Redfall Review (PC & Xbox Series X) – Defanged

Poor Redfall has unfortunately become the conflux between Microsoft’s first-party woes and its acquisition of Bethesda. Through no fault of it or developer Arkane Austin’s own, Redfall has been propped up as the game to show that the merger was worth it. It’s also been heaped with the pressure of being the first in-house AAA release since Halo Infinite nearly two years ago.

Most games in that situation would struggle to meet expectations. It’s almost an impossible task and sadly, it’s not one that Redfall ever comes close to completing.

Redfall feels like an outline of a game with the colouring yet to be done. It’s a half-baked collection of ideas that, while competent, never rises above being simply ok.

Redfall Review

Average is the most positive adjective I can use to describe Redfall. In fact, I’d go so far as to call it aggressively average. Just about every function, feature and mechanic is ok, it’s fine but overall Redfall falls flat. As a (primarily co-op) shooter set in a vampire-infested town, you’d think Arkane’s thematic and artistic flair would shine. Unfortunately, the developer’s trademark style, wit and cleverness are nowhere to be seen. There are no interesting puzzles or unique locations. There’s very little variety in enemies and even when there is, there are fewer ways to kill them. The only similarity Redfall has in common with other Arkane titles are the visuals which bear striking similarities with Dishonored and Deathloop.

Where other Arkane games have gone to great lengths to ensure the moment-to-moment gameplay is exceptional, I’m not sure the same care has been applied here. The shooting mechanics are…ok. They feel a bit floaty (as does movement) and sometimes it does feel as though you’re moving and aiming through treacle but they’re fine at best and never exciting. I never actually looked forward to combat while playing Redfall and that’s a big sin for a first-person shooter to commit.

As you explore Redfall you’ll be accosted by enemies, both human and vampire, but aside from one specific weapon(the Stake Thrower), you can basically treat all enemies the same way. Shoot at them until they die. Human enemies are incredibly dumb and will swarm at you if alerted, allowing you to murder them as they run right at you. They also appear to be deaf since you’re able to shoot them in the head, from a close distance and their friends will remain unaware.

There is a bit more variety in the vampires in Redfall. The basic type is a gangly, floating evil that flies towards you, teleports and takes swipes at you with its claws. Annoyingly, there isn’t a dodge mechanic so it becomes quite difficult to avoid these vampires when they get up close. They also move much faster than your character can so inevitably, every encounter with vampires ends with you running backwards and firing until you bump into some geometry you can’t see and get stuck. Vampires need to be staked as well, though most weapons come with a stake attachment.

The other vampire types include the Syphon, Angler and Shade. The Syphon drains you of your blood from a distance, the Angler hooks you from a distance and drags you towards them and the Shade creates an opaque bubble around you to obscure your vision. These special vampires are absolute bullet sponges but don’t really require any special techniques to defeat. The Syphon is also my least favourite since it seems to be able to drain your character in about 5 seconds, with you dead before you know what to do.

Your character’s survivability actually seems to be a bit of a concern in Redfall. The game is clearly tuned for co-op, so when playing solo you can and will die quite quickly and easily. Even when my character’s health bar was massive, his skin may have been made out of wet tissue paper. When you’re playing with others, this is likely less of an issue as your teammates can revive you, but when you play solo, you’ll be transported back to the nearest fast travel point to try again. It’s a minor blip since there aren’t really any consequences to dying but it’s still frustrating to die quite so easily.

Your character can equip three different weapons at once and there is variety in the types. There are standard handguns, shotguns, assault rifles and sniper rifles as well as vampire-specific UV guns and a Stake Thrower. The Stake Thrower is actually quite fun and can take out vampires in one shot from quite a distance. Each of the weapons has a level, a rarity and a number of perks which seems to indicate a looter-shooter mechanic that’s never fully developed. There are some interesting and creative perks but for the most part, you simply equip the highest-level weapon and go about your business.

Similarly, each character has a skill tree tied to three abilities. As you level up you can upgrade each ability but again, they don’t feel as though they make all that much of a difference. Playing as Jacob I could send out a spectral crow to mark enemies, go invisible and summon a ghostly sniper rifle as my ultimate. There’s no denying that the abilities can be useful but they don’t materially change the flow of the game or combat. Having the skill tree gives players something to chase as they level up but you never reach a point where your powers feel…powerful.

Redfall’s most fundamental problem lies within its mission design. Set in an open zone, you accept missions from your base of operations, head to a location on the map, collect an item or kill an enemy and return. This is literally the same from beginning to end. As you explore you’ll discover fast travel points and Safe Houses too. Safe Houses are additional fast-travel locations that come with a couple of missions. The first mission for each Safe House is one of a number of similar quests (and again requires you to travel to point A and return to point B) while the second has you killing an important vampire in the neighbourhood, thus making it safer. These ‘captain’ vampires reward you with a vampire skull which you’ll need to progress the campaign. After killing them, the game tells you, you’ve made the area safer, but there’s no actual discernable difference in the game world. The map is still full of enemies and nothing actually changes.

Visually, Redfall can be quite interesting and has a nice aesthetic design, though it does become very samey over the course of the campaign. There’s not too much variety in the locations you visit and aside from all of the enemies, Redfall itself feels quite empty and dead. Initially, I started playing on Xbox Series X before switching to PC. While Redfall runs fairly well on Xbox, the lack of performance mode really hurts the experience. The game already feels sluggish and floaty so when you combine that with 30 fps you really feel it. Things improve on PC where the game runs at 60fps and up though in the latter half of the game, I did experience a few moments where the frames dropped dramatically and the game struggled to run. Nothing so bad as Jedi: Survivor, but it seems the curse of the Unreal engine on PC continues.

Overall, Redfall isn’t really a bad game, it’s just a very average one. Generally, the mechanics. shooting and exploration are all ok but nothing stands out and nothing demands your attention. The inclusion of a skill tree and looter-shooter features are underdone and seemingly added as an afterthought or as part of some checklist of what these kinds of games should be. While touted as playable solo or in co-op, it’s clear Redfall has co-op at the forefront as playing by yourself is less than ideal though playing in co-op adds little to the experience.

Redfall is not the second coming of first-party AAA games on Xbox and it was never going to be. It’s an average co-op shooter with half-baked ideas that never fully come together. It’s fun for a few minutes but it wears thin very quickly. Give it a try on Game Pass but don’t expect too much.

Redfall was reviewed on PC and Xbox Series X using digital code provided by the publisher.

Reader Rating0 Votes
Runs well on both platforms (better on PC)
Nice aesthetics and art design
Solid mechanics
Aggressively average in almost every way
Entirely made up of fetch quests
Leo Stevenson
Leo Stevenson
I've been playing games for the past 27 years and have been writing for almost as long. Combining two passions in the way I'm able is a true privilege. PowerUp! is a labour of love and one I am so excited to share.

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