It's 1999. We're a collection of gamers roaring into the heady rush of a hellish thrill ride escaped from the future and jacked directly into our cerebral cortex.
Leftfield hammer our eardrums as we erupt missiles into the flank of our competitors at flesh-melting speeds. Designers Republic project a future awash with iconised hard-sells as we whip by billboards and neon signs. And controlling it all is Psygnosis, the Liverpulian outfit that set the new standard for racing games.
It's 2012. The WipEout brand still stands for high quality, even after numerous sequels. The intoxicating impact however is gone. It's no longer a pioneering glimpse into an anti-grav reality.
Now: PS Vita. Seeing a title in so many ways identical to WipEout HD run on a small screen with rock-steady frame rate is in itself as to experience WipEout for the first time again.
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But WipeOut 2048 is much more than just a WipeOut game. It is the series' climax. Already during the introduction, it is clear that we must experience the story behind the crazy anti-grav vessels, the intro fast-tracking the evolution from wheeled wonders to soaring racers.
We're flung back from the far future of 2097 and beyond for the tantalising closeness of 2048. AG Systems work on insane prototypes of their vehicles and the usual competitors Feisar teams are of course also on the track. Yet pieces are missing: the mega-cities are being constructed. So huge neon coloured paths wind in and out between classical-style buildings. Parks mixed with high-tech scaffolding and even abandoned stadiums are converted into speed demon circles.
Where Wipeout HD delivered the streamlined experience, the evolution of the racing league, 2048 shows the brutality of the early development of Wipeout. It feels like an entry in racing history.
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Rough joins with smooth: the first time you climb a skyscraper using a ramp that has more in common with a roller coaster from hell rather than smooth track, you feel your stomach lurch at the dizzying manoeuvre. The sensation of speed is unmatched.
As before, you assess the turns, remember speed pad locations, barrel roll mid-air for extra speed, dodge heated gunfire. The only exception the Tron-esque solo runs with your only watchers gangs on the roadside markets.
Studio Liverpool has tweaked the gameplay mechanics. Linear tracks are replaced a more diverse range of courses with plenty of optional shortcuts that'll have you risking your top speed for a potential risky position-changer.
The tracks are not only becoming more intricate, they are also wider and far more interesting than ever before. Quite impressive, especially considering the format.
The controller works great with the two analog sticks, while the touch screen can be used for weapons and energy adjustment - if you like. But, frankly, dual analog stick control is so good, you instantly play like in the old days.
The weapon system pick-ups are divided into green (defensive) and yellow (offensive) markers. As always, you collect them up by running over the markings in the road, and weapons can be converted into energy and absorbed into your hull if you need repairs.
It all takes place in an explosion of colour, smoke clouds and explosions. The races are divided into classes of agility, speed and fighter, with a fourth class dedicated to prototypes. Here you'll find new techniques and different ideas in mechanics, and in which everything clicks perfectly. This is WipEout retold in a way that works fantastically on the handheld console.
When you earn XP to unlock new races, it appears with the usual design flair where races link together and a new craft waits at the end of each flow branch, while the different prototype races pop up on light hidden areas in the menu .
Unlike most other PS Vita titles I've tested Wipeout does not let you not snap pictures during races, only in the subsequent replay. Here you can turn zoom in and out, add blur effects on the road or the ships and define the depth of field and the angles.
Wipeout is a study of speed and fierce conflict, which can take place over Wi-Fi and even against PS3 owners. Regardless of how you want to return to the anit-grav league, this is the best Wipeout for a long time, and the best introduction to the series a newcomer could wish for.
9 / 10
+ Stunning visuals and sense of speed.
+Great level design.