previews\ Sep 11, 2003 at 8:00 pm

Redline: Xtreme Air Racing 2 - PC - Preview

Stonehenge sits atop the hill, beyond is an inlet with towering cliffs and ships sitting sedately in the water. But this is not a sightseeing tour. There is a P38 Lightning ahead of you that needs to be caught.

Redline: Xtreme Air Racing 2, from Encore and Victory Simulations, is track racing for airplanes, and if you think that sounds easy, think again. Controlling a plane in a dogfight has nothing on this. Try to keep your plane on a tight course with other aircraft moving in and out of a three-dimensional space. was invited to catch a glimpse of this PC title, which is slated for release later this year.

First, Redline does feature an extremely rich options package. Game modes include Single Race, Race Season and Free Flight. The game also allows for multiplayer gaming over a LAN or the Internet. Once you get past the game mode, there are more than 25 planes to choose from the Unlimited Class alone, including the Hawker Sea Fury, P51D Mustang, F8F Bobcat and P38 Lightning. There are four classes of planes - Unlimited, Sports Biplanes, Formula 1 (which feature some of the more outrageous paint jobs you are likely to see) and AT6.

There are four different levels of play, from bronze to platinum, and eight general courses, which have other ‘tracks’ to provide a nice range of challenges.

If you wish, you can even go in and modify your aircraft in four different areas - engine, propeller, airframe and fluids. As an example, if you go into airframe, you will be able to manipulate the Fair in Flaps, Wingspan and Low-Drag Cooling Duct.

Once you have everything in place, just into the cockpit and crank up that propeller. There is no need to worry about take-offs and landings - you start in the air, on course with a countdown to the race start.

And if flying in circles is not challenging enough, put the game into combat mode and arm the P51D "Miss America" to take a few shots at the competition.

The game is rather simplistic when it comes to flight controls, which is a good thing. These planes are rather responsive and it is very easy to get well off course, not to mention finding that groove to pull you around the course at the right height and out front in "the clean air." While the game can be played with keyboard controls, using a joystick designed for air simulations is a great advantage. Even so, at times, the controls appeared a little sluggish.

Gordon Bowman-Jones, known as ‘the voice’ of air shows announces the racing action. The other effects include the sounds of aircraft and a very annoying klaxon when you stray too far off course.

Graphically, Redline seems a bit of a mixed bag. While the game takes place in three-dimensional space, the rendering does a decent job, but fails to provide the pop of other air sims. When compared to other air games, such as pending console releases like Lethal Skies II, Secret Weapons Over Normandy or Crimson Skies: High Road to Revenge, this title seems a little flat. The planes look very good, and the wisps of clouds passing by are well down, and even looking at the plane from the third-person perspective is well done. However, the game just seems to be missing that intangible ‘wow’ quality. Make no mistake, this is a good-looking game by any standards, and it will run in very high resolution such as 1600x1200 in Glide or OpenGL modes.

The game does allow for four camera views, two external and two cockpit looks, and you can use the arrow keys to look around. The environments are well done and should you get too close to those English cliffs (ok, a nosedive purposely into the side is more than a little too close), there is a nice little explosion with a rain of debris afterwards.

Redline: Xtreme Air Racing 2 is not the kind of game that will appeal to a lot of people. This is a niche game. However, Redline features a solid options package, a terrific array of aircraft and tough, challenging courses.

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