When Redfall was first announced and its initial trailer was revealed, the audience immediately labeled the game as “Left 4 Dead, but with vampires instead of zombies.” Now that Redfall has been released, I’m sad to report that a more fitting description is “Aliens: Colonial Marines but with PS2-era goth kids as villains.” That is to say, there is some fun to be had in exploring Redfall’s town, but it’s buried beneath the glitches and technical flaws present at launch, and its concept is half-baked in its execution.
Redfall Key Details
- Developer: Arkane Studios
- Release Date: May 2, 2023
Redfall Is A Vampire Shooter With Way Too Many Humans
Redfall is a looter shooter from Arkane Austin set in the titular town of Redfall, which has been cut off from the outside world by vampires and their human cultist servants. You take on the role of one of four survivors, each with their own special skills, as you attempt to assemble a resistance movement, escape the hordes of undead and flee Redfall with your neck intact.
The main character quickly gathers some survivors and creates a base in a nearby fire station. It’s from here that you take on missions and buy new gear, before venturing out into the town of Redfall. The act of exploring the town and uncovering secrets while avoiding gangs of vampires and cultists is the highlight of the game, and sneaking through its empty trailer parks and abandoned houses would be a laugh if done with your friends imagining they were reenacting a cheesy ’80s horror flick. The game world isn’t massive, though more sections are unlocked as you play. However, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as completing every mission on this compact island feels like an achievable goal.
The fight in Redfall isn’t quite as entertaining. For one thing, you will be fighting way more humans with guns than vampires in this supposed vampire shooter. The cultists are a huge part of the game, and they feel like the enemies you’d face in any other shooter. This is made more frustrating by the fact that they often pose more of a threat than the undead, including engineers who can throw out tiny turrets that will grind you into mincemeat within seconds. It’s not a great look for a game that’s meant to be about killing vampires.
Redfall’s Story & Gameplay Loop Are As Empty As The Town
The vampires are treated as elite foes who can only be slain through a handful of methods. One of these involves staking them in the heart, which actually is a lot of fun to pull off, but it’s overshadowed by the fact that other weapons can also kill vampires from range – such as explosives. In return, most vampires are just fast and strong, with the power of anime flash steps to bolster their movement. A few have special abilities, such as the Siphon, who can drain health from afar, but there is a distinct lack of variety for these super-powered foes, and you’ll soon grow weary of facing them over and over again.
To fight back against the creatures of the night, each hero is provided with special abilities that can be unlocked via a skill tree, along with a variety of weapons found throughout the overworld in chests and on enemy corpses. Redfall went the looter shooter route but didn’t do anything interesting with the concept. The weapon upgrades feel incremental and boring, while the special abilities are so slow to recharge and use that they come across as an afterthought when compared to the firearms.
Redfall Is A Broken Mess At Launch
The technical quality of Redfall at launch is, in a word, awful. The game is locked at 30fps on Xbox Series X, texture pop-in happens constantly, animations can play out of order, and stuttering crops up during busier moments. This is joined by practically non-existent AI, with enemies not reacting when the player is near or just running back and forth between different spots in combat. The flying vampires are especially prone to this, as they float in the air, unmoving, and let you snipe them from afar. Redfall has launched in a laughably woeful condition, and it badly needed more polish before it was released.
The bigger issue with Redfall is something fans have complained about since before the game launched — the always online component. Redfall must be connected to the Internet at all times, even for solo play, which means that any kind of crash or service drop means being booted from the game, and your recent progress will be lost, as your protagonist is sent back to the nearest checkpoint. This is an unacceptable design choice, and if your internet isn’t great, then you’ll probably want to avoid this game completely.
There are also issues with online matchmaking, damaging a game that’s all about the co-op experience. As of the time of writing, Redfall can only be played with friends, which takes away from a potential ‘drop-in or drop-out’ play style, as games need to be arranged with people you know who own a copy. This is a major omission for a game in the Borderlands vein, dragging the Redfall experience down even further.
Also, if you want to try out one of the other four playable characters, you have to create a separate save file and start the story from the beginning. This baffling decision makes it hard to just jump in and enjoy the game. These aren’t super complex characters in terms of their mechanical depth, so why not just let players switch between them freely and give them some level-up points to ensure they’re not underpowered?
The question that Redfall leaves me with is why? Why put out such a middling game before it’s ready, especially as any buzz it would have increased will be swallowed by other game releases? Why not save it for later in the year, after the launch of Starfield, and end the Xbox brand’s year on a high note? Why botch the vampire concept and fill the game with gun-toting soldiers? Why include a loot and skill point system only to make them so boring that leveling up and finding equipment becomes a chore? Why launch a game focusing on multiplayer and not have match-making? Why, Redfall, why?
On its own, Redfall isn’t a terrible game, and if you’re playing it through Game Pass, you might be able to squeeze out some fun when playing with friends, especially if you find funny glitches. If you paid full price for the game, then its flaws will be more noticeable, as it’s nowhere worth the cost. Maybe it will be more enjoyable to play in a year’s time, when the issues are fixed and some very basic features are implemented, but it’s hard to imagine anyone caring at that point.
|A fairly decent looter shooter when played with friends, if you can overlook technical flubs.
|Staking mechanic is fun.
|The town of Redfall can be fun to explore, especially as it doesn’t have an overwhelmingly big overworld.
|Always online means an Internet dropout results in a loss of progress and being dumped back at the nearest checkpoint.
|The vampire concept is undercooked, as the player spends more time fighting generic soldiers than the undead.
|Full of an unacceptable level of bugs and performance issues at launch.