F-Zero and WipEout defined the futuristic racing genre in the 1990s. But despite the high demand for sequels, it’s been ten years since the last WipEout game (we’re not counting the WipEout Omega Collection re-release of WipEout HD and WipEout 2048) and nearly 20 years since the last F-Zero.
Thankfully, indie developers are filling the void with tribute titles that pay homage to WipEout and F-Zero while adding fresh ideas to modernise the genre.
Released in 2016, Redout from Italian indie studio 34BigThings is one of the most revered of these tribute games. Capturing the spirit of WipEout and F-Zero combined with innovative controls and a unique art style, Redout was followed by the space combat spin-off Redout: Space Assault last year. Redout 2 goes back to basics, delivering what the franchise does best: insanely fast, WipEout-inspired anti-gravity racing.
Code supplied by publisher. Version tested: PlayStation 5
Redout's difficulty left no room for error, and the sequel is no different. What makes Redout 2 more challenging than other anti-gravity racers is the manual controls.
Using both analogue sticks, you steer with the left stick and strafe from side to side with the right stick. If that wasn’t enough to contend with, tilting the right stick up or down adjusts the ship’s pitch to match the track elevation and optimise speed. Additionally, the d-pad controls the roll when flying over jumps in low gravity sections.
There’s a steep learning curve and juggling the different mechanics is overwhelming at first. But once you learn to steer and strafe at the same time same to navigate sharper turns, the dual-sticks offer the precise control needed to handle Redout 2’s scintillating speed.
Adding to the difficulty is a boost system that borrows from MotorStorm. Boost for too long and your ship will start to overheat and lose health. Lose all your health by over-boosting or taking too much damage, and your ship explodes.
Additionally, the standard boost can be stacked with a temporary hyper boost that recharges over time for an extra burst of speed. Hyper boosts need to be used sparingly, however - activating them at the wrong time will send you slamming into the nearest wall.
Despite the high skill ceiling, Redout 2 is more welcoming for new players than its predecessor. After completing the obligatory tutorial that teaches you the basics, the game automatically assigns the AI difficulty and applies assists based on your performance.
With six AI difficulty settings and sliders for adjusting strafe, pitch, and roll assists, Redout 2’s versatile difficulty settings can be configured to suit any skill level. It’s worth experimenting with the assists and gradually turning them off until you find settings you’re comfortable with.
Unlimited rewinds and manual respawns also lower the difficulty for new players. You’ll be using these aids a lot on tracks with no barriers protecting you from falling off the edge.
However, the tutorials don't do a great job of explaining the intricate controls. For example, the third tutorial level, which must be completed before the campaign is unlocked, is virtually impossible to conquer unless you stack the boosts - something the tutorial never explains.
Recalling memories of Driver’s infamously difficult car park tutorial level, this jarring difficulty spike means some impatient players probably won’t get past the initial tutorials. It’s also an odd design decision that the difficulty settings can’t be adjusted until you complete the first three tutorials.
34BigThings dubs Redout 2 as “the fastest game in the universe” – and this is no exaggeration. Redout 2’s relentless speed is exhilarating, helped by the aforementioned boost system and rock-solid performance on PlayStation 5 with a smooth 60fps frame rate that never falters. Even the entry-level ships are eye-meltingly fast.
Further enhancing the sense of speed is the excellent audio design, with the visceral sound of ship thrusters and a dynamic soundtrack that blends music tracks together as the speed intensifies.
Featuring an assortment of dance and electronic artists including Zardonic, Technical Hitch, and Dance With The Dead, Redout 2’s original thumping electronic soundtrack is serviceable but generic, lacking memorable tracks compared to the original WipEout games. The constant warning sounds of engines overheating and regenerating health can also grate after a while.
After experiencing the thrill of reaching 2,000 km/h in Redout 2, other racing games feel as slow as a milk float that’s missing a wheel and low on batteries. Aside from boost pads scattered on the track, weapons and powerups from the original game are removed, forcing you to rely on skill, reflexes, and track memorisation.
Wealth of content
With over 250 events to complete divided into three speed classes plus a final invitational round, the career mode is surprisingly lengthy. With extra stars to earn by completing extra challenges and later events requiring a certain number of start o unlock, the career won’t be finished in a hurry and will keep you busy for hours. The campaign mode is arguably too long, but the variety of environments and race types coupled with a steadily rising difficulty keep the it fresh and engaging.
Along with standard Race and Time Attack modes, Arena Races add an extra layer of challenge by removing respawns, while Last Man Standing eliminates the player in last place every lap with speed increasing in each lap. Speed mode adds more turbo boosts to the track with points awarded for staying over the target speed for as long as possible, while Boss mode is a test of endurance, seamlessly linking multiple tracks together.
As you progress through the campaign, Redout 2 introduces new environments. In total, there are 36 tracks (each is playable in reverse) and ten locations. That’s already double the number of locations the original game had at launch, with more content coming in future expansions. Combined with the extensive career and variety of race types, Redout 2 offers a substantial package and a wealth of content for the asking price.
With most tracks incorporating thrilling banked turns and dizzying loops designed to maximise speed and test reaction times, the circuit layouts can get samey. Every location is distinct and presented in a vibrant art style, from the lush landscapes of Mount Fuji and underwater sections in Mars to the lava-filled Tartarus Mines.
To provide context for the anti-gravity racing, Redout 2 each environment has a unique mythology briefly explained in a voiceover during the track introductions, but a proper story mode with characters and cut scenes would have fleshed out the narrative if Redout 2 had a bigger budget.
There’s also an emphasis on vehicle customisation. After selecting one of 12 ship chassis, everything from the propulsors and stabilisers to the rudders and intercoolers can be upgraded. Alternatively, ships can be personalised with custom liveries, but there’s no livery editor.
Performance upgrades are incremental but necessary in later events when the AI gets tougher. The downside is there’s no in-game currency system allowing you to buy upgrades, so you can't choose the parts you want to install until you’ve unlocked them.
Outside of the single-player campaign and arcade mode, Redout 2’s online multiplayer supports up to 12 players. Stability issues with the matchmaking system can cause disconnections, but online racing in Redout 2 is otherwise fluid and frenetic with no performance issues.
Limitations let the online experience down, however. At the time of writing, unranked races lack server browsers and ranked matches won’t be added until later this year. Sadly, there's also no local split-screen multiplayer.
Blisteringly fast and brutally difficult, Redout 2’s steep learning curve isn’t for everyone. But for anti-gravity racing veterans who relish a challenge, Redout 2 is a worthy spiritual successor to WipEout, ushering in a new generation of anti-gravity racing.
RacingGames Rating: 8/10
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