Ever since Origin's 1985 Autoduel, the computer version of Steve Jackson's Car Wars, game designers have tried again and again to capture the essence of automobile combat. Over the years, because of a lack of good titles, this subgenre was relegated to a backseat behind the more popular first-person shooter. Even Interstate '76 - although critically acclaimed for its atmosphere, music, and style - didn't have the impact on the action or deathmatch scene that games like Quake did. Beyond Games and Accolade hope to change all that with Redline, a hybrid action game that combines the best of first-person mayhem with high-speed automobile insanity.
Redline's back story centers on a man named Reich who invents an energy source in the 1950s that can solve all the world's energy needs. The technology was kept secret, but eventually, in the not so distant future, the world population discovers the secret, and aggressive environmentalists take control of the world. But those who suppressed the technology in the first place decide that the way to return to power is to form a corporation that can rally the world population behind a popular and innocent goal: ridding the world of nuclear weapons by sending them to the moon. The corporation succeeds in getting the nukes on the moon, but then it reveals its true colors, detonating them all and destroying the moon. The resulting impact on the environment devastates the planet, and only those who live inside the domed cities of the corporation survive. Amidst the new chaos, rival gangs form outside the domes, and they battle in vehicular combat for the pleasure of those within. This may seem like your standard postapocalyptic wasteland setting, but gameplay backs up the setting by making sure the action keeps you looking over your shoulder for Mad Max or the Toecutter.
In the single-player campaign, you join a gang, known as the Company, that has an ongoing conflict with the rival Red Sixers. Mission objectives vary between taking out gang bosses to rescuing a fellow Company member. The difference between Redline and other "car wars" games is that this game constantly switches back and forth between on-foot action and in-car vehicular combat. Sometimes, surviving without a car - which is much harder - is integral to the plot. The engine itself allows players to see far into the distance, which provides a feeling of being extremely vulnerable when not inside a vehicle.
While other first-person games limit your weapons selection to the number keys on the keyboard (1-10), Redline not only outfits you with ten foot-based weapons, but also varies the weapons configuration of vehicles depending upon vehicle design and gang affiliation. Different gangs prefer different weapons, so if your own car gets destroyed, you can hop into that rival gang's van and learn to use some new and unfamiliar weapons. For example, your gang, the Company, prefers tracking and projectile weapons, while the Red Sixers get their kicks from energy-based weapons. At the same time, in what surely is a balance decision, certain weapons that provide critical advantages (especially in multiplayer games) can only be fired while on foot. The EMP quickly disables opponents' vehicles, but it can only be fired while on foot. One of the most unique weapons is the circular saw. It's a little like the chain saw from Doom II, but here the rotating blade provides the added feature of propelling players into the air if it is pointed downward. Dubbed "saw-flying" by the design team, this method of movement is limited to about five seconds when the saw is on full power, but experienced team members have increased the flight time by activating it in bursts. Not only can you indulge in drive-by shootings in Redline multiplayer, but you can also fly. The total effect of all of these considerations is that Redline provides a highly different style of deathmatch and capture the flag from any other action game.
If you still think multiplayer action gaming can never get better than the Quake games, think again. Redline is revving its engine full throttle to prove that vehicular combat can be successfully integrated into a first-person shooter. All that's left to see is whether players will have as much fun gibbing opponents with a hood-mounted lightning mortar as they do being on the friendly side of a rocket launcher.