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Redout: Lightspeed Edition

Score: 75%
ESRB: Everyone
Publisher: 505 Games
Developer: 34BigThings
Media: Download/1
Players: 1 - 2 (Local); 2 - 6 (Online)
Genre: Racing/ Online

Graphics & Sound:

I donít remember much about my first semester of college, and I think itís a coping mechanism. But rather than travel to an unreasonably bleak corner of memory lane, I want to share a bright spot from that time. You see, I started this semester a day before F-Zero GX came out, and I credit that game with saving my sanity over the next couple of months. Yes, Iím a longtime fan of high-speed futuristic racing; the obvious genre classics get some honorable mentions, but for me, nothing compares to F-Zero. I can do without the weapons; give me a racing experience that is pure and uniquely hardcore. Something that requires fast reflexes and rock-solid discipline. Itís impossible to tell when we might get a new F-Zero, though Nintendoís long-overdue but nevertheless shocking revival of the long-dormant Metroid series may be a harbinger for a new dark horse renaissance. In the meantime, the anti-gravity racing subgenre is waiting for its next leap forward, or at least some decent representation on current-generation hardware. Redout: Lightspeed Edition is one of the first major attempts Iíve seen in a while, and itís a solid one. Itís got a slick presentation and some really cool ideas, though it doesnít quite match up to the legendary games that inspired its creation.

Redout is set on Earth, though to look at it, you might be convinced most of the population has long since fled. Cities and natural landscapes alike play host to the winding, self-contained tracks youíll spend your time flying down at mach speeds. Several of the environments follow some sort of loose theme; from sandy deserts to icy tundras, for example. Eventually, though, the game getsÖ abstract. One environment in particular had me wondering if their art department designed it while under the influence of a substance that might pair well with a Pink Floyd deep cut. While the art style is a bit all over the place, the technical aspect of Redoutís visuals is solid throughout. Thereís very little slowdown on the part of the engine; considering the nature of this game, thatís massively important. At its best, the sense of speed is absolutely breathtaking; you know that if you wanted to, you could slow down and appreciate the imagery. But letís be real here: you wonít want to. The low point of the visuals is the animation for collisions that result in destruction: itís thoroughly lame. But this is a small blemish on an otherwise excellent-looking game.

Most futuristic racing games rely on their soundtracks above all other auditory components. Such is the case with Redout. Vehicular technology has progressed far beyond the internal combustion engine, and as a result, the crafts themselves donít sound very intimidating. In fact, you might have to listen very carefully to hear them at all. But to be fair, if youíre doing that, youíre probably doing it wrong. Redoutís sound design largely begins and ends with its pulsing soundtrack, which is comprised of mainly trance and electronica. Weíve seen games like these use heavy metal and synth pop soundtracks, primarily in F-Zero games, but Redoutís comparative lack of personality is a natural fit for the rigid structure and form that comes with the steady beats of trance. The announcer is a bit on the strange side; her lilting intonation is often incongruous with her lines to the point where she doesnít sound natural.


Gameplay:

Redout: Lightspeed Edition is not about tuner culture. Itís not about a cast of charming characters from different franchises coming together to race go-karts. Itís about futuristic vehicles going really, really fast. If youíve played a futuristic racer before, you probably have a decent idea of everything that Redout entails, from the vehicles to the track style to the event types.

Career is the meat of the experience, and itís where youíll spend most of your time. Itís a smattering of race events that largely pit you against either the clock or other racers. Performance matters, as itís how you earn the currency required to purchase new vehicles, as well as upgrade the ones you already own. Itís a fairly fluid progression, albeit one that is demanding from the off.

The tracks are often extremely wide in size, but they are hardly predictable; this is important, as rote memorization is the only way to build the muscle memory and twitch reflexes required to earn every gold medal.

Redoutís track design is hit and miss. When itís focusing on speed and snap judgments over everything else, the game excels. Tracks that employ extensive verticality tricks, cleverly-placed ninety-degree chicanes, and twisting straightaways littered with boost pads are by far where youíll have the most fun. Unfortunately, several tracks lose sight of what Redout does best by featuring a joy-killing excess of sharp, relatively unbanked turns. Redout ostensibly has mechanics to help racers negotiate these pace-killing hairpins, but most drivers will simply skid into the wall, losing time and energy as a result. It always kills the sense of pace, and by extension, the euphoria of going really, really fast.

You can play Redout on your own, with a friend on the couch, or with up to five other racers online. That being said, I haven't once been able to get into a functional match. The server browser always comes up empty; the instant join option times out and lands me in a host's lobby, where the wait is indefinite. Disappointing.


Difficulty:

Redout: Lightspeed Edition is designed to challenge you by default. Whatever craft youíre operating at any given point is designed to just barely scratch the time threshold that grants a gold medal. Every mistake adds up, big and small. This is a game in which tenths of seconds (even hundredths) are the difference between total victory and crushing defeat. Ultimately, I agree with how the developers assign winning times here; it makes you earn your wins, and thatís refreshing in this day and age.

I canít detect any rubberbanding with the A.I. racers, though non-solo races feel like something of a rarity. But I will say this: if you lose sight of one of them, chances are very good youíll never see that racer again. That being said, time trial variants can feel really punishing at times. With the limits as strict as they are, there isnít much room for error. But all too often, it feels as though the rules were set in opposition, thanks to the racing model and the physics engine. Which brings me to my next point.


Game Mechanics:

Redout: Lightspeed Edition features a racing model that excels and fails in almost equal measures, though the positive outweighs the negative. Most racing games of this variety are extraordinarily responsive and unbelievably sensitive to input; this makes track elements easier to digest at such incredible speeds. In Redout speed and control are unfortunately mutually exclusive. Though statistical differences are noticeable between them, vehicles generally feel heavy and slippery Ė to a degree that clashes with some of the track designs. Damage taken in wall collisions ranges from mild to catastrophic, and it all depends on how much you can lessen your angle of approach.

Redout dabbles with powerups, but doesnít make the entire game about them. In the grand scheme of customization, you can purchase and equip them using money earned in races. You have two slots on each vehicle: one for an active powerup and one for a passive powerup. These feel more like an afterthought than anything else. In fact, several of the events forbid their use. This results in an experience that is significantly more focused on racing skills than chance or opportunism. A net positive for the game, in my opinion.

Iím a seeker of safe thrills. I love roller coasters, and Iím trying to ride as many of them as I can before age begins driving that horrid wedge between my brain and my body. I may be familiar with the concept that inspires this game's name, but it's probably foreign to most. You experience a blackout when strong persistent g-forces prevent blood from reaching your brain. Itís not a pleasant experience; you lose control of certain functions (sight being the primary one, as the term implies) and basically fall unconscious. A redout is the opposite of that. This is when negative g-forces are applied to the point where blood rushes to the head with such force and volume that the unfortunate individual undergoing the redout may ultimately stroke out. Redout applies these principles in an interesting but not entirely logical way.

Going through a tight loop or a sharply-banked turn poses a risk to both the craft and the pilot. At the incredible speeds depicted in Redout, such maneuvers would prove lethal to any living being, but here youíre able to adjust and cope with them in a way that also helps your ship from sustaining damage. By using the Right Analog Stick to adjust the pitch of your craft, you somehow dampen the forces and keep your vehicle from grinding against the rapidly-altering track. So you must pull down when the track goes sharply up, and push up when the track goes sharply down. Itís a neat idea that isnít put to more efficient use, which is shocking, considering the gameís title.

Redout doesnít really have much competition right now, which means if you donít own a PlayStation 4, itís probably your only legitimate option as far as this subgenre goes. I like Redout, but I donít quite love it. Itís attractive and often exciting, and those are indeed two of the most important qualities that define a good futuristic racer. But it lacks the proper racing model and consistently brilliant track design that would ultimately allow it to distinguish itself.


-FenixDown, GameVortex Communications
AKA Jon Carlos

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