Redout PC Review
The life of futuristic racers seems to have been snipped by big publishers. Nintendo ignores their fans’ outcry for a new F-Zero, with Shigeru Miyamoto stating that “I don’t really have a good idea for what’s new to bring to the franchise,” while Sony killed off Liverpool Studio and has been silent on Wipeout ever since. The future for the genre is looking likely to be in the hands of the indie developer – a number of titles are in development for release, at least a minimum, on PC. One such game is Redout by Italian developers 34BigThings. The team has certainly aimed big, with them proudly displaying on the game’s Steam front page that it is a “tribute to the old racing monsters such as F-Zero, WipeOut, Rollcage, and POD.” With Redout missing the Early Access stage and going straight to sale, it seems the team is confident in what they are delivering, so how well does Redout hold up when it hits breakneck speeds against the other great classics of futuristic racers?
The short answer? Pretty well, actually. There is a lot of love poured into Redout to capture those older anti-gravity racers, but it does so in a way that it forms its own personality. 34BigThings has clearly been studying what makes a good racer in this style to gain an understanding, which has enabled them to build a game that doesn’t feel like the developers are all talk, but no action when trying to bring this genre into the current generation.
Beginning with what can break a futuristic racer, the handling, Redout uses a similar handling model to Wipeout, with the floaty controls feeling close for fans of that series. The handling portrays a sense that the vehicle you are in isn’t just a piece of metal above a track, but that something is pushing itself away from the surface, a sense of propulsion that is enough to keep the craft hovering above the neon track.
Supposedly every corner can be taken without having to slow down. This is due to the use of manipulating the pitch of the craft to keep from clipping the ground during peak climbs, along with adjusting the ship by strafing left and right to alter how the ship takes corners. Good players will be able to air drift without clipping the energy barriers protecting the ship from flying off course, but for me, it took a good while to adjust to the tracks and eventually get myself in tune with tapping the accelerator and understanding what the handling was asking from me. That was also my experience with Wipeout, an opposite of F-Zero – the latter game doesn’t require as much work to control its racing crafts. The handling seems suited best for a controller, as the analogue input helps with precise controls of pitching and strafing, something using a keyboard does not offer.
Distinguishing itself from Wipeout, Redout removes weapon picks up and goes towards more of a purist form of racing that requires users to learn tracks and use boosting to gain the advantage. There are some slight differences from something like F-Zero, for one, health will slowly regenerated if the ship hasn’t collided with other crafts or barriers, and the other is the use of energy for boosting, which will also regenerate over time when not used. Boosting can be activated whenever there is metre, making it great to pop a small amount off during recharge to get that extra speed exiting a corner or to use the thrust to force the craft to push itself away from the course barriers if it looks like it is getting a little too close for comfort. Ideally, the use of boost will gain the most benefit from being used for longer periods of time, engaging it to hit maximum speed potential on straights or being able to slide around corners without letting go of the boost button.
The sense of speed created in Redout is phenomenal. Even beginning the game’s main single player content, the career, and starting with a Class 1 ship, the speed is something that stands out. Redout does not go with the option to start slow and let the player adapt to the speed at each incremental increase across leagues, instead, it begins fast and goes hyper-speed. Working through to unlocking the Class 4 ships is met with an jaw dropping sense of face crushing velocity, as camera vibrations and blurred environments improve the immersion that such machines blistering at 700mph down tight technical tracks probably feels like this. Redout doesn’t increase the speed for the sake of it, never falling into the trap that tracks become overly difficulty due to the increased pace. Each track is still manageable with tight mastery of the controls, and when Class 4 events begin, players can see how well the controls have been designed to keep the speed constant.
There are six teams that makes for six different vehicle designs, with each team having a vehicle that is improved upon with every class upgrade, making for a total of 24. Vehicles are formed up of six stats – acceleration, max speed, grip, structure (health), energy pool and recharge speed (how fast health and energy replenish) – that will ultimate determine their racing style. Redout goes for a typical racing design, with crafts that excel in one of these areas. Mario Kart fans will understand this as the Bowser (heavy and max speed) Toad (light and fast acceleration) dilemma, with some crafts falling between the spectrum to offer a medium (Mario) balance.
To get the most out of Redout players will have to jump into the career mode, as the developers have made an import choice that progression is done through here, so requires everything to be purchased to unlock and use elsewhere. Starting the career gives just enough money to purchase your first class 1 ship. From then on the money rewarded from races, no matter if you fail to win, is used to buy one of four upgrades, such as dropping $3,000 for the turbine upgrade that improves acceleration, or to purchase powerups. Now, I did mention that Redout did not include powerups on the tracks, but the game does include them as gear that can be attached to the ship, one Active and one Passive. Passive powerups are constantly active and focus on areas such as improved grip, slipstreaming and tuning the vehicle for better acceleration and max speed. Active powerups require the use of the energy metre and can be activated with a button. Active include EMP blast that stops other racers’ energy from recharging, a more effective, but shorter boost, and a drain ray that will suck energy from nearby competitors and inject it into your energy reserves. None of the powerups are drastic enough to alter the game in big ways – there are no homing rockets or auto-pilot (“engaged”) that offer extremities to shake up the racing grid, but these small changes that come with gear can make pulling ahead of the pack a little bit easier.
And let me tell you something, you will need all the help you can get, as Redout is not an easy game. The second race of career took me six attempts to get gold, and I have been on some class 2 events for nearly 30 minutes trying to eventually grab a gold medal. The AI is relentless to the point that it makes the early races a poor form of introduction towards the rest of the game. Newcomers are going to be in for a rough time, as the AI is too fast and aggressive so early on. The later races don’t seem to get harder, so Redout loses any sort of difficulty advancement that should come when unlocking the higher class tiers. I had to research into this, as I thought some sort of rubber banding was being used, but the developers ensure me that this is not the case, but is in fact that the AI is a much better driver than maybe they should be. Another problem with the AI is that they do not give a crap where you are on the track, and since being hit by an opponent can often cause you to spin out and lose a lot of speed, I would decide the best course of action would be to restart. It’s incredibly frustrating when these inconsiderate bastards ignore your positioning and drive into the back of you in a collision that always seems to favour the AI. The developer has mentioned on the Steam forums that a patch is coming to amend the AI for the lower class races and to make them less masterful racing machines.
Career mode follows the traditional pattern to advance through nearly a total of 80 events across four classes. Events not only reward with cash, but also nets experience to level up the player’s profile, with landmark targets unlocking the next class vehicles available to purchase. The events total to a substantial amount of content, leading close to the 20 hour mark depending on the player’s skill level – there is also online play, but that seems rather empty at the moment, taking a while to find a game with other people. More impressive is the amount of modes 34BigThings have packed into Redout – 10 event types making up the total, with some rather interesting takes on the standard racing format.
Race, Pure Race and Arena Race are variables on the standard racing format. Pure Race is racing but without powerups, while Arena Race is racing but with no respawns. Last Man Standing is an elimination race where the last person after each lap is removed. Time attack is straightforward, but Speed changes that up with adding extra boosts that add bonus seconds to a clock total that will subtract the boost time from the lap time, while Instagib removes spawning and increases wall damage. Survival has obstacles placed around the track and the idea is to stay alive as long as possible, gaining extra time through checkpoints until you either crash or the time runs out. Score is an endurance race, around 8-10 laps, which points are rewarded for clean laps, fastest laps, hitting boost pads and staying in front. Lastly, and my favourite of the bunch, is Boss, a mode that pits all five tracks from one of the game’s four environments into an extended course by joining them together through portals, creating one incredibly roller-coaster of a lap. It’s a mode that I am surprised hasn’t been in other games before, as it’s a simple idea to implement and makes for some extremely thrilling and long laps.
Graphically, Redout is a great looking game that uses a simplistic style built using a stylised low-poly modelled texturing. It uses the Unreal Engine 4 to render its flashy looks with a rich colour palette, but the colour is twisted with saturation to give it a duller neon style, rather than brightly burning someone’s eyes out with fantastical lightning. That said, the tracks themselves are never a dull moment within the game’s four locations of Cairo (desert city), Alaska (ice), Abruzzo (jungle), and Volcano, making every twist, turn and loop a beautiful motion. It also runs rather well, and I could push the game on maximum settings, bar low setting for AA, to hit 4K resolution 60FPS on one Nvidia 1080. As of this review, the game currently does not support SLI, and resolution has to be edited through an ini file, an overlooked missing option that I am told is getting patched in very soon. On the audio side, the game deploys a score that modifiers itself to the environment. A perfect example is when the ships dive into the water and the music becomes muffled, or when a ship flies over a jump, in which the audio turns down and the noise of high wind passing over the ship’s wings takes over control. The visual beauty and audio mixing make Redout a gaming treat.
Futuristic racing fans finally have something exciting to play with this surprisingly well crafted racer. It has been a wait, but 34BigThings has managed to make Redout not only a visually attractive racer, but one that manages to dig its roots from the classics and adapt the inspiration to create its own spin on it. Challenging AI aside, Redout has an immense sense of speed, a proficient handling model, great track designs and cleverly thought out game modes to bring a thrilling piece of entertainment. Redout convinced this long time anti-gravity racing fan that the future is bright for the genre when in the right hands and that it does not have to be a frustrating wait for a new Wipeout/F-Zero when indie developers come along to fill in the gaps with such great games.