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Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Genre: Racing
Developer: 34BigThings
Release Date: Sept. 2, 2016

About Brian Dumlao

After spending several years doing QA for games, I took the next logical step: critiquing them. Even though the Xbox One is my preferred weapon of choice, I'll play and review just about any game from any genre on any system.


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PC Review - 'Redout'

by Brian Dumlao on Nov. 11, 2016 @ 1:00 a.m. PST

You’re in for an uncompromising, fast, tough and satisfying driving experience, soaked in that vertigo that stands at the core of the arcade racing genre.

Futuristic high-speed racing games from big publishers are practically dead. F-Zero fans hold on to their GameCubes as tightly as possible, since that was the last place a new entry in the series saw the light of day. Wipeout fans are a little luckier, as the Vita saw the last entry in that series. Since Studio Liverpool dissolved, though, there's very little chance to see anything new on that front, either. As expected, the indies are filling that gap. Wii U owners have their spiritual successor to Nintendo's franchise in the form of Fast Racing Neo. For PC owners, there's Redout.

The basic game mechanics fall more in line with the big two franchises mentioned earlier than with the numerous titles that came afterward. The emphasis is on racing over combat, and even with the lower-class vehicles, your top speeds are rather fast. This speed is countered by the tracks, which are designed to give you loads of sharp turns, dips, climbs and loops as it snakes around the environment. The tracks have some space to maneuver from side to side, but your high speed means that those wide tracks will feel quite narrow. You have energy fields to prevent you from simply falling off, but hitting it damages your hull, which in turn leads to an exploding craft if you don't leave enough time for shield regeneration.

Redout differentiates itself from its predecessors in the realm of finer control. Using the right analog stick, you can tilt it left or right to make your turns sharper as you strafe slightly in that direction. You can also control the pitch of your vehicle, as you can point your nose down to reduce air drag or point it up as you're going up loops to prevent your nose from scraping the track. Despite its arcade stance, the game can become more technical as your mastery of twin-stick driving becomes essential to getting the top times in some of the trickier tracks — more so if you're trying to drive without ever having to brake.

The result of merging arcade expectations with some simulation mechanics is a game with a slight learning curve. In your early ventures on some of the easier tracks with no opposition, you'll scrape a lot of walls. That sense of speed on the earlier car classes can be overwhelming enough while the track design never gives you a simple turn to practice on while you're adjusting. Give yourself enough time to come to grips with the sensation, and things will click. The lower-class vehicles become more manageable, and the progression to higher-class ones, whether they're heavy or light or right in the middle, won't be that big of a shock.

The game features three modes, one of which is the expected Quick Play mode that is standard in all racing titles. With no tutorial mode or dedicated training mode to ease you into the controls or give you advice, you'll likely use this mode as an impromptu practice mode. This is fine if you're going without any opponents, as you'll have a much easier time learning the track. Add in CPU opposition, though, and it can be discouraging. Not only are the AI racers at the top of their game, but they also aren't afraid to plow into you and spin you around if you're in their path. Until you get better ships or a better grip on the game, expect to finish at the back of the pack if you start off in this mode.

The Career mode is the heart of the game, as it is the only way to earn the cash necessary to buy more vehicles and upgrades and level up. With the exception of the EMP, none of the upgrades are weapons-based; you'll get passive ones like faster respawning or better handling, while active upgrades cover things like using up your whole boost meter in one shot or sending out drones to repair your craft. Aside from these bonuses, you can still upgrade the crafts in a variety of stats from overall speed to durability.

Career mode spans around 20 tracks in a total of four environments. That might not seem like much on paper, but it's a good amount. Part of that is due to the tracks being set in different parts of the same environment, so they all look different even if large chunks of them occur in the same desert or arctic environments. Even if you notice the same overall color scheme on a number of the courses, the game is going just fast enough that you won't bother to notice.

What helps Redout is diversity. There are about 10 event types that are thrown at you, including basic race and time attack modes. There are variations, including the removal of upgrades so you're restricted to racing with stock stat vehicles and the removal of respawns if you crash. Survival mode throws in extra obstacles to avoid, and Speed changes up the time attack formula by deducting your lap times as long as you stay above a specific speed limit. Adding more variety to this are the contracts that pop up at seemingly random times and task you with hitting first place under specific conditions. Fulfilling these usually nets you a free upgrade or cash, while failing can sometimes penalize you.

One of the more interesting modes you'll run into is Boss mode. There are no real protagonists or antagonists, so the name can be misleading, but it allows you to chain together five of the tracks from one environment to create one long course that's tied together via portals. Very few racing games have toyed with this idea. In fact, you'd have to dig back more than 10 years to find extreme sports game Freestyle MetalX do something similar. The varied track layouts make it a doozy of an experience, especially since it still keeps the lapped layout of the regular races.

The number of tracks and the various race types combine to generate quite a lengthy career mode, one that can lead to a double-digit hours if your proficiency in racing games is average. Part of that will be spent trying to hit gold medals on all of the courses, as hitting silvers is rather common until you reach the back half of the career. As mentioned before, the game isn't overly difficult once you get the nuances down, but some of the target times require something close to perfection. Get past that, and the remainder of your time will be spent unlocking everything possible, so you'll be at an advantage when going through the other modes.

Racing titles like this beg for multiplayer, and to the credit of the developers, Redout has it. There is no offline split-screen play, but there is online play for up to eight players in any mode. Having said that, you'll need to organize games beforehand, as the online community has all but dried up. No matter which mode was chosen, no one was around to race, and there are no bots to fill up the empty slots. As such, you'll likely skip the mode unless you're very patient or and are lucky enough to find likeminded individuals.

Graphically, the game looks like a more stylized take on the first Wipeout game but with a color scheme that is muted just enough to appear faded while maintaining a hint of vibrancy. The vehicles look a bit low-polygon, but the angular look appears more stylized. The environments look impressive when effects like dust storms occur, and the occasional polygonal fragmentation of the sky further enhances the style of the vehicles. A good deal of effects is present in the game, from the sparks of hitting the track to the blur of the environment and you rocket past it, but little tricks like the subtle camera shake when you hit the top speed enhance the sensation of going fast.

From an audio standpoint, the game certainly falls in line with expectations. The soundtrack is heavy on EDM, with more instrumental tracks and a smattering of vocal segments. The effects sound clean as the jet engines elicit a high-pitched scream when boosted instead of a roar, and scraping against the track or energy walls sounds equally painful. The robotic announcer that pops up every time you get an upgrade or medal has a certain charm thanks to her general European accent, and it's a voice that you don't mind hearing all the time.

In the end, Redout is a very good racing game. It may not introduce anything completely new or revolutionize the genre, but it nails the fundamentals so well that fans will be glad that it exists. It has a great presentation and a decent track selection, while the amount of modes almost makes up for the lack of online community. If Redout represents the start of a comeback for futuristic racing, it is a good one, and genre fans will do well to pick it up.

Score: 8.0/10

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