NOTE: This was initially written from the 1.01 patch that was released very early, which addressed many issues reviewers are talking about, particularly the long load times, which have been drastically reduced to not be that big an issue anymore. I expect the next patch will further reduce load times, so that really isn't a concern for me at this time.
Well, we knew we were getting DLC at some point, but they *really* handed it to us this time, potentially for free if you qualify. The most recent add-on for the game is the entire, complete version of WipEout HD Fury, which was initially solely a PSN title and then made cross-multiplayer possible on the Vita since launch. However, now you can do all of the single-player campaign and everything else, too. If you don't own Fury already, it's a $7.99 upgrade that also gives you the console version to play with. This is a great deal, especially considering that Fury was an expansion to WipEout HD and also If you already own Fury, though, it's a free add-on that adds every bit of the game on the Vita, along with all the Vita tweaks that take advantage of the hardware.
It took a long, long time, but the new DLC is potentially an entirely new experience for new players. Fury's campaign isn't a slouch, nor is the multiplayer or its own Fury-specific mechanics. It's different from the core game, sure, but it's still basically a totally different WipEout game.
Anyone looking for more content can't go wrong with Fury add-on pack for the core game. There's no reason not to get it, because, if you already own Fury, it's a free update so you can now play on the go, should you choose it. If you don't yet have Fury, then you've got a whole new campaign to play through, along with every Fury track, ship, and campaign to go with it. It's pretty much an entirely new game with the add-on pack.
1.02 has been out for quite some time now, with some talk of future DLC, the content of which has not been officially announced to my knowledge, if it happens at all. For anyone who still was frustrated by the load times even after 1.01 made them at least tolerable, 1.02 nearly halves them. The game now feels like it loads just as fast as any other given racer, console or portable. An initial load of a race is about 20-30 seconds maximum, with retries taking only a few seconds (this is not to be taken for granted, as many racers have the truly awful fault of reloading *everything* from scratch, with the same load times as if you were starting an entirely new race. Considering the unforgiving difficulty that WipEout is known for, this is definitely critical, as you will be restarting very often due to its punishing, yet still fair, difficulty.). Its initial load of the game before you can even pick a mode is also almost nonexistent now. Basically, load times aren't an issue anymore, so everyone can sleep easy on that point.
It should be noted, though, that if you have the digital version of the game instead of the cartridge, load times will have a few seconds added on, just like any other digital version of any game. It's a common myth that loading directly from a memory stick makes for better performance, but the opposite is actually true, due to mandatory data compression. While the idea of not using external media to load data and instead taking it directly from an internal memory would be faster in theory, the truth is that every digital game for consoles or handhelds is released with compressed data to conserve space--without the compression, the amount of space required would be astronomical, and unreasonable. Unlike cartridges, which have little to no compression, digital data has to be decompressed before it can even begin to load, which adds time, and takes away none.
Don't fall for the myth that digital downloads perform better, because the opposite is true. It was true with the PSP as well. If you want the best performance, you want to go with the physical copy. This is pretty much universal for all downloadable games and content.
Besides that, little else has changed besides a couple of minor bug fixes. As for the possible DLC, well, we'll see.
(end of update)
Really, this is *the* WipEout experience, absolutely loaded with content, and a multiplayer component including a "multiplayer campaign" which are all excellent. The multiplayer campaign, gorgeous graphics, thumping soundtrack, ship selection, weapon variety, balance, and general feel are all worth noting as exceeding my expectations.
The use of the camera is also a fun little feature, in which it will take an optional photograph of you before every race, and the top three players are shown with their photographs. If you're camera-shy, you don't have to do this, but I find it very fun.
Also worth noting is the multiplayer campaign aspect of this, which is essentially an extension of the single-player campaign that includes real people instead of AI ships. This is really a beautiful thing, as it is for the most part the single-player experience that you are playing with everyone at the same time. It isn't just a race or a battle--it's a campaign that everyone can participate in, and drop in or out of at any time. The experience system which has become so popular these days is there, so the more you play, the more you get. It's really just a lot of fun to do the campaign with other people instead of the AI.
Also note that cross-platform play is possible with the PS3's WipEout HD Fury, meaning you will never have any shortage of people to enjoy the game with. Further, if someone you know has Fury, but not a Vita and this game, you can play with them without a hitch. Cross-platform multiplayer is always a welcome addition to anything, so this may be very important for people with friends who don't own a Vita, or you simply want to play Fury-specific style.
I have little to complain about, but one thing I dislike is the controls have three schemes only, and aren't fully customizable. At the same time, none feels *quite* right, the closest I can get being the "Racer" scheme. It takes some getting used to. One other complaint I have is that you can't add your own soundtrack a la WipEout Pulse for the PSP, which is a real shame. Pulse, if you don't know already, let you add up to 30 tracks from your memory card to the game, and then let you create your own soundtrack for the game. At the moment, this is not a feature, and you have the in-game soundtrack, which, while still very good, could benefit from more selection that you, yourself, should be able to add like Pulse did.
At the end of the day, though, this is WipEout at its finest, bar none. Its added Vita-specific features are just beautifully done, and a happy surprise for me, since they actually work. The multiplayer in particular stands out as excellent and far beyond my expectations, and the added multiplayer campaign is a joy. There's little to complain about now that the load times have become bearable with the patch, and we can expect them to lessen further in the next one.