Whilst I’m someone who spends the vast majority of my gaming time with the Xbox family of consoles, there has been the odd occasion when I’ve been found dabbling with the other side of the pond to check out the PlayStation side of things. This usually only happens when there’s either a particular exclusive I quite like the look of, or, if I have the odd desire to hold an extremely uncomfortable controller.
One such time I do remember fondly however was in my far younger years, before the Xbox was even a thing. I think I was about seven or eight at the time and I stumbled across my older sister’s PlayStation 1 with a copy of Wipeout inside. I had no idea what it was, and I was certainly no good at it, but it was different and I liked it.
Since that point the racing genre hasn’t exactly seen a vast amount of titles looking to infuse anti-gravity into its games; of course we’ve had F-Zero but other than that, the market has been pretty damn bare. Recently however, I got the chance to get stuck in with Redout, the latest racer to hit the Xbox Store, and a game looking to bring futuristic visuals and fast-paced anti-gravity racing to our screens once more. Could it be the next Wipeout?
For anyone who doesn’t know, the definition for the medical term redout is when the body experiences a negative G-force sufficient enough to cause a blood flow from the lower parts of the body directly to the head. Sounds rather unnerving, right? Fortunately jumping into the latest racer won’t lead to quite such dramatic force, but one thing I can say for sure is that Redout is a sensory ambush that will require your utmost concentration. Indeed, if you are to have a hope in hell of making it to the finish line in any respectable time, you’ll need to be prepared to put the controller down if you don’t want the headache that comes with it.
Onto the game then, and there are four different modes of play for players to get involved in. Career, Quick Race, Split Screen and Online are your options, and like most games, the place you’re most likely to spend your time will be with the Career Mode.
In Career mode, players start out their anti-gravity racing in the seat of the Class I ESA-AGR VANGUARD, a respectable and well-rounded ship and one that served me well for the several races at the start of my career… at least before I dived into the market for an upgrade. There are many types of ships within the game, with seven different manufacturers each with four unique speed machines unlockable across the four different classes. The higher the class, the faster, and generally the better, the ship.
There are 40+ events that accompany the Career mode, with players able to play a mixture of all the different race types in a series of championships, and single events with the goal of a first place finish. Before getting down to the racing, players can take in the career menu to get a heads up on their progression statistics, buy and equip various power-ups to use within the races and choose the next event. The menus within the game don’t come with the prettiest design, but the simplistic nature makes navigation a breeze, something which helps to make things easier when you simply want to get down to the racing side of things.
For the first few races you’ll want to spend your time ignoring the power-ups, as it’ll take you that time to simply get to grips with the fast-paced nature of the game. Fortunately, these races will see you getting to grips with the Class I ships, which basically serve as tutorial-esque ships, whilst you learn each of the different event types, before throwing you into the real action with the Class II, III and IV ships.
The different race types found within Redout are heavily varied, with standard races, Elimination events, Tournaments, Time Attacks, Arena Races, Pure races and, my favourite, Boss events. Whilst many are self-explanatory, there are a couple of modes which switch things up from your usual racer. Arena Races are a one-life race that sees the winner being either the first one to finish or the one who is the last ship alive. Pure Races meanwhile are a hectic mix of sharp twists and technical turns throughout, whilst the Boss races are a mixture of multiple tracks all linked together via teleporters, creating one giant track of anti-gravity mayhem.
There isn’t really a main purpose for what you are doing in Career; racing is simply for the fun and competition with no story attached. The only real changes that come from progression are in the harder challenge of the later races.
This is where power-ups play a vital part. As you progress, being quick isn’t the only key to victory. Sure, practice may well make you better, but the AI in Redout are relentless and before I got stuck in to the power-ups available to me, I had several occasions in which I found myself beaten to the line by an unstoppable AI that always managed to have that little extra speed when it mattered most.
Fortunately, the power-ups combat this well, with two distinct types available; Active and Passive. Each powerup has four stages, with stage one being the weakest, and four the most powerful. Upgrades to each can be bought with race winnings, and only one from each category can be active at once. The two I became increasingly fond of using were the Energy Drainer, which allowed me to steal energy from nearby ships – something which refills over time naturally – to use as a boost in speed, and the Hardened Hull, a power-up which allowed for more damage before my ship exploded – something which happened all too often due to the poor control the ships have around corners.
There are many powerups available, from those that attack opponents such as EMP Blasts to those that aid in your ship’s control such as the Magnetic Stabilizer to help keep players off the walls in each race. Whilst there are none that are particularly going to guarantee success, there is a great selection to pick from to suit most styles of play, and should at least give a slightly better chance when playing the harder events.
Onto the gameplay and as I mentioned before, Redout is quite the sensory overload. You’ll find bright flashing colours in every corner of the screen, hectic, extremely fast-paced racing, and the booming sound of the techno music in the background joined by the whirring of the ship’s engine. There is a lot you need to focus on simply to make it to the end of the track in Redout, no matter whether you go at the experience in the first or third-person camera models.
With corners that come out of nowhere and a ship that is constantly trying to break the speed of sound, you’ll need more than just lightning reactions to avoid the walls. Even after I had become used to the layout of a particular track, the gameplay still often felt too fast for my ship to be able to handle, with loops and turns constantly seeing my ship graze against the side of walls or along the floor. Boost pads that come out of nowhere, propelling the ship into unfathomable and uncontrollable speeds, don’t help and enemies that look to shove you off the track all resulted in my ship either being pushed down the race grid or exploding with no means of catching up. This can be partly avoided with use of the right stick to lean the ship around a corner whilst turning, or over a loop to avoid the floor, but even with this the ships still felt way too quick to keep up with the demands of the tracks. It wasn’t long before they started to feel like they didn’t belong on the tracks at all – a feeling that was only cemented more with the higher vehicle classes.
If the pressures of Career feel a little too much early on, then the Quick Race mode provides the perfect opportunity to practice with no worry if a last placed finish is all you can muster. Here you can choose from any of the unlocked ships to give you a better feel for which one you might wish to purchase in Career mode. You can also use your race winnings to purchase upgrades to your craft’s stats, such as Max Speed, Acceleration, Grip, Structure, Energy Pool and Recharge Speed – although even with a fully maxed out ship, controlling round the tight corners of some tracks doesn’t become any easier, with upgraded speed only propelling you into the walls faster.
Multiplayer is another option for those looking for some competitive racing action, however even with the game only just releasing, the online community seems to be minute at best with my only chance for an online race diminished entirely after my found opponent decided to leave the race lobby before we’d even began.
Overall and there isn’t really a nice way I can put my feelings regarding Redout. Whilst it has extremely promising visuals, the lack of control and precision found within the game is a true let down, with ships that feel way too powerful for the tracks and the unneeded sensory overload that accompanies every race, the promising experience quickly dwindles to nothing more than a headache inducing lightshow.
I for one would love to see the return of anti-gravity racers to the market once more, but Redout simply doesn’t provide the same magic seen in previous titles in the genre, and with a hefty price tag to accompany it, this is probably one headache we can all do without.