Hands-onQuantum Redshift

We check out an early build of the Xbox racer in development at Curly Monsters.

We spent some time today with an 80 percent beta build of Quantum Redshift, the futuristic Xbox racer developed by UK-based Curly Monsters, and we have come away impressed. While the game still has a way to go--it isn't set to ship until the holidays--it was more complete than what we saw at E3. We were able to check out all the modes in the game and are pleased by the progress Curly Monsters is making.

The game lets you choose from one of four modes: tournament, time attack, quick race, and multiplayer. Tournament is a career-style mode that has you pick a racer and work your way through the ranks to be number one. In a rather novel twist, you'll pick from five levels of speed: novice, amateur, expert, master, and redshift. Each level offers more tracks to compete on, more laps per race, and, most significantly, higher levels of speed. You'll only be able to choose from novice and amateur at first, and you'll have to unlock the others by placing first in every race you compete in. By the time you manage to get good enough to place first in every race at a set speed, you'll be skilled enough to handle the higher speeds, which are nothing short of stomach turning.

As for the other modes, time attack mode lets you pick a racer and compete on any track you've unlocked in tournament mode at any speed level you've unlocked. You'll end up competing against ghosts of your best times until you quit the mode. Quick race lets you jump into a race against opponents on any unlocked track at any unlocked speed level. The multiplayer mode offers the same track and speed options and lets you compete with up to three other players in split-screen racing.

We spent the bulk of our time playing as Marcus Appleton, the dreadlock-sporting racer from England. We were able to read up on Marcus' history via a biography included in the game, which gave us some tidbits on his background and information on his rival, fellow England resident and ex-squeeze, Jaya Kushala. By playing through the tournament mode with Marcus we were able to unlock Jaya, and after beating her in competition, we were able to unlock her home circuit, Brackenstowe Vale 2. Although you'll find a total of 16 racers to choose from in the game, only a few are initially available. You'll have to play through as each of the first seven characters to unlock their rivals and then play through a bit more to unlock the last two.

Graphically Quantum Redshift is one fine-looking game. The game's enormous tracks are richly detailed and bump-mapped. Environmental effects, such as being pushed around by wind as you race and water getting on the screen, are nice touches that are easy on the eyes. The vehicles in the game are also quite fetching, thanks to their sleek design and lighting effects from their engines and weapons. The frame rate is pretty insane, staying high even in four-player split-screen.

The gameplay takes a bit of getting used to at the higher and lower ends of the speed spectrum, but it's solid overall. The ships handle pretty well once you get used to their center of gravity. The crafts will require you to carefully think about your racing plan in advance because of the differences in their weapon systems. Each craft will have three types of weapons that are unique to it. Making the most of them will greatly affect how you compete and how successful you are in your races. You'll also be able to tweak your craft by purchasing shield turbo and weapon upgrades, which will ultimately affect your racing style as well.

We're pretty taken with Quantum Redshift so far. The gameplay is easy to get into, and the graphics are quite impressive. Look for more on the game next week. Until then check out our media on the game.

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