Redout 2 Review: Zooming Past All Expectations
What comes to mind when you think of the word “fast”? 70 mph? 100? 200? What’s fast to one person may seem like a leisurely pace to another. But then you get to the exhilarating world of Anti-Gravity Racing (AG Racing for short), where 700 mph is the norm and gravity is just a suggestion. The big twosome of AG racing, wipEout and F-Zero, dared to dream of something faster, something futuristic. Well, someone has to fill their shoes with those two out of commission, right?
Enter Redout, the latest contender in the genre. The original Redout did wonders to fill that high-velocity hole in my heart, and Redout 2 has all but gripped it with a might that I find hard to get away escape. While this ride is still a bit bumpy, I can safely say that with Redout 2, the series has undoubtedly earned its place as the next big contender for AG Racing.
The gameplay in this sequel has received some subtle tweaks and changes compared to its predecessor. You have your health and boost gauge to keep in mind, with every ship having a small boost and a big boost. The small boost lasts as long as you hold the boost button down, while the big boost is a continuous, high-speed boost that will only turn off with another button press. The catch? Use either of the boosts too much, and you’ll start overheating your ship and eating into your health pool. While your health will begin regenerating over time if you keep from taking damage, unless you turn assists on, you can quickly turn your ship into a fiery ball of smoking carbon fiber and bent metal. Also, as a bonus, there’s a landing rating system. The better landing you make, the more free boost you get to draw in. Beyond that, there’s a need to manage which way your ship is facing. You have turning, strafing (left/right movement), pitch (moving the nose of the ship up and down for hills and loops), and roll (rolling the ship to either side for jump landings). Admittedly, this, combined with ship heat management mentioned above, is a lot to take in and reliably do at speeds exceeding 700 mph.
The good news here is that the game comes with a plethora of assists, from automatic roll and pitch adjustment to making sure you stop boosting if you’re getting your ship too hot. It’s highly advised that if you’re just now getting into AG Racing or haven’t played in a while, you look through and adjust these settings. You can make your own adjustments to what you want, but they are vital to getting up to speed with managing your ship during a race. You should not feel bad that you have to leave some of those on, because if it gets you in a position to learn and improve over time, it will more than pay off in the long run. The key word with a game like this is “Patience.” Practice does make perfect here, so don’t hesitate to leave the training wheels on a bit longer than normal.
There’s a bit of diversity in the tracks now, too, specifically in the way of little modifiers that change how ships react to where they’re racing at. All areas have four different additional factors: Gravity, Atmosphere, Temperature, and Hazard. Gravity affects how quickly you’ll fall when you do a jump. Atmosphere can change how your ship behaves when airborne. Temperature changes how quickly your boost will heat up and cool off.
Lastly, Hazard is a bit of a situational wildcard. Different biomes have different Hazards. For example, the Mariana Trench levels have much more leniency toward boost since the water is essentially cooling you off. The water also makes cornering a little easier, with the downside to all this being that later levels have deep water where the visibility drops, and you’ll have geysers spouting water around you too. Another example is Cloud City, where, thanks to being far up in the sky, you have the coolness making your boost more lenient. Unfortunately, that also means no atmosphere, so any jumps you make can turn the game into a flight sim, thanks to additional floatiness when you take off from a jump. Oh, and there are also clouds as Hazards that you can run into that’ll obscure your vision, so you might want to memorize some of the track. It really makes you consider what ships to take and what mods to equip them with, something I appreciate for adding flavor to the tracks.
While all this is fine and dandy, this is the part where I address a bit of an elephant in the room, and that’s the difficulty. I’m not going to mince words here; this stuff is brutal and often unforgiving. At the speeds you’ll be going, this isn’t your average, run-of-the-mill arcade racer. To the point that I’d argue this is leaning more towards the audience of dedicated fans of the genre. That isn’t at all to say this will never be an entry point to AG Racing. The number of assists are there just to do that: Assist you into your new role racing literal starships at an excess of 700 mph. But for all the hand holding it can do, it will not hesitate to put you back in your place. You will boost yourself into oblivion. You will yeet yourself into caverns of magma. And you will accidentally pitch your nose up too much and disengage yourself from the track. These are some of the quirks that come with the territory, and just the same with any other games, they’re part of the learning experience. Don’t go into this series expecting to win right off the bat. Instead, go in eager to learn and adapt to the challenges the game presents to you. Because if there’s one thing I can guarantee from this game, the feeling of barreling down stretches of track, knowing exactly how much you can boost before slamming into a turn without so much as scratching the paint, is a feeling of absolute bliss. It’s no different than getting your rear end handed to you from a challenging boss fight. You practice, and practice, and practice, and finally win that battle, give your best primal yell of victory, and know you’re getting better.
That said, I noticed one peculiarity about the difficulty that I’ve seen a couple of others sharing. The AI has some very…odd quirks to it. Its rubberbanding is rather spastic and has had me winning races by a mile until the last 20% of the race, where it seems like the game picks a random AI and slingshots them past me, to the point that I can’t catch up if I tried my absolute best. The strangest part was that it was never consistently like that. I could go four or five races where it seemed to be behaving normally, still giving me a challenge, but my piloting skills secured me a win. Then, all of a sudden, the computer AI would absolutely reject any of the game’s mechanics to full-throttle its way to assured victory. While I could turn down the difficulty, I felt it was less the difficulty and more a bizarre bug with the AI’s rubberbanding that made them go god-tier mode in the blink of an eye. I usually stayed in the Redout difficulty level and occasionally switched to Pilot when I was testing new tracks and noticed it’d still have this trait no matter which difficulty I had it on. Not sure if that was intended or not, but let this be a fair warning to all that notice something screwy with the AI rubberbanding; it ain’t just you. I’ve been seeing it too.
Redout 2 will have a Campaign, Arcade (for those occasional quick little races), and an online multiplayer with ranked matches once the servers are up. I bring this up now because you’ll want to consider going to the campaign first above all else. The campaign has a tutorial system and has you going through many variations of the same tracks. While this can sound repetitive, I will reiterate that practice makes perfect. Participating in the campaign will unlock ships, upgrades, aesthetic parts, liveries, and paint styles. While the last few are just for looks, unlocking ships and their upgrades are crucial to managing the various conditions you’ll be racing in. There are five different types of races:
- Normal Races – Simple ol’ race to the finish
- Time Attack – A race against the clock, better times, more stars to earn.
- Arena Races – Races, but with the stipulation that you can’t respawn. Also, the damage you take increases each lap.
- Last Man Standing – Be the last one alive. Each lap, the speed increases, and the person in last is automatically destroyed.
- Boss – Races, but every track in that biome is combined into one long, seamless track.
While we’re on the topic, there is one thing that I want to note for beginners, and ultimately is one of the more souring points I’ve had thus far. In the campaign, there are five different segments. The first is exclusively tutorial stuff, and that will get updated as you progress through the campaign with more guides on more advanced mechanics and techniques. When you get to the B-Class of the campaign, you’ll mainly be on Cairo and Fuji, doing races there. While both have their tricky points, they’re ultimately manageable and great places for a starter to get the grips on racing. The thing is, barely even midway through, you’ll start seeing things from Tartarus, and ye gods, does that place live up to its name.
That place has no reason to be in the beginner’s area. Some of the jumps are awkwardly placed, and you can barely even see where you need to land most of the time. There are blind curves that are missing their outer wall railings, and, worst of all, it’s truly hot as hell down there, meaning you need to be extremely cautious with your boost. Even pits of magma will overheat your boost, and if you are overheated on boost, it will start eating your health. If you overboosted and left yourself 2% HP trying to catch up to 1st, you’re dead the moment you hit the tracks near magma. Combine this with early game hell, where you don’t have much in the way of upgrades to mitigate the cooling issue, and you have a giant middle finger to newcomers and even some more seasoned players that weren’t expecting such a difficulty spike. A better substitute for Tartarus would’ve been the Mariana Trench or even Neo-Tokyo; at least the hazards there don’t usually punish the player with immediate death, just a slowdown while you get your bearings and catch back up.
Yet, despite all this, Tartarus and so many of the others have the most vibrant, exotic, and fascinating realms I have ever torn up the asphalt on. When I first got the bearings for racing in Redout 2, I sought to test my capabilities with the most challenging set of tracks available: Origin Black Hole. A desolate junkyard with a horribly mangled track that is looming on the event horizon of a black hole. The tracks in this set use this horrifying little anomaly to a splendid degree because on one particular straight away; you can actually feel the pull of the black hole sucking you in as you go barreling toward the event horizon, saved only by a sheer half-loop incline pulling you back and away from it. Never in my life of racing has my stomach sunk like that during a race. I would’ve never anticipated that the black hole’s pull was implemented in-game as a type of hazard. You can’t mimic this in any old racing game, and it left such a lasting impression on me that, despite my complaints of malevolent course mechanics, I may yet consider Redout the king of track designs based on these wild, exotic experiences.
And just like the tracks, the ship editor also has its ups and downs. Those used to the original Redout will remember that each manufacturer had its own sets of four ships that gradually increased in stats. This time around, each manufacturer (of which there are twelve in total) has only one ship, which all have several spots where you can change the parts around, and all have the same slots where you can apply upgrades to things like cooling, stability, and thrust. You can also change the paint scheme and liveries, though, only to pre-made designs. While I would’ve liked to choose my colors from a color wheel and where they go, there’s enough of a selection that you can make some pretty nice combinations. I would love to see some color wheel capabilities, and maybe even the ability to put on some text and brand logos for some flare would be welcome, but as it stands, between colors, paint scheme, and parts you can change around, you’re getting quite a treat for making the car feel unique.
That said, I wish there were a different way to earn the parts and liveries. As it is now, all of your aesthetic stuff is locked behind campaign events. So if that new spoiler you’re looking at is stuck behind a challenging Speed event or, worse, in a race in Tartarus, you’re going to have a helluva struggle. Then you consider that vital upgrades and even ships are also in the running for this to happen, and you’ll be having quite a difficult time getting your ship where you want it. I would’ve much preferred to see a shop and currency system, so you can save up for things you absolutely want and/or need. Ultimately though, while this system leaves much to be desired, you can still get away with skipping a few upgrades and getting what you need from later, more feasible races.
Lastly, we’ll take a look at the music and sound design. Music has to be on point seeing the precedent it’s living up to. I’ll admit, Redout’s soundtrack had some absolutely catchy, thrilling tracks, so I had high hopes for Redout 2. When I saw the trailer set to Zardonic’s Takeover, I already knew we had a winner. Add in some Dance with the Dead and Giorgio Morodor, and you just couldn’t go wrong here. After hearing almost everything the game has to offer, I can say without a doubt this soundtrack is stellar. While I do admittedly miss Aram Shahbazians and his eclectic soundtrack (seriously, there’s Native American bagpipe drumstep in the first game, and it’s every bit as awesome as it sounds), what was brought to Redout 2 more than satisfied me.
What made it even better was how the songs played into your race. From drowning out the sound when you go underwater to cutting it out completely when you’re at the peak of a massive jump, that’s the kind of cinematic flair that gets the heart racing. All of the sound effects come in superb as well, with engine sounds and wall scraping coming loud and clear. Though, I do wish there was a bit more in the way of audio mixing. Whenever you hit a wall or activate boost, it drowns out the music, and sometimes that gets a bit annoying when I’m boosting often or hitting a bunch of walls on a new track, and turning down the SFX doesn’t help much. I’d like to have seen independent toggles for when gameplay messes with the music and have more of tweaking how loud the music is above the SFX. There were a lot of times when I couldn’t hear much of the music at all, which is a real shame because the first game did all of this just fine. Alas, these are minor gripes, but hopefully, they’re taken into consideration in the future.
A True Balance of Performance
So, you might be thinking, “Cory, you gave it a 4.5, but a good chunk of the review is complaining!” That isn’t inaccurate. But the thing to remember here is that AG Racing games don’t pop up daily. As dedicated as fans are to the genre, it’s a relatively starved niche. And to see something of this caliber get so many things right has me hoping that, with these little bits and pieces that missed the mark fixed, this can easily become the best damn thing that’s hit this genre in many years.
Developer 34 Big Things hasn’t just given AG Racing a new stepping stone; they’ve gifted us an entire landmass here as proof that they’re here to keep revitalizing a fading genre. While the difficulty spikes are on the tall side, the unlockable system missed a few spot checks, and the AI may be off its meds, I can see far more than 34 big things to love about Redout 2 and I can’t wait to see where this series takes AG Racing to next.
Final Verdict 4.5/5
Available on: PC (Reviewed), Nintendo Switch, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, and Series S|X; Publisher: 34 Big Things; Developer: Saber Interactive; Number of players: 1-12; Released: June 16th, 2022; MSRP: $29.99
Full disclosure: The publisher provided a review copy of Redout 2.