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May 05, 2023

Redfall Review

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2 Mediocre
Retails for: $69.99
We Recommend: $27.99
  • Developer: Arkane Austin
  • Publisher: Bethesda Softworks
  • Genre: Action, Adventure
  • Released: May 01, 2023
  • Platform: Windows, Xbox Series X|S, PlayStation 5
  • Reviewed: Windows

Redfall takes the open-world structure of Far Cry and marries it with the looting & shooting of Borderlands, and like those games can be played either solo or in co-op. This comes from Arkane Austin, the studio behind 2017’s Prey, and before that the Dishonored series – this is not either of those games, and it’s sadly not even close. Redfall has a solid premise, and while there’s glimmers of hope, it ultimately fails to deliver in all key areas. Redfall is a tragically disappointing game and an utterly low point for a prolific studio like Arkane.

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As the story goes, Redfall drops players into a fictional town of the same name that’s been overwhelmed by vampires. For all intents and purposes, Redfall is to vampires as Salem is to witches. A group of people attempt to escape, but are stopped when the sun is blotted out from the sky and the ocean frozen in place. This is where your character comes in, having selected one of four playable characters to embark on a journey to save the people of Redfall from a fate worse than death. Arkane has positioned this game as having “immersive sim” values, though you’ll be hard-pressed to stay immersed due to bugs, poorly integrated cutscenes, and most importantly the lack of being able to approach missions with creative solutions.

You have a choice in playing the game solo (which is the majority of how I played), or online co-op. In all honesty, you’re not likely to find many who want to join your game. First and foremost, there’s no random matchmaking, so you must play with friends who have the game. Secondly, only the host retains mission progress. This is a problem and limitation that’s been solved in countless other games, but not here. To the game’s credit, player progress and weapons stay with the person who joins. This does not feel like a complete experience, which is a sentiment that’s mirrored throughout the whole game.

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Four characters make up the playable heroes you can choose from: You’ve got Jacob Boyer who can cloak themselves, summon a ghost rifle with insane accuracy, and send out a raven to reveal enemy locations. Layla Ellison can summon a ghastly umbrella for protection and pushing back enemies, call in an ex-boyfriend for a swift assist, and an ethereal elevator to pop her up for an aerial attack. Remi De La Rosa offers distraction through noise, area of effect damage with C4 charges, and heal enemies in an nearby circle. Lastly, Devinder Crousley can throw an arc javelin for shockingly good damage, a translocator out of Unreal Tournament to teleport around, and a blacklight to petrify vampires with ease. Each character has their strength and weakness, but stands on their own when playing solo that I never felt hampered or needing help. Sadly, characters cannot be swapped at-will, so you will have to make a committed decision about who you will play as, and determine what play style speaks to you.

The structure of Redfall is not uncommon, as the game consists of main and side quests you’ve seen elsewhere. The main quests operate linearly, but you do get some agency in what missions you pursue as there can be multiple threads to pull. I do like that the game compartmentalizes them as opposed to flowing mission-to-mission, as it serves co-op well. But when playing solo, there’s too many times that you have to return to the hub area and select the next mission just to move forward. This is something that should be allowed from the map screen or somewhere when out in the world. Furthermore, when you finish a mission, you’re presented with a pop-up that occupies one-fourth of the screen that asks you to dismiss the pop-up or return to the hub area. And it’s not a key press, but rather a key hold, both of which are unnecessary and cannot be changed. At a certain point, the game will introduce a second map, and you cannot freely transition between both maps, meaning a lot of the game gets blocked from accessing them when you progress forward.

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The gunplay and combat in Redfall is solid, it’s just not particularly exciting. You’ve got your share of pistols, shotguns, assault rifles, and sniper rifles to choose from. Then there are vampire vanquishing styled weapons like UV beams to petrify, and stake guns that permanently dispatch them. Weapons drop from enemies on a regular basis with different rarities and properties that affect magazine size, accuracy, and bonuses. You can even equip weapon and character skins for a unique look, but being a first-person game, you’ll never see it for yourself. It’s overall a decent system, and is subject to RNG in order to give you something you’ll like and use. That said, the system aids in feeling you increase in power as your character levels, which happens through completing weapons and killing vampires, new levels award increased stats and a skill point. Skill points allow you to focus on different areas to improve health, carry more ammo, or expand on your powers. Though I’ll say skill point are are doled a bit too slow for liking, making character progression feel like a plateau. You can respec your character after a certain point, allowing you to reallocate skill points to better suit how you want to be playing if you’ve made a mistake along the way.

I love the overall atmosphere and premise of the game, it fails to capitalize on any of it. For all its influences and comparisons, the shooting has been done better in Far Cry, and looting is certainly better in Borderlands. As you freely explore neighborhoods, you’ll be presented with safe houses that have a rather easy environmental puzzle to solve which asks you to turn on a generator to unlock it for use. Safe houses and landmarks offer the game’s fast travel, allowing you to zip across the map to reach your objectives or the next story part faster. The day and night cycle is unsurprising for a game of this type, and because the sun is blocked, vampires are out all times, offering no respite from their inclusion. Exploring the world is fine and fun enough, except it’s so devoid of life and activity. Yes, vampires have seized this town, but even the enemy placement is so sparse that both Redfall the game and town feel empty.

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Stealth is often a strong element in any immersive sim, but despite its efforts, Redfall is not one. The melee attack to initiate a stealth attack looks and acts no different than a strike when enemies are alerted. Stealth is simply no more advantageous against enemies as just running in and shooting normally. This is in part to the fact that enemies will rarely detect you unless you’re stepping on their toes, and even then is iffy. This is an overall issue with the game, as vampires either can’t see or don’t want to react to your flashlight being on. It’s absolutely disruptive to the experience. Loot is often a strong driver in these action RPG games, and while the game simplifies things like auto-converting items that aren’t weapons into cash, this leaves only the weapons to care about, which are a crapshoot in getting something you like.

Redfall is surprisingly buggy. Believe it or not, cars catch fire and explode after one or two bullets. Many times I came across a vampire feeding on an enemy, who instead of being dead on the ground was standing up in the all-too-familiar “t-pose”. As this is a town, there’s many buildings and houses that you’ll come across, but only a handful of them you can actually enter. Having most buildings blocked off or missing a doorhandle, it’s hard to feel like this is a real place. All of these are the antithesis of immersive, and completely took me out of the experience as often as it happened, which was every few minutes.

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Stylistically, the use of the Benguiat font is really effective when it comes to horror, and gives the game a flavor that it never fully seasons. This is a colorful game, and Unreal Engine 4 makes it all look nice, even if many of the textures are flat or take tens of seconds to fully load in. Performance-wise, I didn’t experience any stutter except for loading into the game for the first time, but then it smoothed out rather quickly. On release day there were GameReady drivers that probably helped with any lingering issues. Prior to the release of the NVIDIA drivers, I was still getting over 100fps during gameplay. After this, NVIDIA Frame Generation was enabled by default, and I was getting over 180fps in all areas, both indoor and outdoor. Being that this feature is only available on 40-series cards, it does a lot of heavy lifting. This is a game that at times looks great, but pales in comparison to the games Arkane has developed previously.

My PC Specs:

– Microsoft Windows 11 Pro
– Intel Core i9 13900K @ 5.8GHz
– ASUS ROG Strix GeForce RTX 4080 16GB GDDR6X
– WD_BLACK SN850X M.2 (4 TB)
– LG UltraGear 34GP950B-G (21:9 Ultrawide @ 3440×1440)

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Redfall is a far cry from Arkane’s usual work, and it’s sad to see this is the final product from this team. The writing is the best part, but nothing about it can save this from being a mediocre game that can’t manage to do more than one thing at a time, whether it be an immersive sim, an open-world game, or even an RPG. Try as I might, I can’t find enjoyment in this, or even continue to play a game that looks and feels this incomplete for its $70 price tag. Redfall is playable, but in the most threadbare way, as it’s a shell of a game that will exhaust you long before the credits roll. And like vampires are wont to do, Redfall sucks.

A Steam code was provided in advance by the publisher for review purposes