Redout - PC / VR Review

Redout nails a number of positives and makes one of the most compelling arguments that virtual reality games can be much more than just tech demos or gimmicks. This is a great callback to my early F-Zero days while providing lots of modes, upgrades options, multiplayer and more. A complete package - too often a rarity in VR to this point.

Virtual reality in gaming is still young, and it has been going through various growing pains. One of those areas people are still working their way around is whether or not a game is too intense - if it might cause VR sickness. This is a very real thing, though I have the highest tolerance for it of everyone in my family. Some games you can get hours with and not have any concerns, some games can do a person in within minutes.

It is interesting, because I had thought that if any game might be prone to causing that sensation, it might be a futuristic racer with loops, jumps and a good sense of generating speed - but that is not the case at all. In fact, it proved so comfortable that I played it for hours and completed a considerable chunk of the campaign offering in my very first sitting. Redout is compelling enough that I had no interest in stopping.

It is clear that titles like F-Zero and Wipeout are the clear inspirations here, with neon-soaked visuals, hovering vehicles and futuristic music and upgrades. Without a doubt, there is a learning curve here. I am by no means the best at racing games, but I can usually hold my own, and my first two races saw me finishing second to last and then last - so not a good start. The controls are simple and work great with a controller - operating like pretty much every other racing game out there with one trigger for acceleration and one for braking. There is also a speed boost, and this is one of the two elements I had to wrap my head around at first.

I am used to a speed boost being something you only get to use a finite number of times per race, but here it is ever-recharging, so you need to pick your spots with it. Got a straightaway? Hit it and catch up. Lost control on a sharp turn and bounced off of a wall, grinding momentum to a stop? Gun it at the right time to recover more quickly. All of the things you usually use boosts for in racing games, but depending on your vehicle's recharge rate, you might be getting these boosts every several seconds, and you want to make sure that you make the most out of them while not focusing on them so much that you lose sight of the race in front of you.

The other important factor is just the hovering and physics of it all. There is an intentionally floaty feeling that you need to get used to with this title. Once you do that, you can start to anticipate turns better and how to navigate the cluster of cars at the beginning of the race as you try to establish yourself at the head of the pack. One factor in this is the unique control scheme that sees the left stick work as a directional one, and the right as a slightly finer tuned strafe. It adds a layer of physics to the game that is missing from most other racers, and it definitely took some getting used to. Once I got both of these mechanics down, I was seeing my times improve dramatically and I started winning some medals in the career mode.

Of course, part of what makes the career mode so compelling is the progression that comes with it as well. You earn money and levels for your races. Levels will unlock new features such as upgrades or access to new vehicles while the money is how you go about paying for these things. The upgrade system works on two tracks. You can purchase one passive upgrade and one activated upgrade. The passives are always in effect, whether they are improving your speed in certain circumstances or making your pod sturdier and less likely to blow up (if you accrue too much damage, it is possible that this happens. You get plopped back on the track, so it isn't race over - but you lose precious seconds and I have yet to win a race after blowing up, so it is important). The other upgrade option is a single use activated. This can be anything from an EMP to limit what your nearby opponents can do for a brief time to a huge speed boost and more. Each of these extras also has improvements they can be upgraded with, serving as a nice carrot to keep you interested in acquiring more money throughout the career mode.

Also because the enhancements come in several flavors, it encourages you to experiment. Do you put all of your eggs in one basket and build for top speed, do you turn your pod into a near-indestructible tank, or do you try to find a balance by finding complimentary but different upgrades? The choice is all yours. It helps that the career mode itself is so fully fleshed out, with lots of different kinds of events. Naturally some are more entertaining than others depending on preference. If you like racing against other pods, then solo races against the clock won't appeal as much as a traditional competitive race or the knockout version that by the lap drops the last place car each time. My least favorite of the different race types was Score Endurance. Mostly because the way points are earned seem rather squishy, without clear definitions. That, coupled with this being the longest of the modes makes it my least favorite, despite it seeming like a good idea at the time.

There is also multiplayer. The biggest two issues here are that upgrades and better cars and upset balance - there's no divisions or rules governing which class of pod can be used. So if you simply have a better pod, you will have a significant hand up on the competition. The other issue is that the multiplayer is pretty sparse. I've only had the opportunity to run a handful of matches, despite checking rather frequently since receiving the game. There just is not much of a community backing this title up, which is a shame because Redout is fantastic. Visually the game oozes style, with brightly colored tracks, gravity-defying loops and some jumps that still make me hold my breath at times, even though I know they are coming. The Oculus works beautifully here, allowing me to move my head (my daughter points out that on the loops I am always craning my head upward to change the view), providing a wonderful sense of immersion without ever making me queasy. The soundtrack has a nice futuristic, pulsating vibe to it as well, complimenting the overall package nicely.

Redout has been one of the best VR experiences I have had to date. The virtual reality helps to create a genuine sense of speed, the racing is fun and unique, there are plenty of things to do to progress the career mode and the overall presentation helps to sell the futuristic setting. Racing fans will find a lot to like here.

Game Information

PC - Oculus Rift
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Single Player
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Article by Nick