Redout: Space Assault Review -- Like a Star Fox Game, But The Bad Ones
Redout: Space Assault dabbles in numerous space shooter concepts but doesn't strike a chord with any of them.
Redout: Space Assault
Review copy provided by the publisher
Hoo boy. So I take no pleasure in what I’m about to write. This is an indie developed project and I know how rough it is to make games at all, let alone stand out enough to sell them. Unfortunately, this isn’t the only thing I took no pleasure from concerning Redout: Space Assault. There’s also… well, just about everything in the game. Whatever decent framework might be here is buried by awful execution at worst, and lacklustre mediocrity at best. Given that the original Redout was a solid racing game in the vein of WipeOut or F-Zero, this is a real step back.
I played Redout: Space Assault on the PS4. However, it’s been out on Apple Arcade for over a year now. I didn’t realise this until after I was done with it, but the fact that it’s designed for phones is quite transparent. Be advised before you go into it that this isn’t made with console designs in mind.
“Whatever decent framework might be here is buried by awful execution at worst, and lacklustre mediocrity at best”
True to the name, Redout: Space Assault is a space action game that’s predominantly a rail shooter. You play as Leon, taking the helm of a very Arwing-like fighter in Bravo Squad. You’ll be tasked with policing space, keeping the peace, and stopping rebel insurgencies. After half a game of being complicit in war crimes and horrible atrocities, Leon will have a change of heart and change teams when it personally inconveniences him to continue. The story is told through snippets of dialogue and simple cutscenes during missions, but it’s largely forgettable window dressing and generic sci-fi. If you didn’t expect Leon to swap sides when the forced relocation and enslavement of people was being dubbed “Purges”? Hopefully, that’s enough said.
The meat of Redout: Space Assault is the gameplay, naturally. It’s split up into a total of 43 missions across nine chapters. Might sound like a lot, but few if any of these missions last more than five minutes, if that. This is the first sign of Redout being primarily developed as a mobile title. Most of these missions are set rail shooter courses, but there are exceptions which I’ll cover later. Rail shooter levels will have you proceeding through the linear course, dodging any obstacles or terrain placed in your path, and shooting enemies.
To do this, your ship has a primary weapon and lock-on missiles. Completing each chapter will grant you a new primary weapon, and you can swap between these at the start of each level (or respawn from death). Sounds simple enough, and it’s made even simpler by the primary weapon auto firing at whatever is directly in front of you. That was almost certainly a concession to mobile design, but at least you can enable manual fire in the options. It’s not something that’s designed well for it, though. For missiles, you hold the trigger to lock on to multiple targets and release it to fire. More missiles, more damage output. You can boost or brake for a few seconds at a time on press; no fine throttle control here. And that’s your toolset.
But here’s a little detail about rail shooter design: the best ones don’t have you controlling your ship directly. You instead control your targeting reticle and your ship moves and steers towards it. This might not sound like a big difference, but it makes the movement and aiming a lot more synergistic. Dodging feels smooth and provides more weight to the opportunities of attacking while weaving towards the target. And the tiny applications of not doing this can have many knock-on effects that make the whole game feel awful. Allow me to explain.
In Redout, you control your ship’s movement only. This means you have to be pointing your ship directly at a target to let the primary weapon fire. If it’s shooting at you, you can’t stay focused for long. This is where the auto-locking missiles become a godsend, but it also means that I didn’t value the primary weapon at all. Why bother lining up the shot when I can focus on dodging and having the missiles do the job for me? Given that the first couple of primary weapons felt quite weak to begin with, this was only further encouraged. This is even truer when in later levels, I was dying in only a couple of hits.
“There’s almost never a level like this that uses the space well”
This eventually forced me to steer more haphazardly to kill targets once their health increases in later stages. The final level of the second chapter was an absolute wall at first, because you have to destroy a capital ship capable of annihilating you in one lucky volley, and while you’re on a timer before it escapes. This was compounded yet further by being one of the levels not on rails!
The rail shooter levels make up the bulk of Redout’s content, but some allow you to fly in more open areas. These usually end up being “find the item/hidden enemy” in an asteroid field. The first you encounter has literally no opposition, you just fly in and out to grab something. That’s it. Later on, these longer stretches are used to fill in story exposition while you’re travelling, but the gameplay suffers as a result. There’s almost never a level like this that uses the space well, let alone throws a decent set of enemies at you. If it did, you’d have been completely overwhelmed due to a lack of clarity.
Then there are the race levels. There’s only a couple of these, hearkening back to the original Redout, but they’re also linear on rail affairs. It’s just a case of dodging the obstacles, hitting as many boosts as you can. There’s also a lot of praying that the hitboxes are accurate (they aren’t) or worrying that the spaces are so narrow that opponents will block you off (they will), effectively forcing a restart. You have so little room to work with or ability to manoeuvre that it’s almost the whim of the game when you succeed.
It’s very easy to die in Redout: Space Assault, given the high damage and technical issues. Thankfully, you have infinite respawns, so you can generally still complete missions. If you’re in a race or on a timer, that’ll probably hinder you, but otherwise, the only penalty is losing all your tokens. Tokens are the currency that you get by shooting down enemies or picking them up on flight paths. At the end of the mission, these are converted (along with completed objectives) into money to spend on upgrades.
Upgrades have you invest your points into one of four categories: Hull, Shields, Weapons, and Missiles. Each upgrade costs more tokens, and it takes ten upgrades on each to actually gain a level and see any kind of improvement. Thus, you’ll only see boosts every couple of levels unless you replay missions to complete missed side objectives. In addition, every completed mission gives you two loot cards which you can select to give you a small passive boost as long as you hold it. This includes things like a 5-10% boost to any single attribute and maybe a minor secondary effect. They’re so minor and uninteresting though, and only really valuable because what you don’t pick gets scrapped for money.
Either way, Redout’s upgrades are paced in a way to never really feel like I’m progressing enough. I prioritised shields and missiles originally but shifted heavily to survivability when I started getting annihilated. Not only could I still not keep up with the damage taken, but now I wasn’t killing enemies in time. The only way I could manage to keep up was replaying levels and doing each mission’s two secondary objectives. Even that became a struggle though, as one errant misstep causes death, respawn, and loss of all gathered tokens. And guess how many secondary objectives ask to beat a time limit or minimise deaths? Get ready to grind.
“Redout’s upgrades are paced in a way to never really feel like I’m progressing enough”
So. The levels are varied, but they are also short and lack much substance. The shooting galleries are the most entertaining parts, but they suffer from control flaws and awkward hitboxes on terrain. Enemy damage output is very high, even if you put all your progression points into survivability. The story isn’t very interesting, and what parts might have had substance are delivered poorly. Hell, there are times when cutscenes will force your camera or controls away mid-mission, causing you to crash into terrain while talking.
There is basically nothing redeemable about Redout: Space Assault. Without a good story or a worthwhile progression system, there’s no desire to progress. It lacked the split paths or score attack potential of classics like Star Fox 64. There’s no gorgeous design or soundtrack to evoke the likes of Panzer Dragoon. At best, it’s a mediocre space action game, but it is so rarely at its best. The only real positive I can give is that it looks nice enough and the soundtrack was fine, though texture glitches and pop-in are quick to mar even that.
Under no real circumstances can I recommend this one. If you want to support indie developers, then go and check out the original Redout instead. That is worth your time, but Redout: Space Assault is not.