The strangest genre swap since we realized F-Zero was a prequel to Star Fox.
When a PR email hit my inbox about a Redout prequel, I opened it expecting to see a futuristic racing game. Instead I was greeted with Redout: Space Assault, a rail line shooter that seemed to bear little resemblance to the 2016 racer. After releasing on Apple Arcade in 2019, Redout: Space Assault now lands on Nintendo Switch. So how does this Space Harrier and Star Fox style, arcade adventure fare outside the realm of mobile gaming?
Redout: Space Assault takes place during a period of political upheaval. The governments of Earth, in a bid to maintain limited resources, have begun forcibly relocating citizens to the Moon. The plot deals with some interesting concepts and makes an honest attempt to be compelling. Unfortunately the moment to moment dialogue isn’t always enough to convey what’s going on or how much time is passing between missions. There are moments when the story is genuinely interesting, but more often I found myself zoning out.
In terms of gameplay, Redout: Space Assault places a heavy focus on locking multiple missiles on enemies rather than a traditional point-and-click fire mode. By default, your standard laser weapon fires automatically when your crosshair passes over an enemy. Initially I switched this over to manual, figuring it was a leftover from the title’s days on Apple Arcade. However, as I played it became clear that I was intended to let my standard weapons operate on their own while I managed missile locks. As you progress, you’ll unlock additional weapons to equip on your ship, and even the ability to have multiple attachments at the same time. This makes it even more practical to let the autofire do its thing.
Among Nintendo fans, Redout: Space Assault seems an easy comparison to Star Fox. And while, yes, they both occupy the same genre, Redout: Space Assault bears more in common with Sega’s sprite-scaling games like Space Harrier and Galaxy Force. It employs the same cylindrical play space and player movement that those games feature, rather than the conical structure of the Star Fox series. In other words, your ship always faces the same direction and aims down a tube rather than being able to turn slightly to hit targets on the far edges of the screen. This means that you can’t always hit enemies as soon as they come on screen or as they’re leaving. While it's clearly an intentional choice, it has always struck me as frustrating to see enemies, and occasionally power-ups, drift by outside my range of movement.
Added to rail line missions are a few free flight segments. Here, you’ll have full range of movement and generally be tasked with exploring space around you to find specific mission objectives. These segments are rare but they break up the gameplay nicely. My only issue with them is that objectives were sometimes unclear, causing me to wander the vastness of space, until I stumbled into the right spot. Certain boss fights also use an interesting orbiting mechanic. Here, your movement controls will cause you to orbit a target, challenging you to take shots at it while dodging incoming fire. It can be a little awkward at times as your ship will occasionally quickly flip between multiple targets, but overall it made for a nice addition to the traditional formula that I hadn’t really seen elsewhere.
Redout: Space Assault features over 40 missions and is very substantial in terms of content. Each mission has a primary and two secondary objectives. Additional objectives can be completed to earn extra credits to spend on upgrading your hull, shields, weapons, and missiles. This is where my only real complaint about Redout: Space Assault comes into play. As missions progress, enemies become more and more effective bullet sponges, forcing you to upgrade your ship in order to proceed. This results in having to return to old levels to pick up missed objectives or simply grind out credits. It breaks the story to have to continuously rewind to previous sections before you can proceed. It’s artificial padding and makes the game more about grinding out upgrades rather than your skill as a pilot, which somewhat goes against the arcade style Redout: Space Assault otherwise proudly flaunts.
Visually Redout: Space Assault looks quite nice on Switch, especially in handheld mode where it looks to run at or very near the Switch’s native 1280x720. It looks especially good when compared to the previous Redout game on Switch, which suffers from a very low resolution and visual downgrade compared to other platforms. Likely due to its Apple Arcade roots, Redout: Space Assault makes the transition quite gracefully.
Redout: Space Assault, while a generally fun game, seems to miss out on a few of the concepts that make the genre work. Arcade style games like this should be based on skill, with missions that continually pit the player against more complex piloting and shooting challenges. While this almost gets there, it falls back on artificial padding based on grinding out upgrades for your ship. That being said, when it does hit its stride, Redout: Space Assault has some truly thrilling moments. Racing pirates through the canyons of asteroids, or getting a multi-lock on a huge swarm of enemies as you dodge incoming fire is just as exciting as it should be. Redout: Space Assault gets very close to being something truly special. I would say I look forward to seeing them nail it with the next entry, but based on the series thus far, Redout 3 is likely to be a puzzle game or maybe a first-person shooter.