STAFF REVIEW of Redout: Space Assault (Xbox One)

Monday, February 15, 2021.
by Adam Dileva

Redout: Space Assault Box art The original Redout may not have set the world on fire, but it was a fun and competent high octane racer, a serious competitor to Wipeout, which was always a good time for some frantic racing. Now, generally when a sequel is announced, you’d most likely expect generally the same game, or at least within the same genre as its predecessor. Redout: Space Assault looks and plays absolutely nothing like the original Redout, so fans expecting another fast paced racer is going to wonder why the gameplay is now essentially an on-rails shooter, much like a Panzer Dragoon or Star Fox.

Redout: Space Assault lives up to its name; putting you in a space ship and having you shoot tons of baddies in third person combat. You’re going to have to be quick with your reflexes to avoid the incoming fire and quicker if you want to take down all of your enemies before it’s too late in space combat. What first intrigued me about Redout: Space Assault was its visuals, as the space backdrop seemed quite impressive for a smaller studio, so I thought I had an idea of what I was getting myself into. What I got though was something different, not that it’s a bad thing.

Tehcnically a prequel to the original Redout, Space Assault actually is quite narrative heavy in the sense that there’s a lot going on with the lore, numerous characters and their motives, much more than I was expecting to be honest. Set far in the future, the narrative revolves around you, Leon Barret, a pilot that is simply following orders but eventually becomes entangled in a conflict that is much larger and has some serious implications.

Mankind is struggling to survive and must colonize elsewhere as Earth is slowly dying and losing its resources. As you’re trying to pave the way for safe passage to Mars, you’re tasked with keeping your crew safe from space pirates and rebels looking to do what they can to take you out and survive as well. The narrative eventually turns into a typical rebels versus governments, but there are some interesting turns later on in the story, even if a little predictable. Leon of course is an amazing pilot, so everything will fall onto your shoulders as you become the leader you were born to be when you take a stand against atrocities you witness.

Again, don’t expect any quick paced racing you experienced in the original game, as the bulk of Space Assault’s gameplay is an on-rails shooter, though there are a few other sections that break up the monotony but are easily the weakest parts of the whole experience. Gameplay is very quick paced and the backdrops are quite enjoyable to take in, but the gameplay itself is quite basic once you learn its intricacies.

Since the majority of the gameplay is on-rails, that means your ship is flying on a determined path on its own. Yes, in the vastness of space, you’re confined to your set path without any control of where to go freely aside from a handful of missions. Since your ship automatically is on its set course, you will simply be maneuvering your ship to move your reticule that will be used to shoot down any enemies on sight.

This is where I start to question some of the game design choices. First off, your ship automatically shoots when an enemy gets within your crosshairs (by default). That’s right, you don’t fly your ship for the most part and it shoots for itself. All you need to do is aim slightly near them and your weapons will take them out. You do have access to missiles that require hitting the trigger, and can be helpful, as you can lock onto three targets at a time in the beginning before any upgrades that allow for more. The odd thing too about these is that you don’t even have to hover over the enemies with your reticule, simply hold down the missile button and it will lock onto any enemy or destructible objects currently on screen.

You’d think that for a game revolving around space combat it would be quite quick paced, but it’s almost as if you’re always stuck in first or second gear. You never feel that speed rush like in the original game, which would have made for some interesting gameplay given that it’s mostly on-rails. There aren’t many types of enemies and most are destroyed with a single shot, but there are some that take a few hits, and even boss-like that require some serious firepower and avoidance to destroy.

Even though much of it is on-rails, there are some very cool sections when you’re barrel rolling through narrow spaces, zig zagging through an asteroid field or generally doing some cool looking space maneuvers. You do have buttons to allow for a quick roll left or right, but this is generally meant to simply avoid oncoming missile locks, though you’re not able to fire during as you wait for the animation to finish. You can also utilize a quick boost or brake, though it’s only for a short duration and not generally needed aside from a few of the race sections. Just like the rolls, you can’t stop the boost once you start it, simply having to let it play out for a few seconds before you resume back to normal speed, which can be a pain during the race missions, but more on that shortly.

Each chapter is broken into a handful of different missions, each with its own objectives. You have a main objective to complete the level, but also will have secondary optional ones as well, like destroy a certain amount of enemies or collect an amount of items. These are optional, but will greatly help you with your upgrade costs if you can manage to do so. Now, this is where I again question some of the design choices again.

Since you’re on rails, many of the missions simply require you to get to the end. That means you can basically put down the controller and it will play itself as you’re on a set path. Yeah, you’ll die, but you’ll still complete the levels. Now where the challenge comes into play is that all of your collected coins, which are used for upgrades, are reset to zero when you are destroyed, so naturally you don’t want to die so you can get the most from each mission. Also, there’s no checkpoints or amount of lives, so you simply just respawn if you die, negating the need to really do much if you don’t care about the upgrades. The problem though is that if you die at the very end, the whole level's work has been for naught as you won't get many coins.

While the vast majority of the gameplay is on-rails, there are a couple of other types of missions that break up the monotonous gameplay, though these are the weakest parts of the whole experience. Now and then you’ll be given freedom to fly wherever you like, generally looking for a specific beacon or NPC to continue the story. You can spend this time to find hidden coins should you wish, but these missions are generally quite short and usually a narrative segway.

Ironically, the absolute worst parts to Redout: Space Assault are its race missions, which was kind of surprising given its pedigree. In these missions you’re pitted against another pilot for one reason or another, and have to beat them to the finish to complete the level. Problem is that since you’re in space, you’d expect it to be a freeform race from point A to B however you see fit. That’s not the case though. Instead, you’re set on an invisible race track, but have to navigate it around walls and through tight spaces, but can’t actually see the barriers or what ‘corners’ are coming up next. This means a lot of trial and error, as usually a few crashes means it’s impossible to win and will cause for a restart when you fail.

Sad to say, I’ve actually become stuck near the very end of the game, unable to progress because I can’t finish and win a specific race. This race forces you to be absolutely perfect, and of course after hours of retrying over and over, I’ve become so frustrated and want to give up. These races eventually become a task in memorization, knowing when to speed up, where to turn, etc. There are even rings you can fly though that will give a speed boost, but miss one and you’ll likely not win. The balance for these races is completely off and needs some serious balancing.

I thought that maybe I should focus on redoing some old missions to upgrade my ship since it might help me progress, but this isn’t the case, as you can upgrade your Hull, Shield, Weapons and Missiles. No upgrades pertain to speed or handling, so even when I pumped up my shields hoping it would help when I messed up, it didn’t make a difference in the races. For the regular missions, upgrading my weapons to a certain level allowed me to equip more weapons and types (tied to story progression), making me easily kill any enemies in my way. Upgrading your missiles will allow you to prime more than the starter three, so it’s a matter of how you want to play, though you can grind and fully upgrade everything should you wish.

After each mission you’ll also get three separate cards at random, of which you can choose to equip one at a time. These will range from one of the four upgrade categories, usually giving it a percentage boost. As you play the harder levels you’ll receive better tiered cards, and the unchosen ones get turned into more coins to be spent for your upgrades.

I admit, the impressive visuals from the trailer and store page fooled me into thinking Redout: Space Assault was something completely different than I was expecting. While not the most visually impressive space based game out there, the backdrops are wondrous to take in when possible, but that’s not too often given its gameplay mechanics. Truth be told, Panzer Dragoon is one of my all-time favorite games, so the on-rails gameplay didn’t bother me at all, though I could see how some might find it unsatisfying. There’s not many games in that genre released these days for whatever reason, but it brought me back to a different era in gaming.

As for its audio, the shooting of different weapons all have their own effects, the whizzing of your ship is noticeable when doing rolls and avoiding enemy fire and the soundtrack is decent, but boy, the voice acting is quite atrocious. Now, it’s hard to fully blame the actors when the writing is as bland as it is, and I get it’s a smaller studio, but it really was cringe worthy at the best of times.

While fans of the original Redout might be wondering why Space Assault isn’t a lightning speed racer like its predecessor, it’s a competent on-rails shooter, but doesn’t really stand out either. The visuals will most likely impress you at first, but once you start to get into the core gameplay, you might start to question some of its design decisions like I did. I didn’t hate my time with it by any means, but I can’t seeing myself hopping back into the pilot seat any time soon.

** Redout: Space Assault was reviewed on an Xbox Series X **

Overall: 5.5 / 10
Gameplay: 4.0 / 10
Visuals: 7.0 / 10
Sound: 5.0 / 10


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