Review: Redout: Space Assault (PS4) – To boldly go where we’ve all been before.

Review: Redout: Space Assault (PS4) – To boldly go where we’ve all been before.

Redout: Space Assault is a rail shooter developed by 34BigThings, and even though I’ve never played Star Fox it’s probably a lot more fun than this.

Redout: Space Assault
Redout: Space Assault doesn’t do much right.

Story

The story of Redout: Space assault is a mess, both in presentation and content. All the story is delivered during your missions, meaning for the most part your attention is divided at best, and at worst you just don’t care because you’re focused on the flashy lasers. In the brief moments where I did try to listen to the story, I was zoning out due to the vague nothingness the characters were spouting.

At one point a random character makes an appearance to tell you he’s overseeing this mission, and it’s now classified. Once that mission was done, the next mission saw another character quiz you about it, you knock away her questions, then she starts going on a massive tirade about the economic problems of people on a moon and how they should shut up and get on with it? The whole thing feels like military style verbal diarrhoea with no substance behind it, not least of all because you’re not actually given context before you jump into the first mission of the game.

I think I know what they were trying to do, introduce exposition organically as you progress through events so it doesn’t feel like a big story dump. But you can’t try to create a complex narrative simultaneously against frantic arcade style gameplay, it’s like trying to get kids to read at the playground, there’s a clear winner, and that’s not even mentioning if the book is good or not.

Redout: Space Assault
Hey look, rocks. That’ll no doubt stay interesting.

Gameplay

If the story gets swallowed up in the gameplay, then it’s not for the right reasons. A rail shooter would be expected to be fast and powerful, you have limited control options already so it needs to compensate for that. Redout: Space Assault has an option to fire missiles that home in on enemies, a left and right barrel roll, and moving in parallel with enemies to automatically fire on them.

But you move at a snails pace. The action isn’t fast and frantic; it’s just dodge the enemy projectiles whilst your Stannis Stairlift Starship slowly escorts your geriatric pilot to the end of a stage. Even the boost option just feels like it increases your field of view and adds some blur on, acting like a placebo for real speed. It’s like the 3D film phenomena, seemingly cool at first but a pointless gimmick that really contributes nothing.

The game has four modes: Freeflight, Combat, Race and Bossfight. Combat is the tortoise paced rail shooting, but freeflight would be a great idea if there was any combat to be had in it. Race is once again on rails and involves moving into boosting rings and just mashing boost, but Bossfight. Oh, my first Bossfight was when I knew I was on to something special.

The massive ship I was seemingly supposed to have an epic battle with, flew straight into a piece of architecture, and promptly got stuck. I was dumbfounded. I thought no way could this get any less impressive, then it somehow did. As the gameplay is designed to be in constant motion, I had to constantly fire at the ship, do some damage, then do a 180 degree turn before my ship crashed into the boss ship. I repeated this for about 10 minutes, occasionally flying into the ship and taking damage just to feel something.

This was when it happened. The cherry on the cake, the true pinnacle of Redout: Space Assault’s truly immersive experience. The ship finally took enough damage to explode, my first death, a failure to contrast my countless button mashing successes to. But then I just respawned, exactly where I died, and was expected to carry on.

I understand a game being built for accessibility, I really do. But that’s the caveat; it still needs to be a game. This isn’t a movie. Games are defined by overcoming obstacles, if that obstacle has no consequence for failure then there is inherently no reward for success, and it’s not worth playing.

Redout: Space Assault
I wasn’t kidding. The big bad evil ship just got stuck on those towers. I suppose 5G truly is the enemy of the future.

Graphics

The game itself can be quite pretty at times. Interesting space vistas struck me at first, but this quickly becomes the norm. Redout: Space Assault repeatedly makes you feel like you’ve entered the same area from different angles for its stages, which consist of a preset formula: Space station, lots (and lots) of asteroids, and the occasional other big spaceship. It has its charm the first few times but it quickly develops a scooby doo cartoon effect where you swear you just went past that same space relay.

The enemy variety and design are a different story. You have three main enemy types; floating drone, other small ship, big ship. Each one has a different type of coloured projectile to dodge, sometimes singular, sometimes in waves. That’s about it. No feeling of love or creativity in the designs to be found. Weirdly though, the constant waves of drone enemies and their bright projectiles fit the slow paced gameplay just enough to keep you dodging, but you quickly start to wonder why you should bother.

Redout: Space Assault
But look on the bright side; your ship has so many pointless colour schemes you’ll singlehandedly keep Dulux in business for millennia.

Sound

The soundtrack was probably okay. It’s hard to tell you when not a single piece of music in the game occupies my memory, as with the sound effects it just feel so unbelievably generic. Nothing felt inspired or exciting, which is sadly a theme shared by every single aspect of the game up until now.

The voice acting was not bad, I have to preface with that. But again, a startling lack of love or passion or nuance was anywhere to be found in the dialogue. I can only conclude that the voice actors felt like me, dispassionate and alienated from the game and did their best to get through it.

Redout: Space Assault
Redout: Space Assault has as much flavour to its dialogue and voice acting as air flavoured bread.

Overall

I really didn’t want to dislike Redout: Space Assault as much as a I did. The game had such good pedigree coming from the super high octane racing of Redout, and it’s incredible it went as wrong as it did. If they had incorporated that speed and precision into a free-moving space shooter with punishing and varied enemies, there could have been something really special here.

There were clearly design decisions here to create something accessible. The problem with accessibility is that it isn’t achieved by removing anything punishing or exciting from a game, because what you end up with is a bland luke warm water experience like this. Accessibility is about creating exciting powerful moments that have to be earned, but then giving the player the chance to self tune that challenge into something they can conquer in a satisfying way. Redout: Space Assault misses this point entirely and suffers horribly for it, and it’s a damn shame because there are so few games like it on the market.

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