The fidelity and sparkle that's ensured wipEout HD is still a visual standout in the PlayStation 3 library is in evidence here. Texture models are crisp and defined and they're maintained to a distant horizon, while depth of field and dynamic lighting bring 2048 in line with its console sister. Indeed, the only area where 2048 takes a hit is in its frame rate, which sees HD's 60 fps halved.
It's not enough of a hit to prevent the two games from playing nicely with each other, and 2048's the first game to offer cross-platform play between the PlayStation 3 and the NGP. At the moment it's confined to a one-on-one demonstration in a controlled environment, but it's impressive nevertheless, and should provide a springboard for what's shaping up to be a varied online suite.
How the game makes use of the NGP's Near application and its other networking abilities remains to be seen – and that's an aspect that's being kept under wraps for petty much all of the handheld's properties right now. However, its straight-up multiplayer features are a more open commodity.
Mixed in with the regular racing will be objective-based multiplayer. It's a new twist on an old standard, with each player given an objective that'll remain secret from the competition. These could vary massively in tone: do a barrel roll mid-race, for example, kill a certain amount of people or – most devilishly – don't finish first.
The ensuing clash of motivations in multiplayer racing could make for some spicy encounters, and there's a hint of the open-minded chaos that defined some of Project Gotham Racing's online modes.
A fundamental rethink of the strategic backbone of wipEout plays well to this. Power-up pads are now split into two groups, with red pads providing offensive items while green ones cater for a more defensive strategy. Tied into this is a rethinking of the shield; it's now on a dedicated button and is fully rechargeable.
Such minor changes combine with wipEout 2048's other minute revolutions to create the freshest take on the series in some time. Just as Sony's first PlayStation found the perfect partner in wipEout, the NGP now has its own marquee racer to show the world what it's capable of. The future, it seems, is now.