Like the other titles in the series, WipEout Pulse is a futuristic racing game where players control a hovercraft-like vehicle that hovers above the ground and can reach very high speeds. The game is set in 2207 where players take part in the FX400 Anti-Gravity Racing League with courses all over the world.
The vehicles are divided over different teams (twelve including downloads), each with their own characteristics based on handling, speed, acceleration and more. While racing, moving over pads provides boosts or both offensive and defensive power-ups such as shields, rockets, a wall of fire, autopilot, a gun or a turbo boost. Instead of using weapons, they can now also be absorbed to restore the energy levels. A single button is used to accelerate, with regular steering and also air brakes for sharp corners. The visuals are very fast and the soundtrack consists of mostly electronic tracks, a hallmark of the series.
The base game consists of twelve tracks, but these can be driven in both directions (designated by black or white in the title name). New to the track design are waterfall-like drops, loops and corkscrews. At certain section the vehicle is glued to the track to pass these. Entirely new to the series is the revamped progression system. As usual, new tracks and faster models need to be unlocked by winning races, but instead of a linear model these are now grouped as hexagon-clustered grids with different modes of play. When available, players can choose any of the sections to participate in a time trial, single race, head-to-head, eliminator games (returning from Wipeout 3) and Zone games (introduced in WipEout Fusion) where the vehicle constantly accelerates and transforms into faster models until all health is depleted. A certain amount of races need to be won to access a new grid, but using this system some difficult races can be avoided or ignored. In all races the vehicles are destroyed when all energy is depleted. Based on the performance a bronze, silver or gold medal is awarded and there are three difficulty settings.
Using the vehicle of a certain team regularly is awarded with a loyalty system. The game supports game sharing and multiplayer modes using both Ad Hoc and Infrastructure as access. Up to 30 mp3 files can be loaded on a memory stick to use as the in-game soundtrack, there is photo mode to take screenshots during replays and on the game’s official website players can design their own car skins using a flash client to use in the game. As with the previous games, there are many expansion packs that introduce new teams and tracks.