Redfall was one of many surprise announcements during the Xbox and Bethesda E3 2021 Showcase event. Best described as a vampire-slaying open-world first-person shooter from the makers of Dishonored, Prey, and Deathloop, the intriguing cinematic reveal trailer looked like it could add something new to a genre already filled with games like Back 4 Blood.
After spending a lot of time with Redfall these last several days, I would describe Arkane Studios Austin’s latest title as a mixed bag that needed a little more time to cook in the oven. While there’s plenty of fun to be had alone or with friends, certain aspects of the experience feel dated and very similar to what we have already seen in other games. Here are more of my thoughts on the pros and cons should you decide to try it out later this week.
Welcome To Redfall
Redfall takes place in the fictional island town of Redfall, Massachusetts shortly after a failed science experiment and vampire invasion leaves the town under siege. The four main protagonists (pictured above) trapped on the island town when everything runs amok are as follows:
- Jacob Boyer – A supernatural former military special forces sniper veteran
- Layla Ellison – A telekinetic college student in debt
- Remi De La Rosa – A highly skilled combat engineer
- Devinder Crousley – A self-stylized cryptid hunter
You have the option of playing solo as one of these characters or forming a squad with three other friends. All players retain hero levels, skills, weapons, ammo, gear, etc. However, campaign mission progression only applies to the host player because some missions are optional or non-sequential. This has become a standard practice with similar games within this genre so please keep this in mind before deciding to play with others. Arkane has mentioned that there will be two additional heroes added to the game post-launch to further enhance the overall co-op experience.
From a narrative standpoint, Redfall is very straightforward and often predictable at times. While you do learn more about our heroes’ backstories and interacting with the NPCs provides a greater scope of this world, it doesn’t feel quite as exciting or imaginative as any project that Arkane has previously worked on. You can tell from the very beginning that this project is an experiment they aim to build upon and some players will either hate or love this concept depending on how they currently view games like Back 4 Blood.
Speaking of blood, vampires aren’t the only enemies that you’ll have to face in this game. From the minute you start playing and gain access to weapons, you’ll have to face human cultists hell-bent on honoring the wishes of their vampire underbosses. In some cases, you can choose to take a stealthy approach and avoid these confrontations altogether.
However, as you get deeper into the campaign these fights are unavoidable and you’ll need to be well equipped to take them all out. Defeating human adversaries requires a lot of firepower while you’ll need staked weapons to deal with vampires. You can also use certain hazardous items within the environment to your advantage. Each player also has special abilities that can be unlocked and upgraded as you get deeper into the game. There are a total of 4 difficulty settings to choose from. I would strongly recommend that you play with friends to achieve the most success and add a little bit of fun to every encounter.
Gameplay and Graphical Hiccups
Much like the narrative, Redfall’s gameplay structure is also very straightforward. The first mission involves you visiting a nearby fire station, eliminating all of the enemies in the area, restoring power to the station, and rescuing the remaining survivors trapped within. From there, the fire station becomes your central base of operations, and the people you rescued are there to keep you stocked up on weapons, health, etc. for a price. You do have an option to do story-related side missions for them too and as you venture deeper into the world, you’ll find other safehouses ideal for fast travel.
At this point, this is were the game starts to become repetitive as you’ll have to fight for these safehouses and restore power in order to access them. Aside from this, the missions that you play serve the purpose of answering questions and defeating bosses as you and your team attempt to save the day. While there are plenty of areas to explore, items to collect, and documents to read throughout Redfall, the stories told about what happened and those impacted by the invasion feel a little bland and don’t seem to offer anything unique outside of what’s been done before.
The overall world of Redfall has a little bit of the style and charm that Arkane is known for but still feels like a half-step when compared to the amazing worlds they created in Dishonored, Prey, and Deathloop. All of those games felt fresh when they were released and you could tell that the team heavily leaned into an artistic vision and stylistic approach to atmosphere that perfectly matched what it could feel like being a part of those universes. In Redfall, most of the town is abandoned and while I did see dead bodies and hear vampires preying on me, never at any point did I feel horrified or in danger.
On top of all this, it was reported recently that this game would be launching with Quality mode on consoles, keeping it firmly at 30 FPS until a Performance mode 60 FPS option is released at a later day. This might not matter to some, but it is very noticeable and especially so when playing online with friends as some of the gunplay movements are a little janky. For a game that is only available on Xbox Series X/S and PC, there should be a standard expectation that every game should have Quality and Performance options available at launch. This would allow players more ways to get the absolute most out of this experience from both a performance and visual standpoint.
Simply put, Redfall is an average-at-best open-world single-player/co-op first-person shooter that brings absolutely nothing new to the table. While you’ll no doubt have moments of fun playing with friends, the repetitive mission structure and lack of consistent stylish creativity throughout ultimately hold it back from being a standout title within the genre.
When you add in the fact that this is a next-gen-only game with no 60 FPS performance mode option available for consoles at launch then it really makes you wonder why this game couldn’t have been delayed a little longer. Significant post-release patch updates shouldn’t be a constant practice for game releases today but it will be as long as those in power are more interested in making money instead of releasing fully functional high-quality titles on day one.
This review was written based on a digital review copy of Redfall for the Xbox Series X provided by Arkane Studios Austin and Bethesda Softworks.