Wipeout 2048 is a futuristic racing game developed and published by Sony. It released in February 2012 as a launch title for the PlayStation Vita. Wipeout 2048 was later included in a compilation for the PS4 called Wipeout Omega Collection that released in June of 2017. I played the Vita version in 2020.
After becoming an adult, racing games became really boring. I already drive a car around in real life — why would I want to do that in a game? The only exception was Mario Kart, just because its tracks are so imaginative… and because it’s physically impossible to outgrow Mario Kart.
Turns out, all I needed was a new vehicle to pilot. After playing F-Zero on the SNES Classic last year, I realized that there’s a Sci Fi solution to my racing apathy. You could say that F-Zero and Wipeout are fraternal twins – one by Nintendo, and one by Sony. Both are built around a sense of speed, with creative tracks and unforgiving memorization required for the higher difficulty levels. Wipeout has a bit of Mario Kart peppered on top, though, as there are “combat” mechanics, where you find random weapons to use on enemies to slow them down… or blow them up entirely.
Wipeout 2048 is a prequel to all the other games in the series, showcasing a world in transition from our recognizable 21st Century to a futuristic techno utopia. The tracks take you through both city subways and up through the clouds. The visuals are so detailed, my eyes have to rest and blink a bit once a race is done — they processed so much information in such little time. That being said, the gorgeous and grungy backdrops sometimes make for some unclear tracks. Occasionally it can be hard to guess what is a road, what is a turn, and what is the side railing.
The controls are fluid and responsive; it’s classic “easy to pick up, but hard to master” gameplay. And gliding effortlessly through the courses gives a wonderful sense of freedom and danger. I loved getting through some tough turns or making juuust the right angle through a series of boost pads. That being said, the later parts of the game took quite a bit of practicing and memorization in order to beat. If you’re okay with repeating a track again and again to get it right, you’ll enjoy this game. I found this the perfect kind of difficulty – enough to make you improve your skills, but not so punishing that I felt discouraged from trying again. Other people might find that tedious, though. And in that case, this game probably isn’t for you.
Most racing modes feature the standard race, where you have to get a certain placement (usually at least 3rd) and there are some weapons there for light combat. The weapons never felt very reliable, so for the standard races I could get by just fine ignoring them. But then there were “combat-focused” races, where placement didn’t matter, I just had to eliminate a certain number of other racers. These were more tedious than the actual “hard” races. My favorite mode, though, was Zone mode. In this mode, you just have to survive a track for as long as possible while your ship continually speeds up.
Unfortunately, the online multiplayer for Wipeout 2048 has long since passed. Sony shut down the servers years ago, so I couldn’t determine what online play was like.
My last gripe is the loading times. I get that these are beautiful courses on a tiny system, but having load times of 30 seconds or more almost defeats the purpose of a handheld racing game.
Wipeout 2048 is not as accessible or creative as Mario Kart, but it becomes quite relaxing once you learn the ropes. It’s better than Mario Kart 7, and it almost reaches the same level as Mario Kart 8 Dx. It’s a shame that the studio that made these games got closed, because I’d be very interested in a sequel to this. But maybe that just means I should go through the back catalog and play those instead, right?