Quantum Redshift (Xbox) review
"Quantum Redshift tells the exciting tales of Dr. Sam Beckett. Sam invented a time machine that allows him to move to the past and inhabit everyday folks in order to change history for the better - stopping senseless deaths, saving marriages and other such good deeds. Along the way, Sam is guided by his good friend Al, a colleague from his own time who can appear to Sam (and some animals and children) in the form of a hologram in order to give Sam advice, moral counselling and the like. However, ..."
Quantum Redshift tells the exciting tales of Dr. Sam Beckett. Sam invented a time machine that allows him to move to the past and inhabit everyday folks in order to change history for the better - stopping senseless deaths, saving marriages and other such good deeds. Along the way, Sam is guided by his good friend Al, a colleague from his own time who can appear to Sam (and some animals and children) in the form of a hologram in order to give Sam advice, moral counselling and the like. However, things do not go according to plan - our Samuel finds that he is constantly moving from person to person, putting right what once went wrong, without actually being able to return home. Bummer. SLAP Tom you plum! That's cult television series Quantum Leap, not futuristic racing game Quantum Redshift!..... Ooops.
Ah, yes. Quantum Redshift is one of an increasing number of games to bear those lovely words 'Only On XBox' on it's front cover. While exclusive titles for Microsoft's monolith were rather thin on the ground in the six months following launch, we are now witnessing a steady rise in the number of games to bear that wonderful 'exclusive' tag, and to make your XBox feel like it was maybe a worthy purchase after all. However, the term 'exclusive' is maybe just a tad misleading in this case, as it's likely that you've pretty much seen this game on a rival console. Ever played Wipeout?
It's one hundred years in the future (as the really rather shibby comic-book style intro informs us), and football is dead. Yep, the beautiful game has fallen apart like Wembley Stadium under the weight of a wrecking ball, and in it's place is a fusion of racing and high-speed combat known as Quantum Redshift. In this new craze sportsmen and women from across the globe challenge each other, each hoping to be the first to cross the finish line, while never being opposed to the idea of blowing their opposition into so much road kill on the track in the process. And not an inflated pig's bladder in sight. Them crazy futuristic types....
The action in Redshift is initially spread between seven racers, each with their own home track. Choosing your character, you must embark on a race or series of races that initially consist of only two laps (although more laps are involved per race as you climb the ladder from the Novice league to the speedtastic Redshift league). While the races start out quite as standard try-to-get-the-upper-hand-by-twatting-into-the-wall-less-than-everyone-else style affairs as you and five other contestants bez around the track, you'll soon notice various coloured gems floating around the tracks. Pick up some of these and the fun really begins. These gems come in three flavours, and with them you can launch homing missile, non-homing attacks (such as machine guns firing constantly in front of you for a few seconds) and shields. There is quite a nice balance on offer here, as the weapons will prove more useful early on, when you are really quite crap at the game and in need of all the help you can get to gain the lead, while the shields will come in handy when you are becoming more skilled at the game, and are in need of all the help you can get in order to stay in the lead. As such, choosing which power-ups to go for in a situation when you can only reach one of a selection of gems is quite a tactical affair. And once you have honed your abilities in the single races, you can progress to some of the other play modes on offer. These are the standard fare for games of this ilk, such as Time Trials and tournaments, but despite the lack of innovation on offer (destruction derby style events when you mush be the last hover-ship-car-thing standing would have been quite nice) they still prove very entertaining.
The various courses on offer show a great deal of variety (and really show off the graphical potential of the 'Box). From Egyptian deserts (complete with suitably ancient looking ruins) to German ice-peaked mountains, through to futuristic cityscapes, there is a very real sense of globetrotting on display here (helped by the fact that the countdown at the start of each race is carried out in the language of the country in which the track is based). And the track design isn't focused on the background environments, either. Each course offers suitably varied challenges, from twisting tracks to tense straights where the weapons really come in to play, each track is designed near perfectly, and the high speeds achieved later in the game means that learning exactly what turn comes where on each track is an absolute must. Thankfully the superb design means that the exhaustive research needed here is a true pleasure to undertake.
The main meat and two veg with optional side salad of the game is the tournament mode, and it is here that you will unlock the various extras in the package. Each of the seven starting characters follow a fairly weak plot, where they not only face four standard racers, but also a new character that holds a particular grudge against them. While some of these rivalries are quite well designed, stemming from Star Wars style 'You killed my father!' based outbursts and petty cases of sibling angst, some of the rivalries are never adequately explained, and seem to consist of your basic 'You come from the same place as me. So I hate you' playground bitterness. After each race you are given a score. Every point that you get that is above your previous best is converted to cold hard cash, which can be spent on increasing the length of time that you can hold down a turbo boost each lap, or upgrading your weapons into even more powerful and devastating forces. At the end of each tournament you are treated to a one on one race with your rival on their own unique home course (usually with a similar location to that of your own character's). Win this race, and your rival becomes a playable character, and you have access to their course. Hookah!
Continued success in the tournaments sees you gain access to harder difficulty settings, bringing forth much faster races. In the early difficulties the much-hyped speed of the game seems disappointingly absent, but as you progress the game gets much faster, and by the time you access the Redshift mode - the fastest in the game - you'll be travelling so fast that you could spit out the window, and see your saliva smear the windscreen as you meet it on your next lap. You can't actually do that in the game. And if you're really feeling brave, you can try the Redshift mode from the first-person camera view... it's really quite dizzying! The sense of speed is heightened by some lovely blurring graphical effects that really give you the impression that the scenery is literally flying by.
Once you've access to all the characters and tracks, though, there is still plenty to be unlocked in the form of various cheat modes. My favourite of these has to be the pacifistic 'no weapons' mode. This strips the game to it's basics by robbing you of your ability to munch your enemies with your cannons, and as such means that you only have your driving skills to get you to the top. It may not sound like much, but you'd be surprised just how much of a difference this can make to the way that you play. Knowing that you can't rely on reducing your opponents to scrap metal is a real challenge, and one that is actually quite tricky to master.
However, once you have unlocked everything that there is to unlock, there is little to keep you coming back to the one player mode other than the occasional time trial, or to practice for the multiplayer races. The multiplayer aspect of the game is a little limited, consisting only of single races, but it is still a lot of fun, due mostly to the fact that the game manages to evade any pesky drop in frame rate that so often plagues such affairs. The incredibly simple controls mean that this game is easy for any newcomers to pick up and play, and as such this is destined to become a popular choice for a multi-player bash after the pubs have kicked you out. It's not exactly going to rival Halo or Dead Or Alive 3, but it's a good laugh nevertheless.
Graphically this game really shines. The craft all look quite distinct and crisp, even when travelling at mind bending speeds - the fact that your craft doesn't blur much as the scenery does creates a very pleasant effect. But the blurring is not the only nice graphical touch on offer - there are also some very soggy-looking water effects. Some tracks boast some gorgeous rain showers that add impressive shine to surroundings (one of the cheats on offer even lets you turn the waterworks on in every single race), wile many of the tracks contain pools of water that must be crossed. Entering these pools splashed water up onto the 'camera', leaving drops of wet goodness on the screen for a few seconds. It really is first rate stuff. Not all of the graphical touches are quite so tantalising, though. In particular, the explosions on display often seem quite lacking. That isn't to say that there aren't still some impressive pyrotechnics on display, but these are a bit too few and far between for many of the firepower junkies out there.
The music that is supplied with the game is pretty awful, to be honest. It's all the sort of techno-twaddle that seems to plague the genre, and it gets repetitive very fast. But don't despair, because help is at hand from the superheroic hard drive on the XBox. This game lets you hand pick various tracks from the different soundtracks that you have stored on your machine's memory to play during the game. This should automatically mean that you'll like the tunes in the game (since you pick them an' all), but this feature isn't quite as seamless as may have been hoped. The game has a tendency to stick to two or three of your tracks at a time, rather than delivering the full menu that you've selected, which can become annoying in a lengthy play session, and if you make major changes to your soundtracks (such as adding more than a couple of songs) the game on occasion removes all the tracks from that soundtrack from your playlist. Still, it beats the mind-numbing tedium of the built-in soundtrack.
At the end of the day, Quantum Redshift loses out due to it's lack of originality. While the rivalry aspect is nice, it would have been much better for the rivalries to have been formed based on your performance in the game (such as a character getting a grudge against you if you repeatedly blow them off the track) rather than being based on some downright odd plots, and while the tracks are all very well designed, it's nothing new to those of you who've played Wipeout before (even if this game beats Wipeout Fusion hands-down). Still, Wipeout isn't available on Microsoft's console, and Redshift isn't available on Sony's beasts, so the fact that it's a blatant copy isn't too bad. All things considered, Redshift may be a complete rip-off of Wipeout, but it rips it off quite admirably, thank you, so that makes it all right. Sam Beckett would be proud.
Community review by tomclark (February 02, 2004)
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