Shift into neutral.
The next-generation of futuristic Tron-inspired racers aren't showing much promise, especially with Wipeout Fusion's lukewarm reception by the press. Developer Curly Monsters (comprised of a few old Psygnosis refugees) hopes to change all that, having spent the last two years holed up with their Xbox dev-kit in an attempt to exploit its sweet secrets.
I don't know if they gave up early or figured the Xbox held few secrets beyond nice bump-mapping, customizable music and the ability to produce smooth, hiccup-free frame rates. The end product, Quantum Redshift, offers great production softened by gameplay more derivative than a cloned ear, and will have lasting appeal really only to most hardcore racers.
However, no special skills are needed to jump in and light it up. The gameplay and controls are very easy on the beginner. You blaze around the game's 16 vast, colorful tracks, picking up homing and non-homing artillery along the way. Points can be accumulated by collecting weapons, point icons, scoring hits on other racers and various other tactics. The points can then be converted to cash to spend on weapons, shield and turbo upgrades. This should be familiar territory.
Despite varying weights, aerodynamics and other statistics, handling the 16 different vehicles is also relatively familiar terrain. The triggers are used for gas and brake while the face buttons handle weapons and turbo. The handling is responsive and pretty darn smooth. It comes together nicely, and you will experience fierce battles at blinding speeds.
The graphics engine is another feather in the Quantum cap. Showing the Xbox's prowess to impressive degrees, Quantum Redshift sports nifty bump-mapping, loads of snazzy water effects, lush and expansive environments with different terrain types (water, gravel etc.) and the aforementioned silky smooth framerate. It really hauls virtual ass.
Other than a poor attempt to link the character profiles, there isn't much of a plot to underlie the racing madness. Each character has a specific rival for a specific reason detailed in each character's bio. One character killed the parents of another, so of course there is just a little tension there. A pair of characters did the man-woman thing and then wound up at odds...and so on down the line.
The rivalries and grudges are predetermined and add very little to the game other than giving the racer extra points for exacting his rival's demise. You can't initiate your own grievances and altercations and they don't affect how other NPCs behave towards you. Consider it a good idea that just doesn't play out very well.
The levels, though, play out very well indeed with alternate routes and varying heights. You can skim across a shimmering lake, take the high ground through more rugged terrain or play it safe along the beaten path. Subsequently, different ships have specific characteristics to take advantage of the demanding landscape. Some are light and great on water and others are heavy but powerful enough to blast over the gravel and dune mounds easily.
However, the ships aren't very well detailed and the design seems a bit flat and uninspired. The weapons do get a bit more interesting as the game progresses and the sheer velocity can be a rush at times, but only on certain tracks.
The music is typical techno dance mania, done entirely by the Dutch band Junkie XL. But like any good Xbox game out there, Redshift lets you replace any of the game music with the music tracks you've copied onto your Xbox hard drive. Thank god.
There's also a multiplayer option here, in case you want to race against some friends in split-screen action. It does the job adequately, though not very interestingly.
Quantum Redshift doesn't do much wrong, but it doesn't really try to do much new, either. The game provides average racing entertainment for the price. If you own any other hovercraft racer for any other system, then you more than likely own Quantum Redshift already. And while you shouldn't necessarily race to the store to buy it, it makes for an excellent rental.