'WipeOut 2048'

I've never owned a Sony handheld, but "WipeOut 2048" makes me want to join the club. The no-grav racer series has been rather quiet these past few years, its sole current-generation title ("WipeOut HD") originally released as a PSN-only title. Fortunately, "WipeOut" seems to be speeding around the bend to make every other racer look like a virtual venture into snail-farming.

When I first sat down with the game, vehicle idling, my eyes darted from the protective rail on the side of the track, to the distorted air above the yellow beast's apparent exhaust escapes, to the far-off clouds (not that anything's ever too far off in "WipeOut"). I couldn't decide which looked best. But of course I didn't have to. In my hands was a 5-inch window into the future, and I had a hunch as to where the accelerator was. WipeOut 2048 makes for a great showcase of the PS Vita's horsepower.

And its control, too. Finally, a handheld with dual analog sticks of ample size. Gone is the PSP's low-lying slider. These things stick out. You'll be busy with the left one, as the tracks in "WipeOut 2048" aren't the easiest to negotiate, even before you throw in rivals and their unfriendly fire. Darting over a green pad will stock you with a defensive item (boosts fall in this category), and yellow pads open up the offensive collection - missiles, mines, or area of effect waves of destruction.

Sony is seizing the day with the introduction of cross-platform play, whereby mobile Vita owners on "WipeOut 2048" can face off against their couch-dwelling PlayStation 3 brethren on "WipeOut HD." Up to eight competitors - in any ratio of Vita to PS3 players - can take advantage of this feature from launch day (on a selection of tracks, at least).

It's great to see cross-platform play on day one, rather than as a distant promise of console-integration for Sony fans. If you'll be among the campers staking out for the Feb. 22 launch of the PlayStation Vita, be sure to throw "WipeOut 2048" in your shopping basket - or at the very least, check in on those reviews closer to release time.

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Video Games: 'WipeOut 2048'