Redfall Review – Slaying vampires has never been so boring.

Redfall is the first title from Arkane Studios under the watchful eye of Microsoft, which incorporated the studio with the purchase of Bethesda. Can the game measure up to the previous work of these developers, or is it just as well that we can play Redfall for free via GamePass?

At the announcement of Redfall, a new game from Arkane Studios Austin, I was a bit surprised. Arkane Studios is a developer that as a rule can do little wrong with me, but Redfall didn’t look like your average Arkane title. No immersive sim this time, but considering those are never really a blockbuster, it’s okay for the studio to try something different. So a four-player co-op shooter, with an open world and lots of loot. Doesn’t sound bad. The Borderlands games already did this quite decently, so why shouldn’t Arkane succeed in providing this formula with a nice twist of its own? Unfortunately, Redfall fails to be a fun or innovative loot-based shooter, and is equally unqualified to measure up to the titles we know from Arkane Studios.

Cut off from the outside world

At least the game wastes no time in introducing the world to you. The sleepy fictional village of Redfall on the American East Coast has been overrun by vampires, who are pulling residents from their homes and leaving a trail of death and destruction. The player(s) try to escape the town by boat. Of course, the vampires do not let this happen easily and they summon a tidal wave, which quacks the players back onto the coast of Redfall, boat and all. The hushed waves tower high above the town, sealing it off from the rest of the environment. This somewhat odd action by the vampires immediately sets the tone, for why would you want to keep precisely those people who are eminently suited to thwart your plans within the town? But moving forward.

So it’s up to the players to thwart the vampires’ nefarious plans, and of course this begins with setting up a base of operations. From this base, you consult with the other survivors, pick up missions and side missions, and can purchase limited weapons and items. If it sounds like none of this matters much, that’s because that’s exactly the case. Especially in the beginning, Redfall is nothing more than a string of fetch quests, which send you scurrying around the island from one place to another and, in the end, aren’t even very difficult. That’s hugely disappointing, especially for a title from a studio like Arkane, which is known for its excellent storylines and well-constructed questlines.

The two maps are divided into smaller districts, each with its own safehouse and two missions per location to “liberate” it from the vampires. Add to that the small number of main missions, and you quickly come to the conclusion that in terms of content, there isn’t a whole lot present in Redfall. Except for the difficulty levels, you finish the title pretty quickly, and then you haven’t even reached the maximum level achievable.

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Characters without personality

The player assumes the role of one of four heroes, each of whom is of course equipped with their own set of skills. Each character has two main skills and an ultimate. None of the skills can really be called special, although Devinder Crousley’s teleport is perhaps the best addition when playing with multiple people. Because it can teleport not only Devinder, but also the rest of the team, you can move around the map super easily. Other than that, the characters definitely look unique and diverse, but nowhere is this really reflected in the story. On average, their reactions and voiced voice-overs are not very engaging. The characters are different enough among themselves, but because you’re just shooting most of the time, the skills have no real impact on the average fight. When you play with others, the characters build up “trust,” which unlocks a few more buffs.

The opponents are not insanely diverse and obviously consist of the various vampires and a few groups that worship vampires. These cultists come in three flavors, but are really nothing more than a simple reskin of the same opponents. The standard vampires are not very difficult to kill, after a few shots they remain still in the air and you can drive a stake through their heart. There are several special vampires that can still make your life difficult, and here it is immediately noticeable that the balance in the game is sometimes far off. Especially in single player you can have a hard time with the special opponents that can grab you for example, while in co-op you have no problems with them.

City without a face of its own

The map itself is not very impressive, especially considering that this is an Arkane title. Even the not wonderfully received Deathloop stands out here in terms of level design. The two maps are quite large, but don’t really act anywhere unique. This also makes the distances feel really hefty; you’re sometimes walking for minutes at a time. The buildings feel like modules that are just plastered everywhere and nowhere, and you never feel like much thought has really gone into the way the world is put together.

This also doesn’t really invite you to explore each building. Not to mention the many buildings in which this is not even possible. For a studio known for its unusual and super detailed worlds, this is just bad. Especially when you dive into vampire nests a little further into the game, you notice very quickly that parts of the map are just glued together and constantly reused as well. Not only do these instances feel unexceptional as a result, but it becomes downright boring to have to walk through them.

Solid arsenal

Redfall’s weapons are fine on their own. Of course, the standard arsenal of shotguns, machine guns, sniper rifles and some pistols is represented. In addition, we find a few special additions like a flare gun and more vampire-hunting oriented weaponry. The stake launcher is my favorite, although it could use a little more ammo. The UV Beam sends a beam of concentrated UV light at the vampires, which petrify and you can then smash to pieces. You can also use this beam of light to defeat some kind of petrified monsters that emit a poisonous red mist. Something the game doesn’t really seem to indicate and I discovered by accident.

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All weapons obviously have stats and get better the higher your level is, but this doesn’t have a huge impact on the game itself. Aside from the fact that you can equip new weapons with their own skin each time, they all work exactly the same and it’s purely the numbers that get bigger.

New game in a last-gen jacket

Graphically, Redfall already can’t make waves either. The game literally looks like a last-gen title. The Unreal engine can conjure up nice graphics just fine, but in Redfall we see the engine at its worst. The textures are inconsistent and on my system I suffered tremendously from texture pop-in, where a lower resolution texture is not replaced until very late by one with higher quality.

The characters, buildings, environments and enemies look downright generic. The game does run fine otherwise, although FSR 2.1 seemed to be bugged. As soon as I turned this on I was getting weird artifacts all around characters and in shadows. Even without it, Redfall is not particularly heavy and I could run everything just fine on maximum settings. I did encounter some weird bugs, but nothing that really got in the way of playing through the game. Don’t be surprised if you come across some images online of T-posing opponents or characters slightly floating through their environment.

Redfall’s audio is excellent, though. The atmosphere is oppressive and ominous cries and screams can be heard from everywhere. The main vampire constantly sends intimidating messages into the ether, giving the game a twistedly scary atmosphere. The music is also excellent, but if Redfall has to rely on these two elements, that’s not a good thing.

Redfall feels like a rush job. Which is odd, considering the game has already been delayed once. Nothing in the game really works together nicely. Loot with stats adds nothing to the fine gunplay, special skills of the characters you barely use. Stealth is not really a solid option and despite there being multiple paths to most objectives, shooting everyone and running through is really always the best choice. With four players there is definitely still fun to be had with Redfall, but it is recommended to try the “free” Game Pass version then.

Redfall is unworthy of Arkane. A studio with such a history should simply be able to do better. The game plays fine on its own and doesn’t make huge missteps, but it lacks all the attention to detail, great characters, levels and gameplay we’ve come to expect from the developer. If you really have nothing left to play with your friends and can try Redfall for free through Game Pass, the game is still worth it. Adjust your expectations downward, Redfall is anything but a masterpiece.

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