The single-player campaign is structured around seasons, with each consisting of a grid of events that, when completed, unlock other events until the season final becomes available. Some events are straight races, others combat events where you have to gain so many points through blasting the competition to win, while others are one-track sprints or time trial.
Best of all, we still get Zone events, with the tracks pared back to ribbons of glowing neon, and the scenery bathed in psychedelic pulsing light. Here you just keep going, faster and faster, until your craft takes so much damage that it can’t go on any more. We don’t like to waffle on about synaesthesia – an arty term for the effect you get when you combine two or more senses in one powerful experience – but when you’re sitting in the ‘Zone’ zone it’s only a natural response. This is Wipeout in its purest, most exhilarating form.
Cleverly, completing events isn’t necessarily about winning. While there is an experience system and incentives for coming first, you can happily scrape through many early race events in fourth or even sixth, while other events just require you to reach a specific points score or milestone to proceed. This ensures that, while Wipeout 2048 is never less than challenging, you rarely get stuck for too long. In fact, there’s an option to skip some events if you’re finding them impossible.
At the time of writing we’re unable to try Wipeout’s online options, so we’re limited in what we can say. There is a multiplayer version of the campaign mode, which puts the emphasis on meeting certain conditions in each event rather than reaching a pole position. It’s designed to be played online with PSN friends in the same lobby. For more straight competition there’s a crossplay mode, which allows you to race not just other Vita owners, but PS3 gamers running Wipeout HD. We’ll return to this review and add more details once we’ve played both modes in more depth. There’s a chance that the verdict below and score might change.
Even running at 30fps, Wipeout 2048 leaves other handheld racers looking tame, and its smooth, detailed graphics and incredible pace are another indicator of how powerful a mobile games machine the PlayStation Vita is. It’s a slightly conservative game, not taking the franchise in any bold new direction, but it delivers the core Wipeout experience we all know and - if we're sensible - love.