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Last Updated: Wednesday, 9 February 2005, 09:12 GMT
Getting to grips with Sony's PSP
By Mark Ward
Technology Correspondent, BBC News website

Screenshot of Wipeout Pure, Sony
Racing is still at the heart of Wipeout: Pure
It is a measure of the pace of technological change that Sony's portable PlayStation has more in common with the PS2 than the original PlayStation.

In terms of processing power and graphics, the sleek, black PSP handheld is much closer in performance to Sony's most recent version of its console.

In just over four years since the PS2 was launched, the technology that went in to that version of the console now almost fits into the smaller PSP.

Game gear

Perhaps, instead of being known as the PSP, the handheld should more accurately be called PlayStation 1.75.

But despite the similarities in processing power the games to play on it are not cut down copies of what players will know from the PS2, said Nino Ceraolo from Sony's Liverpool Studio.

He gave the BBC News website a demonstration of Wipeout Pure - one of the games that will launch with the handheld in Europe.

"It's been designed from the ground up," he said, "We've not ported it across."

Screenshot of Wipeout Pure, Sony
It's not all strategy, sometimes weapons work best
"Wipeout: Pure has been written specifically for the PSP," he said, "because it does a few things that the game has never done before."

Fans of the original game and its other incarnations on Sony's gaming hardware will recognise the look, feel and playability of Wipeout: Pure on the PSP.

It is still about flying those hover vehicles along twisting tracks to a thundering soundtrack.

All the music has been written specially for this version of the game.

This latest version, said Mr Ceraolo, is based 100 years after the events in Wipeout: Fusion and features some of the same teams.

"The story carries on from Wipeout: Fusion which went a bit heavy on weapons and was balanced towards combat rather than racing," he said.

"This one is all about racing and strategy."

In one twist, weapons and extras gathered on the track can be absorbed to provide a brief speed boost.

There are also lots of special key combinations to be mastered that unleash turbo boosts and other trick moves.

Lock and load

The setting has changed slightly too. All race tracks for the new version are set on an island and as players improve their ranking they move up the island to higher altitude tracks.

The PSP on sale in Japan, Sony
The PSP was hugely popular when it went on sale
The first track is by the harbour side and involves plunges underwater. The final track takes a twisting course through the clouds.

The sharp looks of the race vehicles are familiar too and the physics on the PSP is good enough to make it initially jarring to swap craft between races.

There are real skills to be learned in how they handle.

What is different in this version is the multi-player mode that lets up to eight players take each other on via wi-fi.

Sony is also intending to make extras and add-ons for the game that can be loaded via a PC or memory stick.

Mr Ceraolo said new race tracks, vehicles and music will be available for download to keep the title fresh.

Sony was planning to get young artists and designers to produce artwork for the billboards that line the track side, he added.

These extras will follow later, said Mr Ceraolo.

"Because these are first generation titles we are just trying to make the launch date," he said.

Sony PSP console hits US in March
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