Redout: Space Assault comes at the same time Star Fox and F-Zero artist Takaya Imamura resigned from Nintendo. He was with the company for 30 years, with the above titles also reaching that impressive tenure. Both games left a strong impression on the gaming landscape and were a major inspiration for the subsequent proliferation of space shooters and racers.
Space Assault is a prequel to the F-Zero inspired Redout. It attempts an exciting amalgamation of Star Fox and F-Zero style gameplay, but unfortunately, delivers an overall bland experience.
Compelling narratives have never been the focal point of arcade-style rail shooters, but this one manages to take up a significant amount of time telling one. The game immediately opens with a conversation between two pilots, with ambiguity as to which one your character actually is. There’s no real intro or backstory here, and it’s a while before you realize what’s going on and where you are.
Your character is Leon, a fighter pilot for either a government or private organization named Poseidon. There’s large-scale corruption involved, the development of a powerful new weapon, and the archetypal, unwaveringly strong moral compass of our hero. None of it is very interesting, the characters are weak, and the voice acting is pretty poor, too.
Characters’ lines are often delivered with a lack of intonation or off tone. Many voices sound as if the actors were pulled from the street and asked to deliver a line, with no context on what they were reading and the emotions they were required to elicit. To make matters worse, these moments of exposition often last too long. For example, there’s one mission that consists of attempting to maintain a radio signal with another character. The whole thing consists of listening to this person and Leon discuss the story, but there’s no substance to any of it.
Despite the poor dialogue and dearth of meaningful narrative, one can still deduce that the game takes place within our own galaxy. Earth is usually visible in the shot as well as the Moon, and the rendition of the solar system is nicely done at least.
Cosmic vistas and sparkling liveries
While there’s nothing revolutionary about the graphics, the scenery does look nice. The game’s backdrops are colorful, star-speckled mirages and the visible planets in the game are well designed. With grand space stations and weaving asteroid belts, the aesthetic works well for the most part – even if it is a little textbook and repetitive. It’s a shame there wasn’t a greater variety of locals. Every location is pretty much the same other than being slightly bigger or smaller. Everything blurs together creating scenery that’s indistinguishable from one mission to the next.
There’s a lot of variety in the paint job options of Leon’s ship, though. The player has loads of different designs to choose from, with the ability to match any two colors. There must be hundreds of combinations, and effort has gone into making each design distinct.
Control is everything
For a game like this, tight controls are everything. Facing dozens of enemies in a piddling little fighter naturally results in a high likelihood of frequent death. As such, rail shooters necessitate sharp controls to match your own reflexes.
Redout: Space Assault has a problem here, possibly its biggest problem; the game’s movement mechanics don’t gel well at all. Movement drags painfully and is too slow, making it difficult to avoid incoming enemy projectiles and to maneuver the ship through tight spaces. There’s the Starfox-famous barrel roll move which helps, but during fights that need it the most, it’s oddly taken away from the player.
Several sections require the destruction of parts of a larger ship, which are invariably armed with missiles that the barrel role exists to avoid. They were the perfect opportunity to use the mechanic, but trying to barrel roll during these sections just results in a meandering strife. To make matters worse, the projectiles are clumsily designed. Enemies will mostly fire these huge, successive red energy balls that are very difficult to avoid, especially considering the game’s issues with depth. The camera feels too zoomed in most of the time and it’s difficult to really tell how far away the enemies are from your ship. One issue compounds the next, resulting in lackluster, often frustrating gameplay. Enemies can also hit you from behind – something deeply infuriating when most of the game is on rails.
Off the rail
It’s not all on rails, though. There are some sections where the player is free to roam around. These are usually basic, uninspired ‘collect three of this thing’ missions, however.
Other than that there are races, which were pretty fun at first. The game makes movement easier here by guiding you with neon rails, and the electronic/orchestral soundtrack suitably heightens the action. Many of the actual racecourses are poorly designed, though, bringing the game’s better moments back down. One race required maneuvering underneath a huge mechanical piston – a feat of perfect timing, with the annoyance being augmented by the plethora of clunky movement patterns. What’s more, dying at this section places you back directly in front of it. Because of the timing issue, you could be stuck in a loop unable to move through it.
The gameplay really brought out the worst elements of on-rail mechanics. It’s fundamental that a rail shooter makes what is a naturally restrictive movement method feel natural, and Space Assault is almost wholly unsuccessful in this regard.
There are no lives and no score. When blown up, you’ll simply lose the money you’ve accumulated during the level and begin right where you died. As such, the game doesn’t offer much of a penalty for performing badly. You’ll lose money that is used for upgrades, but given the amount you get for completing a level; it isn’t much of a consequence.
The upgrade system is a welcome edition for sure. Shield and Hull upgrades increase your health – a prospect not particularly exciting given the above. Missile upgrades increase the number of projectiles you can use at once, but the most interesting option of the four are the weapon upgrades.
The player unlocks new weapons as they progress through the game. Some of these upgrades are machine gun based like the Gatling laser, while others like the Tesla chain beam have the ability to electrify multiple enemies at once. There’s a decent variety here and as you pump more money into weapon upgrades, more options open up.
Alongside choosing a primary weapon, you’re eventually able to choose additional weaponry. These exist as secondary versions of those you can choose from in the primary section, and you’re able to mix these up however you want. For example; the player could choose the long-range Rail gun as a primary and the shotgun-Esq Scattershot in the additional slot. This would enable them to deal with long and close range enemies effectively. Three different weapons can be equipped at the same time, so there’s a welcome degree of customization on offer.
A missed opportunity
Unfortunately, Redout: Space Assault gets much more wrong than it does right, which is a shame considering how popular the original game was. 2016’s Redout received a high amount of praise for its refined, F-Zero style racing, making Space Assault a poor addition to the series in comparison. Those that love 3D rail shooters might find some enjoyment with Space Assult, but the title is decidedly lacking in almost all aspects.
Summary: Redout: Space Assault puts you in control of a Super Orbital Recon Fighter during the Colonization of Mars. A thrilling combination of fast-paced action with roguelike elements is at the core of the gaming experience.
Genres: Action, , Indie, Simulation, Space Combat
Platforms: Nintendo Switch (Review Version), iPhone/iPad, PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One