Mag-Strips haven't ruled out jumps either, with plenty around, including a very cruel one that bounces you over the start/finish line and into a sharp left-hander. Fortunately, as with Pure, you can heal your ship by choosing to absorb a power-up rather than deploying it - it worked before, and it works now.
Graphically, Dan Whitehead has already drawn attention to the way the visuals pull your eyes into the screen. Key to that is the consistent frame-rate, and the two and a half years since Pure have also taught Sony a few new tricks elsewhere in the PSP's circuitry, allowing for much more detailed tracks and ships, neat translucent surfaces and bigger explosions. Graphically it shames just about every other PSP developer and the entire PS2 back catalogue, with room left for custom skins that you can design yourself on the official website and then import into races, including multiplayer.
This now includes online gameplay, although we've been unable to get this working on our (otherwise complete) review code. Local wireless play is still there too, supporting up to eight players, and even includes an option to play a kind of LAN game where you all connect to a router rather than a single player, the upshot of which is smoother gameplay. As with Pure, the plan is to support Pulse with downloadable content.
Even without the online and multiplayer elements, Pulse is still slicker than Gordon Gecko, and with more share options. "Race Box" lets you create your own custom tournaments and races (and grids), and you can also view all your stats, customise soundtracks, and visit the website to download content directly. They've even dumped the instruction manual there in text form, which is handier than making you go on the Internet to read it or carrying a book around.
There's very little wrong with it, really. One odd thing is the new "loyalty" system for ships: basically, if you use the same team for ages, you get loyalty points, which unlock bonuses. So what's the point of trying out the others? It's also a bit of a pain when you fly off the unguarded track bits and it respawns you facing the same edge at high speed. But that doesn't happen very often, and that's about it. The repetition of track usage ought to be annoying, but it didn't upset me because the more you play them the better you get at them, and the better you are at WipEout the more exhilarating it is. A bigger problem is that it hasn't taken WipEout in any boldly new or interesting directions.
So really it comes down to how much it bothers us that this is "just" a better version of WipEout Pure. The answer is enough to stop it achieving top marks in a much more populated genre than the one WipEout originally entered, but not enough to stop it winning us over.
This isn't a Ridge Racers 2 style situation where the engine, content and campaign are virtually indistinguishable; WipEout Pulse is faster, better looking, tighter to control, full of new content and much better arranged than its predecessor. Its impact probably won't be as keenly felt as its launch title predecessor, but even if it can't replace Pure at the top of the Metacritic listings, it will certainly replace Pure in your PSP UMD slots - and there it shall stay.
The only other thing to say is that PS3 owners may want to hang on for WipEout HD, which threatens to do what Pulse does in high resolution at 60 frames per second. If it manages that, we'll be laughing, and Sony's Liverpool studio will be responsible for two of the best PlayStation racers of the year rather than just one.