Redline Article

REDLINE – Local Boys Make Good.

Although most locals might be surprised to know this, the Salt Lake City area has one of the densest concentrations of computer professionals in the world, rivaling the famed “Silicon Valley” area near San José. The driving force behind much of today’s technology is gaming, and Utah has many highly regarded companies producing games as well. Access Software has specialized in golfing and mystery games, Kodiak Games recently produced a complex and well-reviewed flying warfare game called “Stratosphere,” and will soon release a desert racing game, and several smaller companies are working on console games for Nintendo and Playstation.

An important member of this group is BeyondGames (BG), which just released “Redline” to enthusiastic reviews. Redline is an unusual and welcome hybrid of different types of games, which is a clever way of standing out from the crowd, and has the advantage of being marketable to several different gaming circles. Redline can be compared to the Doom/Quake series created by Id Games, in that it is a “first person shooter” (FPS) game at times. It also has elements of standard “dune buggy” desert racing games, and throws in some tank battle warfare action for good measure.

As with many of these games, the action takes place in the future after an unexplained apocalyptic event, which borrows heavily from the “Mad Max” series of movies. People are gathered in ruined cities, and on the outside are various heavily mechanized marauding gangs with foreboding names like “Red Sixers”, “Templars,” and “The Lepers.” Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to fight your way up through the ranks of “The Company,” which is a slightly less malevolent gang. There are twelve missions you must complete, most of which involve a combination of fighting on foot through a building or city looking for something, and driving like mad in a heavily armored car/tank/dune buggy while shooting it out with other vehicles of the same ilk. To accomplish your goals you must have a high level of skill in both foot combat and armored vehicle combat. There are even areas where you have to fly around a bit using a buzzsaw for lift. There are also a number of clever puzzles you must solve to open doors or otherwise further your cause.


Although the bulk of FPS games rely on licensing Quake technology from Id and then trying to tweak the games in a way that makes them stand out from the crowd, BG chose to come up with their own technology because of the hybrid nature of the game. Although any game is going to have a few bugs in its early stages, BG has succeeded remarkably well with its “Dædelus” engine.

While this game, like others, must be a collaborative effort; the overall game bears the heavy stamp of one man, Clark Stacey. Stacey is a vice president at BG, a producer of the game, and the lead level designer. Having broken bread with Clark, I can state that he is an exceptionally knowledgeable and intelligent individual, and his touch is everywhere obvious in the game, at least it is obvious after having met him. This is not to take away from the efforts of master programmers Matt Thorn, Bruce Johnson, and Kris Johnson, but the fact of the matter is that if something artistic is to succeed, one person must be at the helm. This side of the King James Bible, no masterpiece has ever been created by a committee (unless one counts the “Yellow River” Piano Concerto, a deathless piece composed in China around 1970 by a Maoist collective, but I digress).

Most FPS games betray little in the way of intellectual sophistication. One grabs a weapon and starts blasting. Although the Doom/Quake series are my favorite games of all time, neither of them have a detectable subtext beyond the general mayhem involved in moving from level to level. I do not listen to Washboard Sam expecting to hear the complex polyphony of Bach, nor do I play Quake expecting to laugh at subtle humor, inside jokes, or get history lessons. Nevertheless, I did all that in Redline.

As you move from level to level there are movies that advance the plot, and these have many comic and surreal touches for those who can appreciate them. At one point chief villain Rant breaks into the dreaded campfire song “Kumbiah,” in a classic “dada” scene that would not be materially out of place in Buñuel’s “Un Chien Andalou.” The thoughtful player will eventually notice that various character names: Mitchell, Bork, Liddy, Dean, and Haldeman, form a discernable pattern and clear historical reference.

Putting these touches in must have been a rather thankless task for Stacey, since very few of the teenage boys who buy this game will have any idea of the significance of these touches, or even the origin of the appellation “Dædelus.” Stacey must have know this, and the only reasonable explanation is that he did it for his own amusement, since he probably did not anticipate that a 45 year old attorney would be reviewing this effort.


The programmers at Id have had a great deal of time, talent, and money to invest in making the Doom and Quake engines accurate and highly responsive to player input, and it shows. These games and similar games based on these engines have dominated the FPS-style milieu for years. Nevertheless, BG has done a highly creditable job with their adaptable Dædelus engine. Gameplay is mostly very smooth and natural, one moves around in the environment easily, seeking enemies and sending them to whatever hell awaits computer-generated bad guys.

The game begins in Stadium City, a small pocket of humanity in a sea of mechanized madness under the protection of “The Company,” as Rant and the Red Sixers begin their attack. The unnamed protagonist jumps into a car and must pick the Sixers out of the crowd of his fellow humans as he goes blasting to the stadium to face Rant. He works his way through a radio station, meeting Rant on the roof and forcing him to retreat. This brings him to the attention of Liddy, head of The Company, who recruits our hero and gives him various assignments to prove himself.

Because of the vehicular component, much of the gameplay is radically different than what I am used to in Quake-style games. Normally I work my way methodically through a building, engaging one monster at a time wherever possible. This is impossible in Redline, when you are in a vehicle you are constantly under heavy attack, and you must move at top speed most of the time to evade enemies in cars or in fortified turrets. The word that comes to mind to describe the gameplay is “frantic.” Nor is leisure often possible on foot, since many of the puzzles have a time element that requires speed. This frantic quality makes the game very diverting and entertaining for those of us looking for refuge from the cares of the day.


The success of the Quake series is largely dependent on its internet multiplayer aspects. Stacey was intelligent enough to follow this example, and has produced a game with great multiplayer appeal. I have played several games of Redline on the internet, and enjoyed them a lot. Unfortunately, I was never able to find a server with a lot of people on it, so most of the games I played were one-on-one, and I can report that even with just two people the internet version is a blast.

I recently had a local area network (LAN) party at my house to play Quake and other games. I wanted to test Redline in this situation, and several people there had Redline on their computers and wanted to try. Local Quake legend T4_Echo set up a server on his computer, and Ajax and I, playing as Hannibal, joined in the fray immediately. We spent at least an hour locked in combat, running from vehicle to weapons turret to flying around and blasting from the air. Multiplayer was smooth, amazingly so for a first effort, and even though Ajax had no previous experience in Redline he got his share of kills and was obviously enjoying himself.


Redline is highly recommended for FPS junkies like me, especially if you want to try something different than the typical FPS games that come out weekly. I have friends who are more into the racing game scene who tell me they enjoyed it as well. The action is fast and furious, the subtexts entertaining for those who choose to look, and gameplay in general is very smooth.

All first releases have bugs, and by all I mean Redline as well. The intelligence (AI) of the enemies on foot was not great, most of the time they just stood in your path and let you mow them down with a vehicle. However, this is only a small part of the game, most of the battling is done in cars. The AI of the cars is very good, and force you to keep moving at top speed at all times.

The AI of the Templar leader needs immediate attention. When I first bumped into him in his lair he just stood there, neither attacking nor defending, while I blasted him with everything I had, and finally buzzsawed him to death. I met him again on a city street, where he was trying to get into a courtyard. Instead of moving through the entrance he bumped into the fence next to it, and just kept walking in place. This is in sharp contradistinction to, for instance, “Kingpin,” a new Quake engine game which impressed me mightily in its demo when a member of my gang fell off a narrow bridge, and then ran through a building and crossed the bridge to another building to get back to his place at my side.

I had some trouble strafing effectively in buildings, particularly through doorways, when I seemed to get caught on the doorjams when I was at my most vulnerable and trying to blast my way out. The animation of many of the footsoldiers is unrefined as well. Also very puzzling is the lack of difficulty levels for the game. I like to start new games at lower difficulty settings so I can learn the best strategies and also study the layout of the levels. Redline forces everyone to play the same game at the same difficulty level, and I believe many less experienced gamers will be unable to finish the game, leading to frustration and possibly negative word of mouth.

None of these amount to more than minor quibbles considering the overall success of the game. To point out the obvious, the name of the game is “Redline,” not “Footline” nor “Yet Another Quake knock-off.” The aspects of the game dealing with mechanized warfare are close to perfect, and here is where Redline really shines. Get Redline now, and prepare to be entertained viscerally and intellectually. A word of caution for parents, there is some mild swearing in the movie portions of the game which would get this game a PG-13 rating if it was a Hollywood product. However, compared to certain new games like Kingpin, it is very mild indeed..