Reviewed: December 22, 2002
Released: September 17, 2002
Futuristic racing titles have been around almost as long as game consoles, but things didnít really take off until Psygnosis released a little title called Wipeout several years ago. Since that fateful day we have seen several sequels of that title including an N64 port, as well as titles like F-Zero and XG3 Extreme G Racing that tried to emulate the concept with varying degrees of success.
Now Microsoft teams up with Curly Monsters to deliver Quantum Redshift, a futuristic racing experience that attempts to blow the doors off those other titles. While this is Curly Monsters first Xbox title some of you may remember their PSX game, NGEN Racing that was sort of a sleeper hit for that legacy system.
Several members of the Psygnosis team who worked on the original Wipeout took part in the creation of this game and it really shows. Quantum Redshift borrows all the best concepts from those other racing games and blends them into a unique hybrid that at first glance looks like Star Wars pod racing on Wipeout tracks.
What do you get when you mix 16 racers, 16 involved storylines, 16 unique and blazingly fast ships, 16 fully interactive racing environments from all over the world, and more than 150 weapons? Total chaos at supersonic speeds.
Quantum Redshift takes place 100 years in the future. You get to pick from 16 racers, many of which are locked in the beginning, and take them through a championship series of races. You earn points based on your finishing position and the most points wins the series. Each character has a storyline, a favorite track, and a nemesis. When you defeat the nemesis in a one-on-one challenge you unlock that character, their racer or their track for the other game modes.
The stories are intertwined to reveal a bit of depth for the characters and why they are at odds with their particular rival. Once the nemesis is unlocked you get to play the other side of the rivalry and get that side of the story. These stories are told through some excellent CGI movies and are surprisingly well acted with appropriate accents and emotion.
Even though this is the only futuristic racing game currently available for the Xbox, comparisons are inevitably going to be made to Wipeout Fusion on the PS2, so letís clear up several issues. Quantum Redshift look better, and races faster than Wipeout Fusion or any other racer on the planet. This game does an amazing job of communicating what it must look and feel like to be going 900mph. At such supersonic speeds you are going to need some tight controls. Unfortunately, the game falters a bit in this department.
Each racer has several basic attributes such as weight, handling, etc. that affect your maximum speed. You can unlock faster speed levels all the way up to level 5 at which point the game is so fast you cannot begin to control it. Fortunately, the racing model and track design in Quantum Redshift if much more forgiving than Wipeout Fusion. Instead of racing in the narrow tracks of Fusion where scraping the walls slowly bleeds off your shields and armor, Redshift has you racing on wide roads where straying off course may actually turn into a shortcut or at worst, an alternate route.
Control is really good with a responsive analog stick doing the steering and excellent button assignments to the various weapons and defensive features of your racer. Perhaps the best part of the control is how they have color coded the commands to the actual HUD display giving you instant status of your three main command.
Your ship has primary (blue) and secondary (red) weapons along with shields (yellow). The status for all of these devices is shown in a centrally located circle divided into three pie slices. Each slice is also made up of three concentric rings that indicate the charge of that device. As you race along the tracks you will run through color-coded pick-ups that increase the charge and fill in those rings. There are white star pick-ups that charge all three devices. These are generally stuck in hard-to-reach places that require skilled jumps or a bit of exploration off the beaten path, but they are worth the effort.
The blue cannon is an unguided weapon requiring you to be close and directly behind your target. The red missiles will lock on to targets and track them around turns and over hills. The shield will create an energy barrier that protects you from incoming fire for a duration based on the shield level. To fire a weapon or raise your shields you simply hit the button that matches that color.
Aside from weapons and shields you also have airbrakes, which are most useful in turning at high speeds and a turbo boost that can be used to catch crazy air or simply blaze past the pack at the finish line. Turbo boost is recharged with each lap but is still only good for a few seconds so use it wisely. Between races you can modify your weapons, turbo, and shield by purchasing upgrades to increase boost time, shield duration, etc. The cost of these upgrades increase with each level, but as long as you are finishing in first or second place you should earn enough to remain competitive.
The tracks span the world and offer a good variety of environment ranging from narrow paths through canyons to twisty trails through snow and icy mountains. One minute you are racing in a futuristic city and the next you are zipping through the pyramids and temples of Egypt. As previously mentioned, you arenít as confined as other racing games in the past. If you happen to swing wide on a tight turn you might plummet off the cliff and land in a lake where you can continue to zip across the water and merge back into the race. There are often power-ups in these remote locations and you may stumble on a shortcut that will become part of your planned route on future laps.
The racer AI is challenging on the Novice skill level and brutal on the Redshift setting. You are eventually going to have to race in all five speed modes to unlock everything but hopefully by the time you have taken all the racers through the easier races you will have gained the skill necessary to compete in the harder challenges. The other racers are highly competitive and will fight for the lead and the various power-ups.
Power-ups are a major part of the game. There are usually plenty of them scattered around the track and they regenerate almost immediately unless you are tailgating the person who just picked it up. There is nothing as frustrating as aiming for that red missile charge and getting bumped to the side and watching your opponent snatch it instead. Turbo and Shield strategy comes into play, as the game warns you about incoming fire giving you about a half a second to hit that Y button to raise shields. Saving that turbo for the final sprint to the finish is always a good idea.
Quantum Redshift is fast and fun and never frustrating. Unlike Wipeout Fusion where I had to use a cheat code for infinite shields just so the walls wouldnít kill me, this game is more suited to racing and combat with a good dose of story thrown in to make things even more interesting.
Quantum Redshift is a gorgeous game that not only manages to capture the very essence of going 900mph, but does so while never straying from a solid 60fps. With six racers unleashing devastating firepower and some of the most stunning track designs seen in a racer, this is a most impressive display of the power of the Xbox. Even when you split the screen in two or four screens the game still manages to maintain a silky smooth frame rate delivering an intense and competitive racing experience.
The tracks all have a unique look that is suited to the region you are racing in. Of particular note are the amazing water effects, both in the bodies of water and the droplets that splash onto your windshield when you take a brief dip. Even if you are playing from a chase view the water will splash on the virtual camera so you donít miss out on the effect. The first time I saw this I nearly dropped the controller and now, after 30+ hours of racing I still sit in awe as water splashes on my screen and is slowly streaked away by the force of the wind on the glass.
There are plenty of special effects including vibrant engine glows with heat distortion, transparent shield bubbles, cracked textured pavement, plus loads of pyrotechnics tied into that huge arsenal of more than 150 weapons. Explosions are massive with shockwaves, particles, and even a nuclear mushroom cloud. Ship models are as diverse as the starting line-up at the Tatooine Pod Race, and they are bump mapped with excellent textures that show reflective metal textures and unique designs.
The music in Quantum Redshift doesnít stray from the techno tracks you would expect from this and every other futuristic racing game. Junkie XL provides these techno beats that are pretty good but will wear thin long before the game does. Thankfully the designers have included the option for using your own custom soundtracks, which makes your potential soundtrack as limited as your own personal CD collection.
Sound effects run the gamut from your traditional library of explosions to laser fire, the hum of shields, and even the subtle sounds or the water splashing then spraying onto your windshield. Itís all good stuff and made even better with a dynamic 5.1 Dolby Digital mix that surround you in the audio experience.
You start off with 7 racers and those unlock seven other racers. When those 14 challenges have been won you unlock the 15th racer who in turn unlocks the final challenger. The five skill modes not only increase the difficulty of the AI but also the number of races you must compete in to finish a series. I managed to get through the first 7 racers on the Novice level in about four hours, but once I started playing the harder level things ramped up significantly and I found myself playing and replaying many races.
Expect at least 40-50 hours of intense racing action just to unlock everything this game has tucked away assuming you have the patience or desire to actually play it that long. After about 20 hours the game starts to lose its charm. Youíve seen all the tracks and the special effects have lost their ďwowĒ factor and even the storylines become trite.
The multiplayer game is decent and by technical standards very impressive. There is always something a bit different and unpredictable when racing human opponents versus the computer AI. As of this review, Quantum Redshift can now be found just about anywhere for $29. It was a good game at $49, but you canít go wrong now that it has been moved to the budget bin.
If you are looking for some hot racing action set in the distant future using high-tech craft, destructive weapons, with intense combat on challenging tracks then look no further. Quantum Redshift is a worthy Xbox counterpart and challenger to Wipeout Fusion on the PS2. It looks better and in many ways plays better, and while it may not be as deep or difficult itís the most fun you can have going 900mph with your pants on.