Redline Revisited

There's always something new around the corner in the world of videogames, so many of us wring all we can out of a title before moving on to the next one. Personally, I don't feel much need to replay a game at a stiffer difficulty level, although compelling multiplayer features can certainly bring me back to a game months, if not years, after its initial release. So it was with Ambrosia Software's Redline, which I revisited a few months ago just to see if anyone was still playing online. To my surprise, I found a thriving community of modders, as well as many racers who regularly get together online. While I could never get the hang of simulation racing, plenty of folks are still doing it, and there are usually several races set up for those like me who enjoy turbo arcade mode. The game's online forum continues to be popular too.

John Champlin, Ambrosia's head of Public Relations, told me: "You might have played all the tracks when it was first released, but now you go back and it's a completely new game thanks to tracks being created, and dozens and dozens of nicely designed cars free to download. The variations in this game make the possibilities nearly endless."


Some of the game's mod cars, on a mod track

Mark Petcavage, who has been playing Redline since it entered closed Beta in April 2004 (the game shipped in the fall of 2006), added: "There are players who take Redline very seriously, and the results are meticulously crafted race tracks and very realistic vehicles. There seems to be a higher level of 3D modeling expertise among Mac users, and when you give those people an engine as realistic as Redline in sim mode and some developer tools, they're going to produce tons of third-party content."

More mods (racing to The Who's album Quadrophenia, probably)

Of Smugglers and Bad Love

Around the time of the game's release, a couple inventive players came up with two multiplayer variants that continue to be popular: Smugglers and Bad Love. Smugglers divides players into two teams, each with a Mini Cooper and a complement of Vettes. The goal is to prevent the other team's Mini from crossing the finish line first; Vettes are encouraged to drive the other way if necessary to help their team. Bad Love also features two teams, although both are made up of nothing but Vettes. Winning is irrelevant: the racer who comes in last causes his team to lose. Both games, of course, offer plenty of smashing into other cars.

Lately, I've noticed that Bad Love seems to be much more popular than Smugglers. While the concept is simple, Bad Love requires you to think strategically and plan out your moves, especially as you enter the final turn for the last lap. I admit that more than once I've turned around to help a teammate during the final stretch, only to wind up in last place. Long-time Bad Love players can be particularly harsh on those who commit dumb moves. Consider me properly chastised, although I should point out that some Redliners mete out punishment in excess of the offenses committed; you'll quickly figure out whose races to avoid.

Flipping a car in Bad Love (yes, you can control iTunes through the game)

Both games, however, require the person hosting the session to set them up manually, telling others which colors and cars to use and explaining the ground rules. There's currently no way to select a variant from a menu and have the game automatically set up the session a particular way.

"This has been talked about, and we would love to have this option, but it currently isn't on the drawing board," Mr. Champlin said. "We hope that down the road the developer, as well as the other programmers who assisted with this project, can return to it and offer some more features. So, as it stands now I believe the official status is: 'We hope so, so keep your fingers crossed!'"

Mr. Petcavage added: "There was discussion in the community at some point about an Unreal Tournament style of map downloading when you connect to a UT server, which would get players tracks and cars they don't already have. Redline isn't really a persistent server game, though, so I have no idea how that could have worked without either really lagging the race or preventing the host from starting a race."

As for the possibility of a sequel, Mr. Champlin commented: "We officially don't have any sequel for the game planned, as the game is solid and still has a steady group of players. But you never know what Ambrosia will have up its sleeves next.  The crew here aren't just proud of Redline, we all enjoy playing it as well. The game was probably one of the most tested products before it went out the door, simply because it was that fun to play."

In the meantime, you can find me racing online under the name "gearsh1ft."