It's hard to whine too much about the fall of the futuristic racer when there's ample evidence pointing towards the genre's rude health right now. Godfathers of the form, WipEout creator Studio Liverpool, may be no more, but plenty of imitators have emerged in its wake, from neat twists on the formula such as Distance's horror-tinged racing or Fast Racing Neo's hard edges. Redout, which has recently launched on Steam, stands out as being the most fastidious student of the style, so it's no wonder people are falling so readily in love. There have been games inspired by WipEout in recent years, but none of them have been quite so much like that iconic PlayStation series as this.
That's largely a good thing, of course. Italian developer 34BigThings has done a masterly job of capturing the pizzazz and excitement of the genre in its pomp, and it's done well to fold in other relevant influences too. From WipEout itself there's an impossible sense of speed and a future-cool Euro style. From fantastic curio Star Wars Pod Racer - let's not forget the one indisputably cool thing that The Phantom Menace gave us - there's even a twin-engined chariot, all pumped-up muscle and heft that's a delight to hurl around the 20 tracks on offer here.
And in those circuits there's the sweet shadow of F-Zero being cast. This is Redout's strong suit, I think, its developers showing a real flair for laying down some awe-inspiring tracks. Sometime before his unlikely Kabukicho makeover while he was still working on F-Zero GX, Sega's Toshihiro Nagoshi compared creating a new course for the GameCube title to writing a song, where it's about nailing the rhythm and working towards those virtuoso moments in each lap. 34BigThings are accomplished musicians in this regard, and Redout's tracks are a pretty anthemic bunch.
What's beautiful about them is how they're designed to embrace the impossible speeds Redout operates at, their lilting curves pushing your gaze out to the horizon. This is the kind of game where you're always driving three or four corners ahead, chaining together one sweep to another through a deft combo of airbrakes and boost. Readout works so well as a successor to F-Zero and WipEout because it understands so well what made those games popular in the first place, where outrageous speed is met with elegant design.
Redout's got plenty of personality, even if much of it isn't the game's own. There are some neat ideas that 34BigThings has folded in - variations on old staples and a move away from weapon pick-ups towards an emphasis on pure ship control - and Redout puts up a decent challenge too. If anything it puts up too much of a challenge, the first few hours of its career mode offering up stern races with aggressive AI that are eased slightly once you're able to equip some power-ups and mods on your ship.
There's wisdom in shifting the emphasis away from combat towards simply mastering your vehicle, and the career's structure pushes you towards building an affinity with your ship. You're able to upgrade them and assign mods and weapons in their slim loadouts, which frees you up to focus on the already challenging task of racing in excess of 1000mph. It's a purer kind of racing, even if the AI in its willingness to dump you off the track doesn't seem to have got the memo (the developer has, though, with this being one of the first issues to be addressed in forthcoming updates).
This is a futuristic racer with a taste of the future to it, too. There's full, effective VR support that, amazingly, isn't a recipe for sick-splashed moccasins, even if it's not been particularly well optimised (bizarrely it's the static menus rather than the insanely fast racing that's more likely to turn your stomach). It's a fun novelty, then, but not too much more than that.
Redout itself might rely more on nostalgia than its own ideas, but it's nevertheless more than a throwaway throwback. 34BigThings has thought long and hard about what it is that makes the genre tick, and has doubled down on the speed and style of the greats. There have been other games that have recalled the spirit of the great WipEout since Studio Liverpool's sad demise, but Redout does it so very well it's currently one of the very best.