Video games have a unique problem that no other form of media faces. Enthusiasts can enjoy TV and film from decades ago on their modern hardware without much trouble. Readers can pick up novels written a century before and enjoy them as intended. A video game’s interactive nature means that its platform can define the experience, and nowhere is that more evident than in the mobile gaming realm. Cell phone controls are unique enough to warp games in ways that put enthusiasts off, leaving a clear divide between fans of touchscreens and gamepad junkies. When a developer releases a game from one side of the fence to the other, significant work needs to happen in order to make the game palatable. In the case of Redout: Space Assault, that work just didn’t happen.
Shooting for the STars
The Redout series started life a long way from the Star Fox-esque action of Space Assault. The original release in 2016 is a futuristic racer a-la F-Zero, complete with fast-paced gameplay, stunning visuals, and an optional VR component on PC. It was a fully-featured release, and all indication was that Space Assault was going to provide a similar experience at some point. Designed as a full space shooter prequel to the racing game, Space Assault instead ended up as a launch title for Apple Arcade. More than a year later, the game has appeared on consoles and PC, but it seemingly retains a lot of the compromises needed to fit an interstellar shoot ’em up on an iPhone.
First and foremost, Redout: Space Assault foregoes the traditional manual controls of weapons in a space shooter for automatic firing. Players simply need to highlight enemy ships and their space fighter of choice will start blasting lasers in their direction. This makes sense on phones due to the lack of buttons on the device, but it also makes the player feel far less engaged in the action. You do have the option to fire secondary weapons like missiles and electric shock rifles. These secondaries are on a ridiculously short cooldown that doesn’t really do its job. Spamming on the fire button still produces a barrage of fire that few foes can stand up to, making combat ridiculously easy early on and only slightly tougher as time goes on.
Navigation is also on autopilot for Space Assault, which isn’t as glaring an issue as the automatic laser fire, but still feels out of place on a modern machine. You can speed up, slow down, and position the ship on screen, but everything else is just a slow dark ride through outer space. The original Star Fox 64 faced criticism for its short and sweet on rails level design, but there was skill in weaving through enemy fire and picking up alternate weapons throughout each stage. Redout has all the same troubles as Star Fox in terms of its short missions, but none of the things that make Nintendo’s game feel worth playing over and over.
Part of that may be due to the game’s generic storytelling and presentation. Each campaign mission features voiced dialogue throughout, but the characters never leave an impression beyond getting across the basic narrative beats. The acting is middle of the road and the story beats are barely memorable. With gameplay that feels so detached from the player, the campaign really needed something to keep players engaged, but it’s just not here. Dogfighting through enemy fire should be a high-speed thrill ride, but Space Assault‘s offerings are more likely to put someone to sleep rather than jolt them awake.
There are no modes on offer other than the single-player story, which goes on for just over forty short missions. Players get cards after each mission, with the option to equip one for a small stat boost and discard the others to get upgrade currency. The minuscule boosts in health and weapons never really felt effectual, with the game scaling alongside the updates to provide a flat difficulty throughout.
The only thing that Space Assault has that’s reminiscent of the original Redout is its impressive graphics. Everything you run into in Space Assault‘s levels looks impressive, and that’s enough to carry someone through an initial run of the campaign’s many stages. The character models are unfortunately 2D comic book cutouts speaking above dialogue boxes, but the enemies, bosses, and scenery all have a sharp style and unique designs.
LOST IN SPACE
It’s worth noting that a lot of these issues would be much less egregious on Redout: Space Assault‘s original platform. The story would still be quite uneventful, but the short levels and simplified gameplay would likely fit into the schedule whenever someone has five minutes to spare out on the go. However, sitting down to play this game through is an exercise in concentration and patience. The same gameplay that works on the go is just not substantive enough to work in a living room environment.
Unless someone wants to load up the original Apple Arcade release and finds themselves outside regularly, it’s hard to recommend Redout: Space Assault in any capacity. Even at a discount price, the level of interactivity presented here is so minimal that it doesn’t feel worth it. No stunning environmental work can pave over a story that seems designed to be skipped. Even the most dedicated Redout fan will likely find much more enjoyment in racing around the track one more time than loading up this space anomaly.