's upcoming projects were cancelled. On 8 August 2012, Sony officially shut down Studio Liverpool as part of an effort to focus on alternative investment plans. At the time of their closure, the Liverpudlian studio was purportedly working on a Wipeout title for the PlayStation 4, along with a Splinter Cell-style game. The unspecified Wipeout game had been in development for 12 to 18 months.
Wipeout 2048 received generally positive reviews upon release. It holds an average score of 79% at Metacritic, based on an aggregate of 63 reviews, and also appeared as Metacritic's twentieth highest ranked PlayStation Vita game of 2012. The game was nominated for the "Best Handheld Game" category at the 2012 Golden Joystick Awards.
Critics unanimously praised the graphics and visuals, and also considered it as a showcase for the PlayStation Vita's power. Cam Shea of IGN enjoyed the game's high level of detail and depth, however he question its visual design, saying that the game's darker environments and cluttered worlds made the tracks unambiguous and less readable. Adam Goodall from Gameplanet opined that the graphics were "stunning" and thought the game featured a "surprising presence" of a pervasive artistic statement, an aspect he considered rare in video games, particularly those in the racing genre. GamesRadar's Kathryn Bailey asserted that the game had superior backdrops than Wipeout HD, and praised the general experience as fast, beautiful and breathless. Despite noting that the environments were its biggest selling point, Bailey did, however, report that the game had a reduced frame rate of 30 frames per second – a "step down" from the franchise's "traditional" 60 frames per second. Simon Parkin of The Guardian praised the "wholly contemporary" track details, and also enjoyed its visual consistency with previous instalments. David Meikleham from the Official PlayStation Magazine stated that the game "brilliantly shows off" the new hardware with its "pretty" lighting effects, solid frame rate, and "gorgeous" colours. Meikleham also acknowledged that Wipeout 2048 was chronologically the first game in the series, and in respect commended the cities' futuristic backdrops. Frédéric Goyon of Jeuxvideo.com liked how the game utilised the PlayStation Vita's OLED screen, admitting that he could saw little difference between the graphical enhancements of Wipeout 2048 and its predecessor, Wipeout HD. In addition, Goyon summarised that the game looked "fluid in all circumstances" and was essentially Wipeout HD on a smaller screen. Digital Spy's Mark Langshaw thought the game was an effective showcase for the PlayStation Vita's "graphical prowess", stating that it features impressive graphics and backdrops that "never fails to impress". However, Langshaw speculated that the advanced graphics were the reason behind the game's excessive loading times.
Regarding the presentation, Heath Hindman from Game Revolution heralded Wipeout 2048 as "visually superb", stating that its ships and environments were constantly impressive and thought the game "really shows off" the PlayStation Vita's graphical power, along with Uncharted: Golden Abyss, another launch title. Hindman remarked that the game's art and track layout also added to its "graphical beauty", especially the futuristic re-imagining of New York City. Despite this, Hindman did note that the game had limitations with sight distance. Peter Willington of Pocket Gamer opined that the game featured the best track design in the series, however he observed that the visuals suffered from aliasing, and thought Wipeout 2048 was "undercutting the point" of Wipeout HD, a PlayStation 3 title. A reviewer from Edge regarded the game's visuals as less exciting than the Wipeout series' typical science fiction setting, although the reviewer had acknowledged that Studio Liverpool "rewinds the timeline" to a less futuristic and more relatable setting. Martin Gaston of VideoGamer.com noted that Wipeout 2048 featured a different—albeit not inferior—aesthetic design compared to the other games, due to it being set in a "closer to home" near-future setting. Gaston also praised the game's "breathtaking" track design and its "ever-impressive layers of flash and spectacle". Dan Ryckert from Game Informer opined that the game's fast paced races "do a good job" of displaying the graphical capabilities of the PlayStation Vita. GameSpot's Mark Walton thought the game's smooth and beautiful visuals gave the player a "real feeling of speed", and further elaborated that the game constantly provides "breathtaking vistas", although he opined that the game lacked somewhat in innovation. Paul Furfari of UGO enjoyed the game's visual style and opined that it was the only showcase for displaying the PlayStation Vita's raw power. Furfari particularly praised the Tron-like visual presentation of the "Zone" mode, along with the game's generally solid frame rate. Dale North of Destructoid similarly declared that the Wipeout series always served as a showcase for the systems they were released on, and opined that Wipeout 2048 made a "nice" launch title for the PlayStation Vita. North emphasised that Wipeout 2048 was a "beautiful game"; stating that it was "as fast and flashy as its predecessors", and "really impresses" on the PlayStation Vita's high-resolution screen, making the ships and futuristic backdrops seemingly "pop right off the screen". Sebastian Haley from VentureBeat asserted that the game adheres to the familiar yet high-standard visual standards set by previous Wipeout instalments, praising the visuals as "crisp" although Haley noted that the game would have benefited from a "slightly braver level design".
The various aspects of gameplay were mostly well received, however the game was notably criticised for its long loading times. Jeff Gerstmann of Giant Bomb noted that the game had technical issues, in particular its "insane" pre-loading times and frame rate which occasionally affected the gameplay and speed of the game, but acknowledged that it was mostly stable. Ian Dransfield from Play praised the game's replay value and multiplayer functions, stating "it’s the sort of game you’ll find yourself coming back to again". Regarding the frame rate, Shea admitted that Wipeout 2048's average of 30 frames per second was not "quite as silky smooth" as Wipeout HD and its Fury expansion pack, which he felt had left fans of the franchise accustomed to 60 frames per second. Shea also labelled thirty second loading times as frustrating, saying "when all you want to do is race". Goodall heavily criticised the loading times, asserting that waiting times for both single player or multiplayer events ran from thirty seconds to a minute — with extreme cases of loading times consisting of ten minutes for online sessions. Although Goodall described the long loading times as "awful", he declared that it was not enough to warrant the game as a failure, and praised the overall gameplay experience as "deeply satisfying". Bailey considered the game's online mode to be well-executed, highly accessible, and a "credit to Wipeout". She also commended its user interface, saying that it appeared clean and "shiny", and also felt that the touchscreen-based menu system was "a pleasure to behold". Bailey summarised that Studio Liverpool opted to experiment around with new ideas, and asserted that the game was "as much about showing off the hardware as much as being a quality racing game". Parkin speculated that the game's technical impediments made it a learning curve for the developers, as he thought they did not intend to reduce the taut manoeuvrability of the PlayStation Vita's analogue stick, in contrast to WipeOut HD. Parkin also criticised the game's protracted loading times, saying that a pause at least twenty seconds too long had a negative effect in the era of "insta-fix mobile gaming on the rival platforms". Meikleham praised the game's balanced difficulty as "consistently excellent", and lauded its long campaign as "surprisingly hefty" as opposed to an "on-the-go time-waster". Goyon thought the general gameplay was simpler than previous instalment and opined that it had not introduced anything new. He did, however, praise the game's lionisation of the PlayStation Vita's gyroscope and touchpad features, as well as commending the "extremely effective" use of the analogue stick. Langhsaw similarly commended the use of the PlayStation Vita's analogue stick as smooth and responsive, though he questioned its accessibility for people unfamiliar to the series. In addition, Langshaw also enjoyed the game's ability to use the console's gyroscope and touchpad as a means of manoeuvring and collecting power-ups, respectively, but stated that it did not offer the same level of accuracy as its physical alternative.
Hindman criticised the loading times, observing that they run in contrast to the game's "wickedly fast races", and complained that they take up to a minute to load each race, with online races taking even longer. Hindman also observed that the game would have benefited from a customisable control configuration, as he thought the three pre-made default setups were not satisfactory. Willington considered the "lengthy" load times as an issue which "plagues" the rest of the game, and also an aspect which he thought was "totally at odds" with the normal pace of usually fast gameplay. Despite this, Willington declared Wipeout 2048 as the best handheld game in the series, as well as praising its "tight" controls and variety of content. Edge's reviewer praised the multiplayer mode, opining that it "adds weight and value to the package" and would bring a "unique slant" to the PlayStation Vita’s online potential. Gaston said that the loading times were "simply unforgivable" and complained that he routinely found himself waiting over fifty seconds in between selecting and starting a race – a negative aspect he considered stalled the ability to comfortably play the game "on the go". Regarding the online multiplayer, Gaston thought it "holds up well" considering the player had a stable Wi-Fi connection. Ryckert thought the game's replay value was moderate, and believed the game's analogue stick use done a "good job" of controlling the ships, but also possessed a noticeable lack of traction. In similar vein to other critics, Walton declared that the long loading times make it infuriating for a handheld game, and felt that having wait more than forty seconds to start a race took far longer than it should. Furfari noticed that the game had among the longest loading times on the PlayStation Vita, however, he did admit it was not a "deal breaker" and opined that Wipeout 2048 was one of the few racing titles on the PlayStation Vita he recommended. Although Haley remarked that the game had "hefty" loading times, he also specified that it was a recurring theme among PlayStation Vita launch titles.
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