Review – Redout: Space Assault
Gamers have been clamoring for a new Star Fox game ages. Yes we did technically get a new iteration with Star Fox Zero in 2016 for the Wii U, but the less we talk about that trainwreck, the better. Still, there’s been a noticeable void in the entertaining, space-themed, rail shooter genre. Then low and behold, 34BigThings decided to try and fill that void with Redout: Space Assault. In the past, they had tried to recreate the fast-paced, adrenaline pumping, futuristic racing action of the F-Zero series and Star Wars Episode I: Racer with their original Redout game, and were met with moderate success. Could Redout: Space Assault be their next big title and give fans of space rail shooters the champion they’ve been waiting for? Let’s strap ourselves in and find out.
Redout: Space Assault takes place in the year 2395. With Earth’s natural resources nearly depleted, scientists and colonists have begun searching beyond the borders of our solar system in search of precious materials and potential new habitable planets. However, things grow more perilous and cutthroat as the future of the human race becomes more dire. You play as Leon Barret, a starfighter pilot with the Poseidon Security Force. He unwittingly gets caught in the middle of an interplanetary conflict between Poseidon Corp. and some rebels wrecking havoc on your missions and outposts. It’s up to Leon to keep the peace by stopping the space pirates, aiding the scientists with their research, and protecting cargo shipments from the rebels.
Now I know this seems like a truly compelling story, but it’s poorly paced. You’ll have to slog through huge chunks of the game in order to get to the more interesting parts, especially in the beginning. Honestly, the whole initial setup is completely uninspired. There’s even a “twist” midway through, but it’s so unoriginal that you’ll see it coming from the very start of the game.
The story is also greatly hampered by the sound design. To be fair, most of the sound design is actually pretty solid. The dialogue is well acted and the soundtrack is comprised of some surprisingly good electronic rock that fits the game perfectly. The problem is that the sound effects can often times drown out the dialogue or the mission ends so abruptly that the conversations get cut off. There’s also the issue of the characters delivering a lot of crucial exposition when you’re right in the thick of things, thereby making it incredibly difficult to focus on what they’re saying. I actually went back and replayed a few chapters after beating them, simply because I had no idea what was going on.
Right now you’re probably thinking, “alright, so the story isn’t the strongest. But how does it play?” Well, the answer is that it’s really a mixed bag. Redout: Space Assault is primarily a shoot ’em up rail shooter, but there are a few open area sections where you’re free to fly around within the designated space (“All-Range Mode!”). The biggest issue with these sections is that it isn’t always clear where the borders of the level are, so you’ll end up getting kicked out from where you were and respawn at the beginning of the section.
There’s almost never any indication that you’re entering one of these sections either. You’ll be cruising along the guided path in typical rail shooter fashion and then suddenly drift right into an asteroid or enemy vessel. It’s usually only after dying in this manner that you’ll realize at some point the control of which direction you can fly was secretly passed to you. The reverse of this happens occasionally too. You’ll be exploring the area looking for resources or specific objectives, only to find yourself fighting the camera as it lurches in some other direction and takes you away without warning.
The rail shooting sections can be fun, but there are some huge issues. The biggest offender is the camera. With rail shooters, it’s important to give players a pretty explicit idea of where they’re going so they can take down enemies and plan on where they want to move to avoid obstacles. The problem with Redout: Space Assault is that the path forward isn’t often clear. You’ll be moving along, see a huge asteroid directly in front of you, move far to one side of the screen to fly around it, only to have the camera suddenly shove you directly into it because you apparently didn’t pick the correct side in which to avoid it. This happens a lot and it’s extremely aggravating.
I will say that the controls are pretty tight and responsive for the most part. Your ship is equipped with basic blasters and missiles at first, but you can upgrade your ship along the way. Eventually, you’ll unlock new weapons like scattershots, plasma cannons, and shock rays. The default setting has your ship auto-shoot at enemies in your cursor, but you can turn this off in the Options menu. Although, doing so will result in your guns needing a to cool down so they don’t overheat. I found that to be more trouble than it’s worth, especially with constantly firing your missiles and fighting the camera, so I left it on for my playthrough.
Controlling the ship itself feels pretty good, as it’s fairly agile with how it handles. You can do a barrel roll, but it’s really used a more of a dodging mechanic, as your ship won’t deflect projectiles while you’re spinning like in Star Fox 64. It’s not a big deal, but it just doesn’t feel as satisfying. You can’t do somersaults or U-turns either, which is greatly disappointing. There are numerous times enemies will attack you from behind and there’s nothing you can do about it except for try to evade their fire. You can’t rotate the camera to see where they are or how many of them are following you, nor can you somersault so you can get behind them. You’re frustratingly helpless until they finally move into position in front of you.
The level design leaves little to be desired as well. Nearly every act looks and plays exactly the same for the first seven chapters. Did I mention Redout: Space Assault only has nine chapters? That’s right, there’s almost no variety to the level design, boss battles, or mission objectives for about three quarters of the game. Each area in the beginning has the same look: a few nondescript buildings or large vessels surrounded by asteroids. The boss battles involve fighting a large enemy ship by shooting its shields to disable them and then attacking the ship until it explodes. That’s about it, at least until the last couple of chapters.
The levels in the first six chapters are really short as well. Each act only lasts for about two to four minutes on average, which is barely enough time to feel like you’ve done anything noteworthy. Redout: Space Assault is also ridiculously easy, especially in the beginning. Then in chapter seven, there’s a substantial difficulty spike as well as some lengthier levels. This is when the game starts to actually become enjoyable.
Each act has a specific goal that you’ll need to complete in order to move onto the next level. However, in addition to the main objective, there’s a couple other optional tasks you can attempt to accomplish. Doing so will garner better rewards for upgrading your ship, as well as unlock new skins and paint jobs. As you might expect, the optional tasks are usually harder than the main objective, but they can offer a nice challenge.
Redout: Space Assault does have some nice graphics, with nice textures in the rocky surfaces and the various ships looking clean and bright. It also has a nice, stable framerate of 60fps. That being said, the majority of this game is boring to look at due to the levels looking the same for the first seven chapters. Thankfully, it does finally see some diversity in the last two chapters.
I’ll be honest and say that Redout: Space Assault disappointed me. For a game that was clearly inspired by Star Fox, I was saddened to find that it was devoid of the charm that made those games so great. Some of the gameplay mechanics feel polished, like the ship’s handling, but the insane camera issues and unannounced gameplay type swaps can make some sections maddening to play. If you can push through the first six chapters, the remaining three will provide you with some enjoyment, but by then it’s too little too late. Although, I still see a glimmer of potential if 34BigThings decides to make a series out of what they’ve built. But for those of you looking for a good Star Fox fix, stick with the far superior Starlink: Battle for Atlas instead.
The graphics are clean, bright, and overall nice to look at. However, there’s lack of any real differences in its level designs until the last two chapters. It has a solid framerate, but the camera occasionally has a mind of its own.
The majority of the game is a rail shooter, but there are a few rare open area dogfighting levels. The controls are responsive, but not always reliable. There are some strange gameplay design choices, like the camera taking you in unexpected directions without warning.
The voice acting is pretty decent, but often times the dialogue gets drowned out by the music. The soundtrack is surprisingly good, featuring electronic rock that works perfectly for the feel of the game.
At first Redout: Space Assault seems like a Star Fox clone, but the lack of quirky characters and interesting bosses makes it pale in comparison. The story is boring and predictable, and there’s no variety to the levels until the final two chapters.
Final Verdict: 6.0
Redout: Space Assault is available now on PS4, Xbox One, Switch, and PC.
Reviewed on PS4.
A copy of Redout: Space Assault was provided by the publisher.