One of Nintendo’s most popular (and amusingly, least supported) franchises is the F-Zero series, which popularized the concept of high-intensity, low-gravity racing. In the void created due to Nintendo’s reluctance to release more games in the series, plenty of other ‘me-too’ titles have released, such as Wipeout and FAST, and many of these other releases have done an excellent job of capturing the spirit of F-Zero while introducing some interesting new ideas of their own. The latest in this long lineage of futuristic racers (and the first in a while to come to Switch) is Redout: Lightspeed Edition, a new release from 34BigThings that promises to live up to the legacy of its inspiration. Redout does a solid job of making good on that promise, but it doesn’t do so flawlessly, resulting in an arcade racing experience that’s quite enjoyable but still very rough around the edges.
Upon booting up, you’ll likely spend the majority of your time in Redout’s extensive career mode, which acts in some way as the ‘story’ for you to progress. There are no characters or plotlines here, rather a collection of missions and events spanning a surprisingly diverse and interesting set of courses that are gradually unlocked as you become a better racer. Excellent performance and high placements will reward you with medals and, more importantly, cash prizes that can then be spent on unlocking better vehicles or for upgrades to bring your weaker vehicles up to snuff. As far as this overall career structure is concerned, it’s nothing surprising or strictly new, but a game such as Redout doesn’t necessarily need to reinvent the wheel (there's a clever pun in there somewhere) to provide a compelling feedback loop. Getting caught up in learning course layouts, buying upgrades to give you a better shot at higher performance, and using the fruits of those better performances to advance onto harder tracks and new events proves to be an addictive and fun experience, even if the punishing AI and track design ensures that your victories won’t come easily.
Redout’s gameplay is roughly what you would come to expect of the genre, but the big defining factor here is the heavy usage of the right stick to adjust your vehicle’s pitch or to strafe. Pouring into turns at maximum speed is sure to send you bouncing off the walls like a futuristic pinball, but properly using the right stick to ‘lean’ into corners is sure to take the edge off and keep you closer to the ideal racing line. Similarly, these tracks are sure to twist every which way, and if you find yourself careening down a hill or just coming over the apex of one, you’ll need to make sure to adjust your vehicle by pulling up or down on the stick to maintain your speed as you hit the curve. It’s something that sounds like a minor feature, but the way in which Redout implements this positioning adjustment makes it a central element of racing and one that frankly will decide whether or not you can win races.
Though it starts off relatively easy, Redout doesn’t take very long at all to dramatically raise the stakes and overall difficulty, presenting you with AI opponents who will use every trick and exploit in the book to put as much distance as possible between you and them. Luckily, the AI doesn’t get too ‘rubber-bandy’ – we had very few instances where an otherwise undisputed lead was suddenly thrown off by a random power boost for the second place opponent – but this can also be something of a double-edged sword, as the AI opponents in the lead will not slow down to give you a fighting chance if you find yourself falling behind. This relatively high difficulty is ultimately part of the fun of Redout; it’s very much a ‘put up or shut up’ kind of experience that demands you put in the effort to master the unique feel of your chosen vehicle and learn how to best exploit each track’s layouts. Bearing this in mind, those of you that are easily frustrated by punishing difficulty may want to steer clear; Redout is certainly a game worth investing time into, but you will have to put in a fair bit of time if you want to get the most out of it.
Career mode is rather interesting in the diversity of mission types that it offers up, too; most of the time, it isn’t a simple 3-lap race. Some missions may have eight laps, for example, and the person in last place will be eliminated after everyone else completes a lap. Another type of mission calls for you to maintain a certain level of speed throughout the race, with failure coming swiftly if you fall below the threshold. Yet another mission type is based on point values, with you gaining points for racing cleanly, hitting speed boosts, and keeping a decent lead. Though none of the missions take things very far from the primary objective of racing, it’s refreshing to be presented with a more diverse array of gameplay types than a simple jostling for first place. There’s even a bit of strategy that goes into planning for a mission as well, as certain vehicle types and brands are better suited to different missions, and this is only exacerbated by the system of active and passive upgrades.
See, there are seven different ‘teams’ of ships – each with four different classes of their own – and you gain access to higher classes and more ships as you gain player experience and get money from winning races. Within each team, the stat allocations are kept the same, but each higher class within that team simply adds more points to the stats. For example, the 'Lunare' team is the leader in acceleration, max speed, and grip (at the cost of health, energy, and recharge) and this remains the case for all four of the models available.
Understanding the strengths and weaknesses of your chosen vehicle is important, but these can be altered and tweaked a bit by the active and passive upgrades system. Buying these upgrades can allow you to do things like bump up the max speed of your vehicle or use an EMP to steal boost energy from nearby opponents and add it to your own gauge, and the upgrades themselves can be upgraded a few times to get even more out of them. What’s nice about this system is how it smoothly increases customization options and grants the player more agency than simply racing with stock vehicles; it’s not a simple matter of picking a ship and racing – you also have to consider how exactly you want to modify it to fit your playstyle. Even so, this upgrade system also isn’t needlessly complicated, it doesn’t bog you down by throwing dozens of options at you for min-maxing a ship.
Track designs are a little disappointing, but they do a solid job of keeping the extensive career mode interesting as you move through it. When we say the designs are disappointing, we mean purely from the perspective of gameplay, as there isn’t very much to differentiate one track from another. Despite the eye-catching art style giving each track its own distinct flavour, we found that this individuality was only on the surface, as each track is still more or less the same collection of jumps, boosts, and loops, just in a different order. It would’ve been nice to have seen some designs a little more like FAST RMX, which employed hazards like fire traps, falling rocks, and powerful wind to make each track both play and look different from the next one. With that being said, we weren’t faced with any tracks that were poorly designed; the sharp turns, wide loops, and long straightaways make each race an enjoyable, if rather unmemorable, experience.
One rather large omission that we feel bears mentioning is the lack of any sort of local split-screen multiplayer. Perhaps a later patch will add in the ability, but nowhere in the present version of the game is there an option to have a friend hop in with you to join the race, which seems to be a puzzling feature to leave out in a game that’s entirely centred around competition. Luckily, there is the option to play online, so perhaps you can play with friends that way, but as of time of writing – mere days after launch day, we might add – the online lobby is as quiet as the grave. When we tried to play online, there were literally no other people hosting games, and it took about ten minutes of waiting before one other person finally joined the race we were hosting. Barring an incredible and unlikely post-launch turnaround, Redout’s online is dead, which essentially makes this a single-player only experience. Career mode is certainly enjoyable so this single-player focus doesn’t make Redout an instant pass, but those of you hoping to play this one with others will be sorely disappointed by what’s being offered.
Perhaps the omission of local multiplayer is due to strained resources, which is evident in Redout’s admittedly lacklustre performance. We didn’t detect any notable frame drops, but this is probably due to the fact that Redout runs at 30FPS whether you’re playing in the dock or not. Though this isn’t unacceptable for a racing game, it has far more of an effect on the gameplay than it would for, say, a platformer, as you’re given a much smaller window in which to react to the obstacles racing towards you.
Similarly, the resolution in either portable or TV mode is disappointingly low, giving the game a blurry and fuzzy appearance that can sometimes negatively affect your gameplay. At the speeds you’re travelling at, it can sometimes be difficult to discern exactly when a turn is coming up, or which of those furry things in the distance is one of your opponents. Once again, it’s certainly not unplayable, but this is far from an ideal way of experiencing Redout; it’s passable at best, whether you’re playing at home or on the go.
With that being said, the art style still proves to be one of the strongest aspects of Redout, massaging your eyes with a constant stream of over the top, low-poly environments that remain a thrill to behold. There are twelve different track types, ranging from winding raceways through floating rock islands to coastal getaways bathed in sunlight. Visually, each track is distinctive and memorable, and even though the effect of the art style is lessened by the sub-par resolution, it’s still strong enough to notably raise one’s enjoyment of Redout. Similarly, the soundtrack proves to match the action perfectly, mixing together rock and electro house into a collection of tracks that adequately keep the action feeling intense and purposeful. There aren’t strictly any standouts here, but we absolutely loved the music, both for its quality and its depth.
It’s a pretty good game, but there’s a lingering sense that Redout could’ve been so much more if it were buffed up in a few key areas. The lacklustre online, complete omission of local multiplayer, and the overall shoddy performance hold this one back from being something great, and it’s a real shame. Even so, the stellar art style, catchy soundtrack, and in-depth career mode ensure that it’s a satisfying experience for those who can put up with the difficulty. Redout is certainly worth your time, but only if you would consider yourself a fan of this rather niche sub-genre. If that isn’t you, it may still be worth a punt, but we’d recommend trying out FAST RMX over this one.