RedOut is an enjoyable and demanding arcade racer that suffers from poor presentation and a vacant online community but has enough going for it to be worthy of your time.
RedOut is a futuristic Ant-Gravity racing game inspired by classics like WipeOut and F-Zero. Originally released back in September 2016 for Steam, RedOut received a console launch a year later and can now be played on PC, PS4, Xbox1 and Nintendo Switch. RedOut is developed by 34BigThings and published by 505 Games and Nicalis.
WipeOut on a Budget
It’s clear from the get go that RedOut wants to stir up nostalgia for older titles like WipeOut. So much so that it’s practically impossible to talk about RedOut without highlighting Comparisons from the name to the art design and soundtrack, it pays homage to Sony’s popular AG racer. This actually works against the title as RedOut, unfortunately, puts it’s worst foot forward.
Even before the title screen you’re greeted with a photo sensitivity warning with the prompt “Press any button to start” that is unresponsive to the point where you question if the game has crashed which eventually transitions to a very bare bones and dull menu. These minor gripes wouldn’t even be worth mentioning if it wasn’t for the fact that it gives RedOut a cheap bootleg feel before you’ve started a race. This feeling only intensifies as you get through your first few races.
In place of the excellently curated soundtrack of WipeOut (that actually made me lose a few races because I got too into it), RedOut has a very generic and forgettable trance playlist. The in game commentator has bad voice over work and the track design doesn’t feel as expertly crafted to take advantage of the arcade like controls. On top of that, it’s difficult to actually make out the track on a few of the locations since the colours used don’t really pop out from the background (Cairo has a sand coloured track against a desert backdrop) or the track is lost in a kaleidoscopic assault on the senses.
Thankfully, the game does get better.
Twin Stick Racer
Bad first impressions aside, RedOut did manage to get it’s hooks into me. There’s a satisfying progression and gameplay loop that sees you earning cash for finishing events and using the money to upgrade weapons/abilities and unlock new ships. With this repetition comes familiarity that starts to feel rewarding as you get to grips with the somewhat novel control scheme. RedOut gets it’s name from a real world condition people experience when they are subjected to negative g-forces and blood rushes to their head (the opposite of a blackout). This manifests itself in gameplay in the form of everything turning bright red as you crest peaks in a circuit or turning the screen black and white when ascending a sharp incline. These colour shifts serve as indicators that you aren’t racing to your full potential. To offset these warnings, RedOut utilises both analogue sticks to steer your ship, the left stick is used to steer just as you’d expect in most arcade racers while the right stick can be used to strafe to either side to aide you in turning tight corners or to tilt the nose of your craft to match the highs and lows of the track and avoid grinding against the ground. The result of this is that RedOut becomes a twin stick racer where you need to master more than just lateral control. As you get better and move to faster ships this style of racing is what sets RedOut apart from the games that preceded it.
No Blue Shells or Bull*$%t
Further distancing itself from other AG racers is the more pronounced focus on actual racing. There are power ups and abilities in RedOut but they are a lot less passive than the missiles, quakes, cannons and cheating f*$k blue shells that other combat heavy racers throw at you. In their place you have a few options to stun your competitors or heal your ship. Your weapons and your boost share an “energy pool” that creates a good risk/reward dynamic where using weapons limits your ability to boost and vice verca. Personally this is an aspect of the game that endeared itself to me. I’ve never been much of a fan of combat in racing games. I’ve always found more enjoyment and skill in finding race lines and boost pads. To compensate for the lack of arsenal, RedOut has some pretty unforgiving A.I. It never really felt like “rubber banding” where the computer controlled ships would arbitrarily catch up to you regardless of how well you drive but they do punish mistakes and if you make too many you may never see the player in 1st position again.
It’s better to RedOut than to fade away
There’s a lot to do offline in RedOut, from the campaign to quickplay through a variety of modes and a sizeable selection of courses which is just as well since even this close after launch the online component of it is almost completely dead. I tried several times over several days to join or even host an online match without any success. This is problematic if you’re looking for a larger challenge than the limited A.I. can present you with. In the one instance where I actually did manage to join a game, everything felt responsive and performance seemed fine but with such a limited experience I’m reluctant to speak more about it. In true online racer style, I did finish dead last in case you were wondering.
Should you buy it?
While it would be easy to bounce off of RedOut in the early hours, it is a game that gets better the more you play it. It certainly doesn’t have the polish or grandeur of WipeOut or even the frenetic chaos of F-Zero but once you look past the gritty presentation and awkward voice over there is a rewarding game at it’s core. You just need to work a little to find it.