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In Memory
Sean Pettibone

 


      

 

 

 


Quantum RedShift, an outstanding futuristic racer on the Xbox may be a new franchise, but the developers Curly Monsters have many members behind the original Wipeout series. Itís a similar game with a familiar plot, though this time the characters play a more active role with rivalries and battles that help to make the races more competitive. While it might seem familiar in presentation and style, the production values are outstanding. While it looks great and has some cool weapons, most players are probably wondering if it plays as good as Wipeout. The Laser has seen the future of racing and finds out whether a fantastic experience awaits fans of the genre.

Despite its heritage, most players probably wonít recognize the name Curly Monsters, though it should help you to know that the development team has some of the same members behind the seminal Wipeout series back in the Psygnosis days. This is promising, and the fact that this is a similar game in the same genre should obviously lead to high expectations. These are met in some areas, and exceeded in others. Quantum Redshift offers a different flavor of the fast, heart-pumping battle racing that gamers have come to expect. There are a few minor faults, these are minor. QRís basic premise should sound familiar Ė you race a cool looking hovercraft through some amazing tracks, complete with huge drops, giant loops, multiple branching paths and other obstacles.

There are 16 different racing environments, though different paths can be unlocked in each for added replay value and challenge. Your objective is not only to win the race, but to earn money to upgrade your ships weapons, shields and boost systems. During each race, you have a variety of power-ups at your disposal including more than 100 different kinds of weapons. There are two main types of weapons: homing and non-homing, and they are separate. Each ship has itís own unique arsenal of attacks, and more powerful weapons are unlocked as you progress through the game. During the races, several different types of multi-colored power-up icons are scattered around the tracks and running over them boosts the number of stock in your inventory. Running over the Bonus Chip icons will give you bonus points while hitting the Mega-Up will add a level to all your shields, and fully charge all your weapons. Each course also has several different branches which adds much to the challenge and replay value of the game.

While all of this probably sounds derivative at first glance, this isnít a Wipeout clone because there are some key differences that give QR a personality all its own. Far from consisting of the usual window-dressing, the 16 drivers are extremely important to the gameplay. Most importantly, each racer has a bitter rivalry with another racer who cares more about knocking you off than winning the race. This adds an interesting strategy to QR since hitting a rival gives you double points, while knocking them out gives you a super points and money bonus. QRís onscreen interface allows you to view your shield, energy and weapons indicators at a glance which is quite helpful. There are multiple camera views to choose but the first-person is the most convincing, especially in the rainy levels, where you can literally see hundreds of stunningly realistic rain-drops moving on your windshield naturally. It looks great and the gameplay is enhanced by the tight controls are responsive and intuitive and make racing and battling a joy. Each colored button corresponds to the same colored weapon and shield, which reduces the learning curve. Controlling the vehicle requires you to anticipate the twists and turns of the track. Luckily, this becomes second nature quickly. One cool feature of QR is the wicked power-slide maneuver, which is hard to achieve initially, but becomes an incredibly effective tool once mastered.

Several modes of play are included in the game: Single race, Time Attack and Tournament. The Tournmanent is the main gameplay element, though itís harder than you might expect, since you have to finish first in order to advance. You complete a sequence of races, and when you win the tournament, you unlock additional tracks. Sounds simple enough, right? Not so fast. Waiting for you at the end of each tournament is your rival. You must beat this foe head to head in a single race before you are given the keys to the next level. Doing this also unlocks the rival, his ship and home track as a playable element for the future. There are five tournaments, and as you progress, not only does the top speed increase, the opponents become more aggressive. This means while the first tow Tournaments are easy, Quantum RedShift will challenge all your skills because it gets much harder in a hurry, and remember, even a razor-thin second doesnít count. However, finishing second isnít a complete loss, because the points you earn can be changed into money for ship upgrades, making your next attempt easier.

While other racing titles have featured characters, none have brought the conflict to life with the elaborate cinemas used in QR. The way these rivalries are integrated into the gameplay itself, with the end-of-tournament confrontations is really cool and sets the game apart. Aside from this, itís a very straightforward game, with little learning curve and most players should be up and running in. Visually, the game looks amazing, especially the rain and water effects which are stunningly realistic. Other weather effects such as snow and wind are used to dramatic effect, making each course feel alive and natural. As stated earlier, Curly Monsters cut their teeth on the Wipeout series, and this influence is quite noticeable in the overall design and sensibility of the title. However, futuristic racing has never looked as good as it does here, with brilliant light sourcing, environmental effects and trackside objects. The engine seems to fully exploit the Xbox architecture to make QR easily one of the best looking future racers to date. An above average and definitely cutting-edge electronic music soundtrack punctuates the action and fits the style and pace of the action perfectly. Composed by underground electronic music icon Junkie XL, the tracks mix standard techno with more aggressive trance and breaks to make the soundtrack match the futuristic science fiction feel.

Unfortunately, there are a few minor problems that undermine the experience. While there are loads of weapons, each ship only offers a limited number of them, which is annoying, since you have to play through all the different characters to see all of them. Itís extremely challenging and the difficulty curve is quite steep, which makes the no-win/no-advance system a bit more frustrating than it has to be. Coming in second in a single race means having to play the race again which can get tedious after awhile. Another problem is that while the controls are excellent, some of the track designs make it extremely difficult to avoid crashing. Finally, the look and feel of the game is great, but it lacks the creative spark that permeated the early Wipeout games and feels a bit watered down. However, some elements, such as racing over water do add some freshness to the experience, so itís not completely derivative. Even though Quantum Redshift may not be the most original title on the market, itís tight controls, challenging AI and solid gameplay make it a definite winner. It doesnít hurt that the environments are spectacular, with outstanding visuals making this one of the best-looking Xbox titles to date. Be warned, however that Its an extremely tough game to beat, but most veteran players should enjoy the challenge, especially fans of the future racing genre. While other consoles have been saturated with the genre, Quantum Redshift effectively fills a void in the Xbox library and comes highly recommended for itís entertaining gameplay.






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