Redfall : Redfall provides some great gameplay elements to sink your teeth and time into but it also lacks direction and its vision is muddied with formulaic systems and some glaring issues. Editor's Note: After completing this review-in-progress, without spoilers, the full experience does not improve and the ending is extremely disappointing. We have changed the score from a 6 to a 5. – Mario Vasquez
Vampires are a horror genre staple so it’s quite shocking we haven’t really had an amazing game release featuring them as the central villain in quite some time. So when Arkane, the makers of amazing games like Prey and Dishonored, announced Redfall in June of 2021, it captured my bloodlust. Xbox’s current weak place in the market is begging for a great release which puts a ton of extra pressure for Redfall to exceed expectations.
The excitement for Redfall’s hero-based looter-shooter gameplay centering around vampires has such a high ceiling because of this atmosphere. Microsoft needs a win. It’s Arkane, so we know they have a history of hitting it out of the park with combat, stealth, and a great story. But after delays, the announcement that consoles would be locked to 30fps at launch, and after a quiet launch week, some concern set in.
The press embargo was set right before tomorrow’s release at 8:01 PM ET today. A red flag went up instantly. This is a review-in-progress as we were provided a key close to release and have not had time to complete the entire story but have completed the majority of its major missions. In fact, a 69.4GB patch dropped this morning adding DLC.
After playing, I understand the fear of reviewers about gameplay spoiling major elements of the latter half of the game. For FPS fans, Redfall provides some great gameplay elements to sink your teeth and time into, but it also lacks direction and its vision is muddied with formulaic systems and some glaring issues. Let’s take a deeper look at Redfall in our review of the PC version for Steam. Thank you to Nvidia and to Arkane for providing a review copy for our coverage!
Redfall has you choose one of four main characters which is one of the biggest draws for me upon release. Going in with friends to experience a 4-player massacre of vampires and their minions could be a real blast. Central to Redfall is its first person and hero shooter design. The four playable characters at launch are cryptozoologist inventor, Devinder Crousley; telekinetic student, Layla Ellison; combat engineer, Remi de la Rosa; and special forces sniper, veteran Jacob Boyer. Redfall has more character releases planned later.
Each character has a trio of upgradable special powers, two are useable for limited times, and an “ultimate” that recharges more slowly over time. Each power has its own unique spin on combat and abilities to play with. Vampires invade the area known as Redfall, and after some opening events, there is no physical way to escape from the area. You and the town’s citizens are fish trapped in a bucket being saved for feeding time.
The opening sequence is pretty great and sets the tone well. The massive cascade of frozen water serves as an ominous foreshadowing of the immense power our enemies hold. Our characters had previous run-ins with the main antagonists that provided them with their abilities.
I really disliked that Bungie made us go to their website to read “grimoire” cards to understand the lore. The same thing is done here with Redfall – most of the backstory ends up by being briefly told in side conversations, and if you want more, you need to read one of the many, many notes strewn across the world or by gathering 100 items that provide more exposition from a central character. It is hard to describe how grandiose the game can be and yet so small at the same time before you actually jump in to play.
Disappointingly, Redfall at times can feel paper thin, and I believe it could have been truly great with more time in the coffin until it was ready to withstand the heat of the sun and its place in the current landscape. Gamers will notice.
We want the deep world-building and narrative that Arkane is known for, and if more time was needed for a sophisticated presentation, I would have begged for it. Without going into later story spoilers, Redfall’s premise is that a biotech corporation known as Aevum was working with a scientist seeking immortality, an experiment went wrong and the vampire hoard was unleashed. Almost immediately, many of the town’s residents became cultists who wanted this same immortality and began to worship and defend the vampires with the promise that once they die they would be reincarnated as all-powerful beings.
A once idyllic island town is now the center for survivors, and you are someone luckily granted special powers that you have right off the bat. Conceptually, its a great setting for this game and it was very interesting to explore. With vampire nests to destroy, bosses to defeat, safehouses to set free, and so much loot to gather for upgrades – the base systems are there for a great time.
But while Redfall’s premise does an amazing job of setting up some great missions, the presentation feels extremely dated. So much so I am not sure that most players will stay long enough to experience the latter half of the game which begins to feel incredible at times.
Let’s take a deeper look at the gameplay.
After the opening sequence, your first mission is to approach a surrounded firehouse with survivors inside. Cultists are standing outside, literally, not banging on the walls or trying to break in – they are standing there in groups just waiting to pick survivors off. This is the same immersion-breaking feeling most of the encounters have in the game. Something feels like it was missed or changed in development.
Most gamers won’t care about small details as they may just care about the overall story and the gunplay. Well, after first picking off the cultists, you meet your first set of survivors for your new home base. There is little to no backstory for the characters without reading interactable letters, and they sort of just fall into place as expert base builders with a doctor, a gun expert, a clergywoman, and more. Redfall is shockingly light on explanations and barebones in so many other similar places that lowered our expectations for the rest of the game.
This base is never attacked and is literally just a place you come back to get supplies, make occasional small talk, and interact with a missions table to get photo cutscenes between your custom character and the survivors. I believe the reason for this is because of only having four characters and it may have been easier to just replace their skin for the cutscenes. I understand that the visuals needed to be presented, but with such barebones characters it would have made me care more about them if they actually talked to you.
Between missions, they will talk to each other and then later you get in-game conversations with dynamic character movements and interactions that I really enjoyed especially near the end of the first half of the game. If this was more fleshed out, I would have cared much more about these characters and saving them.
However, none of it matters as once a major defeat occurs, in order to progress the story you have to leave the main island and can never return. I’d prefer to go back and experience those levels again when I want to and have fun in the sandbox that was created, but its completely shut off.
The second area feels more like the real main game in almost every way. Characters are more vocal, the area feels more dense and packed with hidden items and more enemies to fight. The story is finally fleshed out and its vast world is begging to be explored. Only in the second half is where Redfall shines and becomes extremely fun.
We suggest not playing the healer characters during single-player as they won’t offer much utility. Some of the abilities become extremely powerful with later unlocks like Jacob’s raven damaging anyone in its path. However, the AI needs some serious work and I often found myself ignoring gun perks and upgrades as a necessity to improve my experience.
None of it is truly fundamental to the experience and most hero’s abilities would help multiplayer sessions. However, story progression is not shared due to the nature of the game’s design but the loot and levels you gain are.
Flawed AI is one of the biggest issues we ran into. It’s bad. I mean really bad especially for the poor cultists who get the short straw. They funnel in the same path, get stuck on rocks, have clunky animations, and have no real cognition or ability to flank and outsmart you while at the same time having god-aim. It’s a bad combo especially when being sniped at from a distance.
I am not sure any patches can address this, but with Jacob at launch, AI is broken and basically stuck in easy mode. Even on higher difficulties and with later invisibility unlocks, I could cycle between walking directly into a large group of enemies, grabbing the quest item, and then going invisible again, and they would just go on their way. The same could be said about shooting from a specific area – the AI just funnels directly to you and poses no real challenge ala Deathloop.
Other characters have similar “cheese” but I would recommend increasing the difficulty of the game for a better challenge. The shooting experience is still fantastic – from sniper rifles to UV lasers that petrify the enemy vampires – it is a blast to play.
In some well-designed areas like the vampire nests, it reminded us of entering the Elder Scroll’s Oblivion Gates. These moments however are few and far between if you love to fully explore the world. Some missions are surprisingly good but getting there is such a slog that some may never progress to experience them. The moment-to-moment gameplay constantly clashes badly with each other. It is tiring especially when combined with performance issues.
Speaking of vampire nests, these are some of the best gameplay areas in Redfall. They pack strong vampires in large numbers that can overwhelm you quickly even with Jacob’s invisibility and it requires careful planning. Conversely, there is little punishment for dying as progress does not reset and there are typically no timers, so if you can go in gun blazing.
Vampire nests reached another level that let me see the vision for Redfall which makes it hurt to see it ignored for the rest of the gameplay. The tone, the atmosphere, and with your back against the wall fighting off vampire hoards is such an amazing concept!
In one mission, you go to investigate a boat and as soon as the quest item is picked up it triggers an angry mob that immediately surrounds your only exits with deadly red mist, a mini-boss, and a mob of bloodthirsty vampires. You can see this all unfold beneath you from the boat’s windows. Your only option is to bite back and fight your way out. The game is filled with these bursts of incredible and stunning moments with fantastic and engaging gunplay that is then mixed with poor performance, bad lip-syncing, and horrible AI.
I am really reminded of Destiny 1’s live service launch which was obviously a victim of a large form of rewrite and rebuild. Perhaps Redfall had a similar fate but we will never know. Arkane has promised gamers that this will be their most supported game yet and we really hope so. The core gameplay is incredible but it reminds us of Cyberpunk 2077’s promise of a better future when all we need now is the vampire killing fun we have been salivating for.
The loot, the loot, the loot, the loot, the loot
Let’s talk loot. Vampire bosses keep repeating “the blood, the blood, the blood, the blood” but all I care about is if they will give me fun weapons to kill them with. Loot and gameplay can keep a game alive for a long time especially if there are fun quests or some great special weapons or “exotics” to chase. A community can grow quickly when secrets are found or the best load-outs to defeat bosses are found.
Redfall’s weapons scale with your level and just pump out higher numbers of damage. Pistols, shotguns, automatic rifles, UV lasers, stake launchers, snipers, and flare guns round out a fun and worthwhile experience. Unfortunately, as the game fleshes out you see how exploration is broken by other reward types. So build-crafting with the right perks and skill point selections doesn’t make much of a difference now.
Pistols are often one-shot minions, flare guns burn and stun lock vampires, and stake launchers massively chunk any boss or special vampire. It’s all amazing fun and the combo load-outs you run can really allow for great gameplay loops. Although the cultists are really bad enemies, they serve little to no threat until much later when their level just means their incredible accuracy can health-chunk you within a second or two if you get careless. I died a lot early being overrun in confined space by the fast vampire attacks as they surrounded me. Some enemy abilities can also one-shot you. This would not be much of an issue in multiplayer but it felt bad in single-player mode.
That said, you don’t have to worry about dying in a mission because no progress is lost and you have so much junk loot currency that you will likely never spend. You do not lose any progress from dying, any damage or defeated enemies stay dead, and your mission status is retained. Most of the world’s junk loot like bleach, toilet paper, water bottles, etc. that you pick up gets converted into a currency for purchases back at the home base.
Things like med kits, better guns, and lock picks can be purchased with converted drop currency. However, most of the rewire/hack kits just lead to more junk loot or heals, which enemies drop, and are strewn literally everywhere. Most of the lock picks do the same.
There was no master sword moment or a huge loot drop that I was super excited for. This is because they aren’t necessary because vampire nests and a later world event granted me the best loot in the game. Most of your old loot is junked as you move on to the next mission anyway.
The combos are fun though as you need to either stake, petrify, or burn vampires. You can mix using a UV gun to petrify groups of vampires and then shotgun them one by one to dispatch a large group easily. If you take too long as Jacob, you can just go invisible with no real danger. I did this for the first big boss and didn’t even lose 50% health because a large power weapon pumps out such large chunks of damage the boss gets health gated and frozen before they can even react. I broke the game rather easily. Balancing needs to occur and much more AI work is needed. There was a huge patch today that hopefully addresses some of these woes.
I am beginning to call DLSS 3 a godsend but it should not be necessary just to enjoy a major release. The industry has lately given PC gamers the short end of the stick, but that is a topic for another day. We started our playthrough with our Ryzen 7800x3D build with an RTX 4070 Ti and 32 GB of DDR5-6000mhz RAM on our TeamGroup 2TB NVMe drive. Ours is far beyond a typical system, but from the onset we had massive crashes, stuttering, bugs, and large frame dips. Microstutters and texture problems also occurred.
The latest Nvidia driver helped and DLSS 3 almost doubled our performance. This still did not address some areas of town where we would dip into the low teens. Entering the menu could often cause the game to crash. Glitches like this ruined some major moments of our playthrough but with patches this may be resolved soon.
DLSS looks incredible and is a must-have feature. It nearly doubled performance on the RTX 4090 which was already performing great except for the 1% lows. The same could be said for our RTX 4080 and 4070 Ti. The newly released RTX 4070 also performs well but the game really needs some serious performance improvements.
There was a large 69.4GB patch today so we redid our benchmarks. Here are our numbers using maxed/Epic settings:
Intel 13900KF/RTX 4090 FE/2x16GB DDR5 6400/Win 11 – 3840 x 2160
TAA high/No DLSS – 124.3 av / 42.1 1% low
Quality DLSS 3 – 178.0 av / 72.7 1% low
DLSS 3 in particular allows for stunning gameplay and steady framerates with comparable image quality to native. Unfortunately, Redfall is sadly locked at 30FPS for the console launch with 60 FPS mode coming soon but now we can understand why: It just needs more time in development.
Post-Day 1 Patch with AMD Ryzen 7800x3D, 2x16GB DDR6 6000, TeamGroup 2TB NVMe, Win 11.
3840×2160, Epic Preset DLSS comparison:
|Post-Day 1 Patch
|Avg. FPS DLSS 2/3 OFF
|Avg. FPS DLSS 2/3 ON
|RTX 4071 Ti
Conclusion – try if you have Game Pass
We can not recommend Redfall at launch. I was very excited for Arcane Austin’s Redfall, despite the console war chatter, the state of Xbox, and red flags coming out from the game development cycle. I still loved my time with it, and in many moments I was having a good deal of fun, but most of the time the world proved to be empty or uninteresting.
I would not have continued as far as I progressed if I did not enjoy some of the big set pieces so much. I believe anyone with Game Pass should play it, even at 30fps on console. However, it’s a messy mix of RPG, looter shooter, and a multiplayer game that lacks a cohesive and consistent presentation. Couple this with terrible AI and a plethora of bugs and there are very high highs and very, very low lows.
Redfall can technically be played solo, but we recommend the experience with friends as it is much better. It is also not going to be the major release to start the Xbox renaissance that we so desperately need. This review score is going to be low, but I am still rooting for it. There is something there at the core that is clawing at the surface to come out and be enjoyed. It is your choice if you want to power through the mud to get to the meat of it.
If you can withstand some glitches, read the story in text form with barebones character development, and have friends to play with then you will have a decent time. That said, the world is already so empty that traversing its many roads with no vehicles or large enemy population it can feel lonely walking large swaths of areas as a solo player. At times, I grew so frustrated with the experience I found myself begging for a story, begging for those cool moments, and I often felt unrewarded and angry.
Redfall releases later today on Xbox Series consoles, PC, Game Pass, and is Steam Deck verified.