Redline is an upcoming auto racing title by venerable Mac software publisher Ambrosia Software. A long time in the making, Redline is shaping up to be a game you'll want to keep in your Dock, long after the likes of other, twice-as-expensive titles poof out.
Redline's been in the Ambrosia pipe since at least late 2002, although developer Jonas Echterhoff has been toiling away at it a bit longer than that. If that seems like a long time, well, it probably is. But there's nothing like getting a game just right, especially a racing game that offers players the chance to power-slide some serious asphalt-eating autos from the 1960's on up.
The elements of Redline—the keys to which were offered up to IMG for a preview test drive—are familiar to racing/driving simulation fans. This shouldn't be taken to insinuate that the execution of the game, sum total, is trite, however; in fact, the gestalt is easily greater than the sum of its parts.
Redline keeps you from groaning, "If only I hadn't Ebayed my Momo wheel." The game is designed to work well with a keyboard, satisfying racers who don't want to clamp a plastic steering wheel to their desks, although it will certainly accommodate a wheel or gamepad if that's your preference. Despite being one of those people who auctioned off my desktop gaming wheel, I found Redline to offer a high degree of driving control using the keyboard.
Perhaps the most unique aspect of Redline is how it lands somewhere between games such as Rally Shift and Racer. You can choose to play in Simulation modes, with a more demanding and realistic physics engine, or you can go for more platform-style action if realism isn't your thing. Two options are available for those drivers who prefer the latter style of gaming, Arcade and Turbo Arcade.
Arcade modes allows you to careen about like a madman with less penalty for your reckless failure to brake well before a curve, find the right line through a turn, or recover from the massive case of oversteer you bought yourself once you unlocked the Viper. Turbo Arcade speeds up the pace, but still offers you video game-style physics.
Choosing Simulation requires more attention to your technique than either of the Arcade modes. It is difficult to win a race in Simulation mode without carefully planning your cornering, for example, whether winding around a gentle bend in a rock-walled canyon, or power sliding a 90-degree turn in the heart of a city. To some degree, using the automatic transmission helps in simulation mode, since the tranny's got the brains to shift at the right time. This won't satisfy hard-core motorists, who will choose the manual tranny, but the option for an auto slushbox is there.
Redline's game modes appear to be standard fare for a racing game. You can hop into a Quick Race, choosing to race against computer-propelled opponents. You can race against up to five computer-controlled opponents, or ride solo to practice on each track. Tracks are unlocked from the get-go; you needn't beat early tracks to try others. This is a great mode for testing different cars on different tracks, where smaller pocket rockets excel in the city environs, while the larger 8- and 12-cylinder rear-wheel-drive monsters rule in the canyons.
Another mode, called Time Trials, allows you to race against the clock. You can compare your lap times to your own personal best, or you can race against times set by other players. As explained in more detail below, Redline checks with an internet track record database to offer you a standard of comparison.
Online Multiplayer races are organized in an in-game lobby that offers chat. You can host games or join existing races. Like games that usually specialize in blood and guts, you can activate taunts to rile up your opponents. If you would rather set up a private game with friends, you can do that, too, either by IP address or choosing not to display the game in the lobby.
A fourth mode, called Challenges, offers the neophyte boy-racer a place to practice individual skills and unlock new vehicles. While this mode at first pass appears to be little more than a training module, it is actually a very good place to practice isolated skills and view videos of cars doing it right. Ultimately, it is shaping up to be a unique feature of Redline.