You might have read a lot about Redfall over the last couple of weeks, and chances are, it hasn’t been positive. Billed as one of the big first-party releases coming to the Xbox this year, the launch has seen criticism towards its iffy gameplay and glitchy presentation that sees bugs aplenty throughout the game’s open world. And you know what? A lot of those criticisms are completely fair, with it clear the game needed a bit more work before release.
However, behind those problems is also a game that can genuinely be a ton of fun to play. I disagree with Redfall being released in its current state and it’s clear that the team at Arkane Austin hit a few issues during development, but I wouldn’t completely write it off just yet – especially since there is something enjoyable hidden behind all of the bugs.
Check out some screenshots down below:
The game takes place in the town of Redfall, with players taking on the role of one of four characters who find themselves trapped after a horde of vampires take over, block out the sun, and decimate the civilians who are unlucky enough to get caught. With escape not really an option, it’s up to you to try and take the vampires down, all whilst finding out more about their origin and what their plans are beyond the town.
I loved the premise of Redfall, with the game’s chaotic vibe feeling like it has been lifted straight from Buffy the Vampire Slayer (which is one of my favourite TV shows of all time). The vampire threat genuinely feels foreboding and like they could easily wipe you out, whilst the dark and grisly atmosphere really kept me on edge during my time playing. It does a good job of showing off just how brutal the vampires can be across its environmental storytelling, whilst there’s plenty of snippets of lore to be found that enrich the experience and help you learn more about what exactly is going on. Those who take the time to explore the nooks and crannies of the world will find plenty to discover, and for the most part it’s all worthwhile.
It’s a shame then that the narrative pacing is a little off. Whilst encounters with the Vampire Gods that lead the horde are enthralling, everything in-between lacked the impact to keep me fully invested. The characters you meet along the way aren’t really all that interesting, whilst the use of still images for some cutscenes really hurt the cinematic presentation. The playable protagonists are at least a bit more quirky and charming, but with little in the way of meaningful interactions to share with others during your time playing the game, it never feels like they’re fully explored. The narrative certainly has its exciting moments, but it also has plenty of dull ones that bog it down.
“There are plenty of distinct areas to uncover that bring with them their own unique sights and vampiric problems to deal with, with the whole ‘suburban town taken over by a monstrous threat’ trope fully embraced with some creatively creepy environmental design.”
When it comes to gameplay, Redfall plays like a lot of other open-world first-person shooters. Players will navigate the eerie town, take down plenty of baddies (typically made up of cultists who worship the vampires or the monstrous creatures themselves), complete an array of activities made up of main quests and side missions, and grab new gear to keep up with the ever-growing threat. It’s a familiar loop that players would have seen plenty of times before, with not much done in the open-world design to really differentiate it all that much from titles that have come before it.
But that’s not really a problem, especially since the town itself is SO cool to explore. There are plenty of distinct areas to uncover that bring with them their own unique sights and vampiric problems to deal with, with the whole ‘suburban town taken over by a monstrous threat’ trope fully embraced with some creatively creepy environmental design. With an expansive world to explore throughout the adventure, you certainly won’t tire of discovering everything it has to offer.
Each of the playable characters bring something cool to the experience too, with their unique abilities setting them apart from one another outside all of the shooting. My pick of the bunch was Layla, who can summon a telekinetic elevator to help her reach high spots and a telekinetic umbrella to protect her from incoming attacks (as well as call upon her ‘vampire ex-boyfriend’ to give a helping hand in the midst of combat). She really feels like the star of the show, whilst the telekinetic elevator NEVER stopped feeling fun to use throughout the whole game. Prefer taking a sneaky approach? Jacob has a cloaking device that can keep him hidden from nearby enemies, whilst his raven can glide ahead and mark any enemies in his path. Meanwhile, Devinder is one of the most versatile characters to play as – not only does he have an arc javelin that can deal damage to any enemies near it, but he can also use a device to quickly teleport around the area and out of harm’s way (or straight into a group of enemies if you’re feeling reckless). Finally, there’s Remi, who’s not only able to use a robot companion to distract enemies, but can also set up a healing point to keep the party’s health up when in the midst of battle.
Check out some screenshots down below:
Whilst each is fun to use when playing solo, it’s when they’re put together that they are the most effective. Each character feels like their skillset is perfectly designed to follow a set role in combat, with teamwork certainly making the dream work in Redfall. With four-player co-op putting everyone together as one epic team, it’s undoubtedly the best way to experience everything that the game has to offer. It does come with one caveat though: campaign progress only carries over for the host player. Whilst that’s fine if you only intend to play the game co-op with friends and aren’t interested in revisiting Redfall solo, the fact that only one player will fully reap the benefits of co-op play is a bit disappointing.
It’s clear that Redfall has some things going for it, so where does it falter? Well, the mission design does lack the variety to keep up with the roughly twenty-hour campaign, with players doing a lot of repetitive tasks on their way to completion. Whilst some missions do spice things up a bit by offering different ways to approach them, the majority follow the same formula of clearing out the same kinds of enemies over and over again and maybe finding an item you need. It’d be something if the combat loop offered a bit more variety, but with the same kinds of weapons you’d have seen before in other first-person shooters (with the exception of a few vampire-slaying focused guns), it’s not like it does anything particularly unique there. And sure, the gunplay isn’t bad at all and the variety of vampires you face does mean you have to embrace a different approach at times, but Redfall doesn’t really add its own twist to the shooting formula to really make it its own.
It doesn’t help that the enemy AI is just so poor. Enemies can just be outright stupid, leaving themselves running around the map without attacking you whilst trying to get into cover, barely noticing your presence when you’re in their line of sight, or just simply not responding to the player at all (I only noticed this on a couple of occasions but it was weird nonetheless). Don’t get me wrong, they can easily take you out in a fight, but they do so many stupid things and leave themselves so easily open to damage that it often takes away the tension from what should be fun showdowns.
“It’s not an unplayable mess by any stretch of the imagination and I’d even go hours at a time without seeing a major issue, but hot damn, did this game need a little bit more work before release.”
Then you have the technical issues, ranging from animations glitching out, textures not displaying in the environment, the controls no longer responding, random objects floating around, the frame rate dropping slightly during busy sections… you name it, Redfall probably has it. It’s not an unplayable mess by any stretch of the imagination and I’d even go hours at a time without seeing a major issue, but hot damn, did this game need a little bit more work before release. Fingers crossed, something can be done to fix them sooner rather than later, because it’s the biggest hindrance to the experience right now.
I think the worst thing about Redfall’s issues is that I really do like the game. Sure, the missions can be samey and it’s rare that it does something unique with the gunplay, but I’ve had a good time playing with friends, levelling up my character’s abilities, gathering cool loot, and uncovering the grisly sights found across the world. The attention to detail in some places is startling, whilst the boss battles make for some intense showdowns too. And come on, who DOESN’T want to go on a wild vampire-slaying escapade? There’s just so much that needs fixing right now, with the technical issues and the enemy AI needing a lot of work before I could really call Redfall a good game – even IF I know deep inside it is one.
Redfall is a bit of a technical mess right now, but there’s no doubting that behind the issues there’s a satisfying vampire-slaying romp for players to embark on. It won’t win points for originality with its gunplay and the missions can get repetitive, but between uncovering the sinister sights of the town, working with friends in rewarding co-op action, and utilising the wonderful abilities of your character, there is a good time to be had.
As it stands, though? It really needs some work. I would recommend holding off on Redfall until it has a couple of patches to fix its issues, but when the game is finally in full working order, you might find yourself pleasantly surprised.
Developer: Arkane Austin
Publisher: Bethesda Softworks
Platform(s): Xbox Series X (Reviewed), Xbox Series S, PC