After launching on PC last year, futuristic anti-gravity racer Redout finally makes its way onto PS4 and Xbox One, with the Lightspeed Edition.
The futuristic racer, more than any other kind, lives and dies with two things: speed and style. A taste of speed we haven’t the power to feel, coupled with the chance to bring to sparkling life a Brutalist utopia, or a dust-bowl of rent steel and spent resources. 34BigThings, a small Italian developer based in Turin, has made it clear whose slipstream they’re in and, with Redout, have laid claim to a vacant throne.
What can be read as an obvious homage to WipEout doubles as a statement of style: ‘Redout’ occurs when blood rushes from the limbs to the head caused by negative G-force; the name stems from the blood-infused lower eyelid being pulled into the visual field. It’s shorthand for what 34BigThings is trying to do: to melt the edges a genre composed of clean lines and devoid of warmth, and to deliver a sensory overload of pure, screaming speed.
Redout veers toward asceticism, favouring devotion to the handling of craft and the intimacy of pilot with track. This is the sort of racer, much like WipEout and F-Zero, where successful races mean cornering two or three turns ahead, where your skill grows in step with your knowledge of layouts and the bond you form with your ship.
It’s a spartan approach, downplaying the role of weaponry and prioritising racing technique. And it works. In a move reminiscent of Skate, you are given full right stick control of your craft’s air-brakes. What broke down the lifeless abstraction of performing skateboard tricks with buttons, here turns cornering into an organic, if simplistic discipline.
You exert a mechanised grace on your craft, like the divine intervention of ‘Aftertouch’ from Burnout 3. It feels natural, strafing your craft against a whirlpool of G-force and fusing it to the apex of a hairpin, or turning sharp into a chicane before time and kicking your ship out to drift clear. It’s a far cry from the paddle-shifting air brakes of WipEout, unifying the left-right trigger motions with up-down pitch-control.
The career structure is set up in such a way that pressing ‘next’ is all you’ll need to worry about. It’s just as well: why put a stopper between you and the track? Events like time trial hone your skills in a vacuum; when you come to traditional races, you may find early on that you leave the AI in the dust near the starting grid. As you amass a pocketful of cash and a cabinet of medals, you can enhance your ship, buying your way into the next speed class. Eventually the AI pilots begin to catch up.
New modes trickle in as you advance, with the likes of Instagib (no respawns and increased damage); Last Man Standing (the ship in last place is destroyed at each lap); and classics like Time Attack and Tournament (which require no explanation). One such mode, Boss, merges five or six tracks together into one serpentine gauntlet; it’s a cracking test of your memory and a heat-check for your ability to adapt on-the-fly.
There’s more variety here than there is in Fast Racing Neo (and RMX for that matter) or F-Zero, but it lacks the imagination of WipEout. Something as daring as Zone mode for instance pitted you against the certainty of death, drip-feeding you ever-building speed as you volted through tracks recast under a psychotropic scope. Here, each mode is a mild variation on the same theme, looking to divert attention rather than subvert expectation.
There’s no shortage of imagination in the game’s setting, either, though execution cramps its style. In Redout‘s world, global warming has seen off the northern polar ice cap and storms rake the remains; those that are left use the earth as a broken-down raceway for the SRRL: Solar Redout Racing League. It’s a vision brimming with potential, the sand-worn bones of great cities reduced to hurtling periphery on a raised metal rail.
It doesn’t deliver on this promise. There’s a cheapened feel to its look, which you notice in fleeting moments. As you’re riven from the track off a ramp and screech upwards toward the firmament, you see the pattern of tessellating triangles – it’s a meaningful motif in something like Deus Ex, echoing its tech-renaissance theme, but here it’s an odd visual that comes off as hollow style, polygonal and arbitrary.
Redout‘s much-vaunted sense of speed feels as if it’s cut corners. The low-poly lacquer lends ships and tracks the smoothness of congealed plastic; colours blush before the eponymous effect kicks in, blotting them out in a flutter of phosphenes and head rush.
After time spent whipping through Cairo, through the crema deserts of Simoom and the battered buildings of Sirocco, it all blurs into one shade. The PS4 version comes loaded with the DLC tracks packed in. These inhabit more wayward locales – Europa has a marine flavour, and Neptune takes on an orbital set replete with asteroids and drifting space station – but lack the restraint and vision of the earlier earth-bound courses. Without the grounding of familiar terra firma, these descend into far-out sci-fi.
It’s moments like this your chest will smart with a longing for the likes of Sebenco Climb, with its alpine peaks and flocking windmills, or the dizzying vertigo and rarefied skyways of Sol 2. Those two tracks, hallowed statues in WipEout‘s mausoleum, are both set in Makana, the mountain towering over Hawaii; and yet, at different altitudes, they were utterly distinct from one another.
Perhaps it isn’t a fair comparison – even the talent and experience of those at Studio Liverpool can’t take all the credit for a perfect storm. WipEout‘s identity was a mesh of club-culture, and the corporate future-chic aesthetic of The Designers Republic, all perfectly pitched to a newly-mature gaming audience. It was as much a stroke of luck and time as it was a feat of design. Craft alone, much as has gone into Redout, cannot topple that.
With a dynamic racing model and a diverse selection of tracks, Redout plays to its strengths, giving you a unique front-runner in the AG-racing genre, with speed and style eclipsing most of its rivals… except one. 34BigThings has shot for the moon and landed amongst the stars, well ahead of the pack with a silver medal around its neck.
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