Accolade's Redline is a rather ambitious undertaking: It is both a mission-based driving game and a first-person shooter. Though it is a better game from behind the wheel than on foot, individual scenarios often require switching modes at critical junctures. This makes for some hair-raising gameplay.
You work for The Company, an evil corporation among still more nefarious gangs and religious cults in a futuristic dystopia. Like in Mad Max, the rule of the day is: "He who has the most car wins." Cars are more powerful than people. They're armor-plated; you're not. They have superpowered force cannons... well, all right, you have those too. More importantly, they can run you over, and you can only run. Plus, if your car is destroyed, you simply jump out. If you are destroyed, the results should be fairly obvious.
Controlling vehicles in Redline is a joy. Powerslides, powerslides, powerslides. Tons of cool weapons. Better still, tons of different cars. And the different vehicles that come up throughout the game don't just differ in thickness of armor plating, relative sluggishness, etc. They're totally unique beasts, one to the next. Case in point, level four's hover vehicle, whose turning radius is a matter of millimeters but whose brake-locking powerslide (for obvious reasons) is nonexistent. Said joy must be earned, however, as Redline requires dozens of keys to control, even with a joystick or mouse. You have the capacity to steer in one direction, aim a discrete crosshair, and shoot side-mounted machine guns simultaneously. A steep learning curve, but worth it.
The first-person controls aren't particularly bad; they just don't compare to the vehicle's. All your basic controls are present, such as mouse look, strafing, jumping, etc. The multiplayer game features the why-be-normal option to turn your default weapon (a circular saw) into a vehicle (think "minihelicopter"). Unfortunately, control itself is tentative and certainly boasts nothing new. With last year's barrage of more-innovative competition (like Half-Life, Thief), the first-person component of Redline falls flat initially. It's the way the missions combine the two types of play that really drives the game.
Redline is played in a series of missions that send you into enemy territory, sometimes alone, sometimes not, to retrieve stolen cars, steal new prototype hover vehicles, blow up mega-orgone power plants, destroy airplanes before they take off, and so forth. There's a lot of variation, both in the missions' look and feel, as well as in the strategy required to win. This is where the interplay between the two types of games (driving vs. running around) really sets Redline apart from previous hybrids. The game uses the weakness of the pedestrians as a device in the game. It's totally nerve-wracking to repeatedly get out of your car and become totally vulnerable, just to push a button and open a door. Some missions contain giant combat arenas with so many enemies that you can't hope to survive the entire match without abandoning your tired steed for a fresh one. But the 30 yards you have to run to get it are spent dancing in an agonizing hail of bullets. And just when you begin to truly master driving, and you tell yourself that you'll never leave the warm faux-leather interior again, you're given a mission that requires that you drive a bomb car through enemy forces and deposit it in the center of a reactor. Thus the tables are turned, and you now feel totally claustrophobic and trapped in one (mortal, imperfect, slow) van for an entire mission. Despite the shortcomings of the first-person component of the game, the fact remains that it's just plain scary to walk around in some of these places.
Redline is a handsome game, and it sounds good - in action. During actual play, the visuals are great. As would be expected, there's plenty of vehicular manslaughter and hapless pedestrians that explode in no small amount of gore when trampled underfoot (er, wheel). (Though how hapless is anyone carrying a rocket launcher, really?). In-game sound is terrific, and the game makes excellent use of the stereo field for enemy detection, though it's no challenge to the reigning champion, Thief. That said, the inter-mission movies are always long and offer tiresome graphical loops of you and your boss conversing ad nauseam.
Multiplayer play is great and is free on Mplayer and Heat. Most worlds favor the novice, with battlefields littered with power-ups and the more-powerful weapons. Little search is required to get your hands on the rocket launcher. The interplay between vehicular and man-to-man combat is, again, the most dynamic element of play. Sure, cars are more powerful, but they aren't as well suited as a man on foot to find the sweet spots and superior vantage points.
The bottom line is that Redline is neither the next Interstate '76 nor the next Quake. Anyone looking for either will be disappointed. However, if you take it for what it is, and have the patience to master the controls and see some of the variation the numerous level designs offer, you won't be disappointed.