Wipeout first started blowing minds on the PS1, way back in 1995, and was in fact multi-platform until Wipeout 3, when it became a Sony-only series. A futuristic racer, the game has always been about high stakes, high-speed action, in elevated tracks that induce as much excitement as the action that plays out upon them.
All of that is still true with Wipeout 2048, an all-new game for Sony's all-new PlayStation Portable followup, the PlayStation Vita. One significant difference, though, is that it's set very early on in the history of the sport, with the developers referring to it as "Season 1", as in, the technology for the anti-grav that supports the ship and the concept of a racing series based around that tech is brand new in this game's timeline.
This core premise flows through every aspect of the title, with the looks of the ships and even the sounds they make designed to be a precursor to the ultra-sleek and extremely futuristic ships seen in the likes of Wipeout 2097 (which is set, obviously enough, 49 years later). This even goes so far as the presentation of the track "Sol", a much earlier version of a track called "Sol 2" seen in a previous game. It's incomplete but clearly shares the same DNA as the older / newer (this time travel stuff is confusing) track from a previous game.
The art direction dictates that the cities of the future are built as we expect they really will be, that is, in layers. The concept goes that a city starts and is added to over time, resulting in lower tiers of the city built originally (referred to by the team as "brown stone") and then more futurisitic layers are added over time, with successive layers becoming more expansive and taller, but without necessarily bulldozing everything that came before it. This is important, as the narrative of the game and indeed the tracks themselves lead you from lower to higher regions within the cities of the game, and you can see far more of them than ever before as you sweep through at 500 mph.
The game design changes extend to the core gameplay, too, with the focus being reigned in from earlier games. Instead of focusing purely on the challenge of the track, Wipeout 2048 is focused on giving you a series "wing to wing" challenge from your fellow racers. There's still plenty to think about when navigating, of course, but the developers are also attempting to make your fellow racers worthy of far more of your attention than ever before.
A good example of this is the new defensive vs. offensive weapons system. You can only ever hold one weapon, be it of either class, which in itself creates considerable strategy. Say you're in second place. By all definitions, there's a target on your back and there are loads of people lining up to take a shot at you. But do you take a defensive pickup, a shield that will auto deploy should a weapon be about to impact you, over taking an offensive weapon in an attempt to take on the lead racer and claim the first place for yourself?
The game sports 10 all-new tracks, with an entirely new roster of ships to choose from, new shortcuts to learn and more - but that is far from the feature set. As is becoming the norm with Vita-related games, Wipeout 2048 is packing a host of social and online gameplay options. There's an online campaign with social content, party mode online, cross-platform play with the (already available) Wipeout HD Fury, near challenges and more. There's also a brand new suite of Zone-mode challenges (described as a "psychedelic pixel party"), a new soundtrack (including tracks by deadmau5, Underworld, Future Sound of London and more) and even MORE stuff.
It's hard not to be excited about Wipeout 2048. It's fast, fun, and Wipeout to its very core. It's also a brand new experience, packed full of content and it fits in your pocket (if you've got big pockets - Vita is pretty big). If you're at all interested in the series, or are keen to jump in for the first time, you need to keep a close eye on this one.
Pros: Everything. And there's heaps of it.
Cons: First person barrel rolls. Barforama!