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Redout II

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X
Genre: Racing
Publisher: Saber Interactive
Developer: 34BigThings
Release Date: June 16, 2022


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Xbox One Review - 'Redout II'

by Adam Pavlacka on Aug. 15, 2022 @ 12:00 a.m. PDT

Redout II is a tribute to classic arcade racing games where you reach impossible speeds in exhilarating futuristic races across an extensive single-player campaign and competitive multiplayer.

When we look back at older generations of video games, it's easy to see that we are spoiled by choice these days. Whether you prefer big-budget AAA or an intriguing indie vibe, high-fidelity photorealistic worlds, or intricate pixel art, there is probably a game for you. However, one noticeable genre with a gap is futuristic AG (anti-gravity) racing in the vein of classics like Wipeout and F-Zero. Developer 34BigThings has tried to close that gap with Redout II but can't quite claim the pole position.

At first glance, Redout II could easily be mistaken for a new entry in the Wipeout series. The ships hover above the track, and vehicle design is clearly inspired by the racing hovercraft from the Psygnosis classic. "Inspiration" and "execution" are two different things, and it's the latter aspect where Redout II slips a bit. While inspired by Wipeout, the design language in Redout II lacks the coherence of the world that The Designer's Republic crafted for Psygnosis.

That lack of world coherence is Redout II's biggest flaw. Instead of building tracks that integrate seamlessly into the game world, the designers went hog wild with twists, turns, jumps, and neon. This results in tracks that feel more like roller coaster rides than racing circuits. There are a number of twists and turns across all the courses that simply aren't telegraphed to the player. It's one thing to challenge a player's racing skills. It's another to craft tracks that are challenging due to blind turns and surprise jumps that can't be handled properly unless you've already memorized the track.

Games like Wipeout 2097 and F-Zero GX also featured challenging tracks, but those titles used their world design to telegraph upcoming track obstacles. Some tracks could be difficult to master, but when you failed in Wipeout or F-Zero, it always felt like a lack of skill. In Redout II, failure to navigate a turn or make a jump can feel more like random bad luck than anything else. A good example is attempting to land a long-distance jump. More than once, it looked like I was lined up with the track on-screen, only to find that I missed the track and crashed off to the side just before landing. Other times, I'd hit a perfect landing in the center of the track. What happened felt like the luck of the draw.

This sort of dissonance in play shouldn't happen if the game provides enough feedback. That feedback doesn't have to be direct. Indirect indicators, such as shadows or other visual effects, could easily do the job. There's nothing wrong with crafting challenging jumps that require the player to adjust their flight path on the fly, but the requirements should be obvious. Failure that feels random isn't fun. By the same token, failure that has a reason can be fun. FromSoftware has repeatedly proven the latter point, with its Souls series of games and its most recent release, Elden Ring, which is difficult but honest.

Thankfully, Redout II has a limited rewind feature, so if you find yourself in an unfortunate situation, it doesn't mean you have to restart. You can always rewind and give yourself a quick do-over. Rewinding time isn't considered cheating by the game (you can still win races and earn progression stars), but using it feels more like a quick fix for a rough spot.

Another oddity in the game is the vast difference in difficulty between the time trials and the actual races. When going up against the AI in a race, I could always hold my own. Sure, there were occasional races when the front runner would get an insurmountable lead, but most of the time, I was fighting for and getting first place.

The time trials are another story. Whenever I attempted one of the time trial or speed point courses, I suddenly felt like a newbie to AG racing. I wasn't having trouble with the track. On the contrary, I would finish the track with what felt like a solid run, only to discover that I wasn't even close to the goal times. I'd switch to a race against AI cars, and boom, I'm taking first. Back to a time trial, where I'm the only one on the track, and it was extremely challenging to win. The jump (or drop) in difficulty between the two types of racing just doesn't make sense.

Initially, I thought that perhaps my challenge with the time trials was due to the default vehicle and options loadout. Even after upgrading my ride with better options and switching to other unlocked vehicles, the oddly high difficulty bump with time trials remained. Strangely enough, certain speed point challenges are easier to obtain by going off course and crashing your ship, rather than racing down the track.

Unlocking upgrades is done by winning events in the career mode. Get the required stars, and you could get improved thrusters or better handling. Rewards for each event are fixed, so you know where to focus your efforts if you want a particular upgrade. Unfortunately, there are also a lot of cosmetic rewards that change up your look but don't improve your ship. In the early game, I found myself skipping these events unless I absolutely needed the stars to unlock further tracks because the upgrades around handling and ship control were more important than a new paint job.

Despite the issues with the game, Redout II does have its high points. Once you have a track memorized and you're flying around the course at full speed, the sense of movement is more than enough to bring a smile to your face. It's that feeling that draws players to AG racing in the first place.

Trying to cater solely to the serotonin hit when that rush of speed happens is what Redout II seems to be designed around. On the one hand, it's always good to see developers catering to players. On the other hand, the sense of pure speed was never the primary draw of AG racing games. It's always been a major component of it (Wipeout wouldn't have been a hit if it were a sedate game), but it was never the only component.

If you want to try your hand at racing some real people instead of AI, Redout II does advertise a multiplayer option (online only, no split-screen), but it doesn't seem to have a viable pool of players on the Xbox. Despite trying to connect to unranked multiplayer multiple times, I was never able to find a match. After searching for a few minutes, the game would return an error and disconnect from Xbox Live. Ranked multiplayer is also an advertised option, but it isn't yet enabled in the game. Instead, it just says "coming soon." Two other features that fall into this same bracket are the season challenge and community. All three of these features are grayed out and labeled with the "coming soon" tag.

As a big fan of AG racing, I'm disappointed to see Redout II not live up to its potential. It's possible that the game will improve over time as updates are released. As-is, the Xbox version of Redout II feels more like an early access title with some good ideas than a fully polished game.

Score: 6.5/10

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