F-Zero tends to come up when discussing which franchises Nintendo should revive. While the series remains in stasis, other developers have stepped in with their own futuristic racers, including 34BigThings’ Redout. The Switch edition of Redout includes DLC from previous versions but downscales in other areas like multiplayer.
Redout takes a safe but effective approach to the anti-gravity racer. Players pilot a slick, futuristic spaceship and compete against others on complex tracks at intense speeds. It’s a rush from the starting line as ships go from 0 to 500 within seconds. Redout differentiates itself from the pack by offering players increased control; ships strafe sideways and pitch vertically with a single flick of the right analog stick. In addition to a general turbo boost that you can use by expending energy, you can unleash an equipped power-up, like a shockwave to freeze opponents’ energy or a shield that protects you from damaging walls. Indeed, races are just as much survival games as they are speed competitions. Take too much damage and your ship self-destructs, causing you to lose time to respawn, or in some cases, ending your run altogether.
Keeping afloat is easier said than done. Tracks are very twisty, with constant turns that you must maneuver at high speeds. In this genre, fast, high-risk games are the norm, and you’re expected to suck up the grueling difficulty. However, due to a lack of mini-maps and blind jumps where I couldn’t see the landing past my ship, races felt a little unfair. Additionally, they didn’t seem balanced. I usually found myself in the very back or front with virtually no chance to pull ahead but plenty of opportunity to fall behind with a single mistake. Except for the few occasions where several vehicles are neck to neck, races end up resembling solitary affairs.
I preferred the time attack modes for this reason. Instead of worrying about the AI, I could focus more on setting records and efficiently making hairpin turns. With the included DLC, this edition boasts an impressive 60 tracks, though nearly every course feels similar, as there’s only so much one can diversify a track without stage hazards. Regardless, I was impressed by the overall presentation. The set designs, albeit low-poly, were striking to rush past, from lush waterfall valleys to the final frontiers of space. As you reach blazing speeds, the screen literally lights up. Combined with the well-composed techno background music, races start to resemble thrill rides. Unfortunately, the visuals tend to blur, a combination of the 30 fps frame rate, speed effects, and lower resolution. For this reason, I had trouble playing in portable mode, where it was difficult to see the track ahead.
The extensive career mode is another area where Redout excels. There are dozens of events with tiered medals to win. Best of all, the events are varied, with each hailing from one of eleven mission types. Although most are variations of standard races or time attacks, some more interesting missions had me trying to keep a top speed throughout the entire course or survive an obstacle-filled track. Some events are duds, specifically the “Score” missions where you earn points depending on performance and placement… usually across eight laps. During ten minute races where you generally keep the same position throughout, even a fast game like this can feel excruciatingly slow. For the same reason, “Last Man Standing” events were also unnecessarily frustrating endurance tests. My favorite mode was “Boss,” which combines all the tracks within a circuit, resulting in an insane mash of course design where each lap runs about five minutes. Although more laps induce the same problem of races overstaying their welcome, the varied nature of each run keeps the mode fresh.
Prize money and experience points ensure career mode remains engaging, even if progression amounts to grinding to unlock tracks and ships. There are seven types of ships, each with different stat distributions in areas like acceleration and energy recharge. As you level up, you also earn access to higher class vehicles and upgraded power-ups, increasing their potencies. Equipping the loadout for each mission lends a strategic element. You unlock the final tier of ships at level 22, which takes about six to eight hours, depending on skill level. By the end, goals amount to unlocking everything, winning every gold medal – a tough feat – and fulfilling contracts, which task players to win events using a specific setup. Unfortunately, by that point, it’s easy to lose drive since you don’t get anything worthwhile besides completion stats.
There is a quick race mode, where you can freely mix and match modes, tracks, and vehicles – a multitude of options. However, unless you grow addicted to the gameplay and setting fast times, quick race feels hollow. Unlike other versions of Redout, there is no local multiplayer – a huge miss for a racing game. Although there is an online mode, at the time of this review, which is close to the game’s launch, the servers are devoid of people. I struggled getting any game going, whether searching or hosting, which isn’t promising for the game’s online future.
Redout delivers fast-paced anti-gravity thrills on a variety of futuristic, winding tracks. Presentation in the Switch version isn’t ideal, and races aren’t always easy to follow. Career mode is the reason to pick this up, and it will consume most of your playtime, partly because there is disappointingly no local multiplayer and online is already a ghost town. With competition like the Switch launch game Fast RMX out, Redout may not hit first place despite its potential. But if you’re just looking to scratch that F-Zero or Wipeout itch, then it’s worth strapping in for the single-player.
I am a lifelong gamer, having grown up with Nintendo since I was young. My passion for gaming led to one of the greatest moments of my life, my video game themed wedding!