Arkane Studios' stomach-lining vampiric shooter has, after a fair while of being one of the most anticipated exclusives on the market, released on Xbox Series X|S and PC. And boy, what an entrance the aptly titled Redfall has made since gracing the Game Pass library.
To put you in the picture, Redfall casts its focus on the quaint town of Redfall, Massachusetts, in the immediate aftermath of a scientific experiment gone wrong. Plunged into darkness, you take on the role of one of the town's gun-toting survivors—a tenacious citizen, of sorts, whose purpose is to explore the open world and, well, search for an answer to the town's sudden surge in vampire activity. With Aveum Laboratories, a tainted bio-company at the root of all problems, you must venture forth and establish a tapestry of plausible solutions that explain the origins of the outbreak. Simple enough, right? Right.
It goes without saying that, being a “story-driven shooter” with an added emphasis on the story side of things, Redfall really isn't that long. On the contrary, its campaign is really only eight hours in length, give or take. Fortunately for a huge portion of its active players, though, it's free on Xbox Game Pass. Just as well, as a sub-eight-hour title sporting a $70 price tag doesn't exactly win a lot of favors in this day and age, to be fair.
So, excluding the fact that it isn't the longest narrative-driven shooter in the world, what does it actually bring to the table? Or, another question that's worth pondering, really, is is it up to Arkane Studios' incredibly high standards? Well, here's how I for one found the flesh-riddled romp through the blood-soaked island of Redfall.
Welcome to Redfall
Redfall starts out like any other four-player co-op game — with a character selection screen. Your choices, although rather limited, are Jacob, an orphan-turned-sniper with a raven for a companion; Layla, a violet-haired student with a convenient connection to telekinesis; Devinder, a paranormal-loving author with a knack for anything tech-based; and Remi, a fish-out-of-water MIT graduate whose sworn to protect those in dire need of aid. This is all elementary, bread and butter introductory stuff as far as co-op games travel. It's reminscent, even, of games like Back 4 Blood, which alone makes it a real home away from home for anyone with an appetite for co-op IPs. That isn't to say the heroes in question are particularly memorable, though. Intriguing, perhaps, but nothing exactly game-changing in a world that's populated by extravagant personalities.
Redfall is broken down into four difficulties: Daylight, Dawn, Midnight, and Eclipse, with the latter only be unlocked after beating the game at least once. For the sake of the review, I went ahead and plucked Jacob out of the basket, and shot for a simple mid-level Dusk playthrough. Did this wind up rewarding me with enough of a challenge, or did it leave me desperate for a few more bites? Well, as it turned out, spending just shy of eight hours gridlocked in the vampire hellhole told me almost everything I needed to know. That was, of course, after I forced my way through the unnecessary fortress that was the oddly-placed ‘Arknet Connection Lost' screen for the umpteenth time. Thanks for that, Arkane.
Remember Left 4 Dead, and how it started with four survivors locked in a barricaded room loaded with medical malarkey and a standard range of weapons? Well, Redfall isn't too different, and more or less opens with the same exact scenario. Shipwrecked, alone, and essentially clutching at straws as the fate of being mauled by an evil vampire god known as the Black Sun hangs over you, you're basically left to, well, wheedle your way out.
Your base in Redfall—a disused Fire Station—is where just about every mission in the game can be collected from, which varies from scavenging for supplies, to rescuing other citizens, to establishing new safe houses around the boroughs of Redfall. After a good ten or so minutes into the prologue, this is where you're pretty much left to your own devices, with a series of tasks, and a whole community to go out and make your own amidst a vampire outbreak. Pretty standard recon work, really.
Weirdly enough, the mission structure that Redfall fosters is a lot like State of Decay, in the fact that you're primary objective is to build a string of communities and ultimately work to overcome the cards you've been dealt. The only real difference here is, well, you're not dealing with zombies, but more bloodsucking vampire-types and perplexed cultists who aimlessly wander under the banner of the so-called Hollow Man—a vampire god who serves alongside Black Sun, yet another founding member of the Aveum Laboratories institute.
And the Open World?
Fortunately, Arkane Studios has a sturdy history of building captivating worlds out of nothing; Dishonored is an ideal example of this. And on that note, visually, the world of Redfall is surprisingly zazzy—elegant, even. The fact it runs at 30 frames per second doesn't dampen the general aesthetic either, which of course helps amplify the immersion even at the best of times. But that isn't to say the launch copy of the game isn't without its one or two technical hiccups. Matter of fact, it has a few, though nothing exactly game-breaking and lofty enough to ruin your appetite for blood, teeth, and the guts of your immortal enemies.
Outside of the vessel in which you begin your journey, Redfall is home to a variety of attractions, all of which can be explored at will as you knuckle down and stomp through a series of standard A to B objectives. For the most part, though, you needn't drift too far from the path in order to progress deeper into the story. In fact, it's all spread out for you, and markers can quite easily course you in the right direction, regardless of the objective at hand.
Hello, Bullet Sponge…
It's fair to say that Redfall is, more or less, a looter shooter laced with vampires, cultists, and generated loadouts. It takes me back, even, to games like Borderlands, what with its variation of weapons scattered around the open world and random loot boxes stowed away in just about every crag and crevice. Oh, and not to mention to bullet sponge enemies, all of whom shed digits as opposed to bog-standard blood and bone.
Combat in Redfall is another story; it isn't the most creative, which sucks, because Arkane Studios know exactly how to develop a compliant system. Redfall, on the other hand, brings no more than generic NPCs who, when faced with the brunt of a semi-automatic shotgun, would much rather stand perfectly still and reach for a speakerphone than a weapon to defend themselves with. And even on the tougher difficulties, this never really changed, which meant just about every encounter wound up becoming slightly underwhelming and repetitive—dull, even.
Vampires, being the real villains in the game, aren't even that superior to their cultist peers, other than needing a stake to actually send them out into the abyss. Besides that, though, combat is incredibly straightforward and without any major curveballs to bat away. It's generic shoot 'em up pandemonium, and at no point does it try to reinvent the wheel, but more or less make it spin with the elbow grease it has in its arsenal. And honestly, I think I speak for everyone when I say that's somewhat disappointing coming from a developer of such high caliber.
Better Off Dead
Visually, Redfall isn't half-bad. It's actually quite a good-looking game, as far as next-gen releases go. And while it doesn't exactly break the fourth wall and deliver photorealistic visuals, it does sport a pretty flashy coating. And it's a shame, truly, that the occasional glitch in the matrix causes such artsy cinematics to fall flat. Nothing a day-one patch can't fix, of course, but it definitely spoils the immersion when laden with graphical speed bumps right off the bat.
What really spoils the immersion for me here is the vampires, in general. Rather, the fact that they're no different from any bog-standard cardboard cutout NPC in all of Redfall. To put it short, they lack any means of character, and simply fail to arouse any form of paranoia or dread when nestled in the vicinity. They just, I don't know, exist. And that's a crying shame, given the fact that they're billed as the poster children of the entire game.
As far as combat and general gameplay mechanics go, Redfall isn't anything particularly special. In fact, it's somewhat difficult to dress it up as much more than a generic B-list shooter with a few vampires in it. But that isn't to say it's unworthy of your time—especially being a freebie on Xbox Game Pass. That said, there are indeed far better alternatives on the market that boast all the same ingredients.
Granted, there are a number of additional field goals Arkane Studios could've stretched to with Redfall; an appealing combat system and a roster of genuinely likable characters, to name just a couple. For what it's worth, though, it isn't the worst shooter I've ever played. That said, even after just eight short hours, I can't say I remember it all that well, either. It happened, and that's about it.
Of course, if you're all for the idea of embarking on short campaigns and fairly lackluster missions embedded with vanilla shootouts, then sure, Redfall is a whale of a time. It's just that, when all's said and done, it isn't quite up to the same scratch as every other game in Arkane Studios' casket.
Redfall Review (Xbox Series X|S & PC)
Just Wait Until Morning
Redfall is many things, but a memorable game certainly isn’t one of them. In spite of all its technical flaws and lackluster components, however, there is an interesting amount of lore to discover in the Massachusetts town. That is, if you can be bothered to unearth it amidst all the vanilla shootouts and emotionless NPCs.