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Vita beater: Wipeout 2048 is Sony's essential launch game

Uncharted may be the obvious purchase for your day one Vita, but Studio Liverpool's latest Wipeout game has shown the future of core mobile. Buy now or be damned, says Patrick Garratt.

There's a brightness to it, a retro tinge compared to the other games that hints at bally ho rocket fantasy, of tea and cucumber sandwiches next the fusion fire.

I can't put it down. Wipeout 2048 is Studio Liverpool's Vita launch game and one of the most enjoyable in the entire series. The team has gone to such an effort to drill as much power as possible from Vita that the result is technically akin to Wipeout HD - a silken future racer with enough content and competitive features to justify buying it right now.

I don't want to put it down. I've always been attracted to Wipeout by the future grime, the quasi-Asian team insignia, the Cold Storage breaks. I don't think I've ever been drawn into the Wipeout world as much I have been with 2048, however. This is a prequel, the early days of hover-combat and the beginnings of mankind's transition from F1 to mach speed deathmatch. There's a brightness to it, a retro tinge compared to the other games, that hints at bally ho rocket fantasy, of tea and cucumber sandwiches next the fusion fire.

Liverpool has nailed the controls this time. Wipeout games can go either way; the early PlayStation efforts were maddeningly hard, in that any collisions with the side of the course - frequent, given the speed - cost you dear. Following in the vein of the superb Wipeout HD, the balance in 2048 is perfect. Courses allow fluidity without ever feeling obtuse, and the stick control on Vita coupled with the game's trademark airbreak on generously wide tracks promotes a thrilling feeling of accomplishment. The "one more go" is deadly in 2048.

Thanks to Vita's always-onism and easily digestible play time, you'll find handheld Wipeout a difficult habit to break. It has a competitive system similar to Criterion's Autolog, meaning you can check times and scores on any track against friends or globally. I've been locked in mortal combat with VG247 reader BeardyBrave for the past few weeks: every time we beat each other we're pushed to play more. He was particularly excited at having completed the 2049 final "after 90 minutes of swearing and turning my fingers to bloody stumps". He'll be pleased to know I've just bested him in the Unity Square speed lap by 0.79 seconds.

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"The future of racing." I'm not arguing.

Single-play is a set of races, combat runs, time trials and the neon trippiness of the zone levels, in which the idea is to keep going for as long as possible. These were included in Wipeout HD and are so inarguably beautiful, whizzing stutterlessly along with Cold Storage thumping away on Vita's immaculate speakers, that I often play them just to look at them.

There are three seasons laid out on a map: 2048, 2049 and 2050. These range from 14 to 20 challenges (I think - I haven't finished 2050). Added to this are single challenge events laid out in rows by class. Wipeout ships are classed up to A, the fastest hardware. A class is bloody hard, as are the final challenges. I've still got at least a third of the single-player content left to check out.

I've hardly looked at the online stuff. There are 16 strings of objectives on the multiplayer campaign map. Getting a game was a bit hit and miss this morning, which I hope isn't going to be a running issue, but I later got into a lengthy group session and was blown away by the suite. It's fully featured online play, with scores, leader boards, levelling, rewards and all the rest. It's fun. There's no doubt I'm going to be here for months.

Wipeout 2048 cannot be overlooked. I've been playing Uncharted: Golden Abyss as well, and I'm just not as engaged. Bend's Drake adaptation is a faultless production that does well in showing off Vita's inputs, but being able to play something like 2048 on a handheld is, for me, the realisation of a dream. If this is the future of mobile gaming, you can sign me right up.

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