Arkane Studios is a developer known for some of the best immersive sim games over the last decade. From Dishonored to Prey, the team is always pushing the bounds of what an environmental sandbox can be and how the players can manipulate a solid set of systems.
Redfall feels a little like Left 4 Dead, a little like Far Cry, and by trying to be a little bit of everything, it ends up being nothing.
Redfall Review In Progress | A Stake Through The Heart
Redfall ditches Arkane’s intricate level design for something a bit more open and, in return, something a bit blander.
Redfall’s open world is split between two maps, the first being the titular town of Redfall, Massachusetts, featuring the city’s different districts and the encompassing coastal shipwrecks.
The second map, known as The Burial Site, trades in the suburban lifestyle for some more rural areas, including farmhouses, open pastures, and multiple cults vying for the vampire’s undying love.
Both of these maps feel empty in every sense of the word. Locked houses line the streets, with only a few having a way inside. Enemy encampments feature only a handful of cultists or vampires to hunt, and most of your time will be spent traversing cliffside and open fields with little to offer in the way of exploration.
In both single-player and cooperative play, something would catch my eye, be it a tall church tower or an abandoned shipwreck, only to find that there was little to nothing inside except for some scrap that could be used to earn a bit more currency to purchase health packs and lockpicks.
You’ll find Safehouses along the way, which works as Fast Travel points around the map. Unlocking these safehouses provides little to no challenge, and each one feels exactly the same as the last. Here you can partake in two side missions that will eventually be required for the main mission to progress.
The safehouse lacks any personality or excitement. Each is a basement bunker equipped with a radio, health station, and restock point. A civilian or two may be down there, but they have nothing to say, and these safehouses do very little in the way of worldbuilding.
Some of the more interesting points of interest in Redfall are reserved for main story missions, meaning you can stumble upon a unique mansion or creepy cave early, but nothing of value is there until the mission dictates so. The space in which this game resides makes exploration feel unexciting and quite frankly, boring.
After you choose from one of four different playable characters, you’ll be set on your adventure to discover what happened to Redfall and embark on a shallow quest to destroy to vampires running the show. Layla, the magical power witch, gives players the ability to summon a Victorian-style elevator for a quick jump to the high ground, while Devinder offers players a teleport to safety. These characters could be used together for some interesting synergies if Redfall ever pushed players to be creative.
The enemy AI in Redfall ranges from unresponsive to mediocre at best. Vampires will teleport away from fights and get stuck in walls, human NPCs won’t realize they’re being shot at, and if you’re playing in co-op, most enemies die in one or two hits. As a team, we never felt the need to set up elaborate ways to take enemies on because the game never pushed back against it.
Vampires fall into different archetypes, such as the Angler, who hooks players and pulls them in for a mean chomp. The Rook is a deadly vampire that shows up after you’ve caused enough havoc, barging in with a lightning storm The Rook is meant to be one of the toughest enemies you’ll face, but if you have a Stake Launcher, it will die in just a few hits.
You’ll oscillate between picking up main missions at the central hub, going out into the world and completing said mission, and then fas traveling back to pick up the next one. The Fire Station, the game’s first hub area, features various NPCs who will sell you stuff and very occasionally have a conversation with each other about a potential side quest that needs doing.
There are moments, albeit brief, where Redfall feels like something. The manor mission showcases that Redfall has ideas, and when it strips the open world and allows itself to be weird, reality-distorting, and focused, it can really shine. However, those moments are fleeting, and it’s back to the open-world bland sandbox it was before.
Vampire Nests are another moment where Redfall begins to shine before quickly dimming back to reality. Random occurrences known as Vampire Nests will allow players to hunt for the home of the vampires through a magical door; this quick little event takes players into new areas and tasks them with taking apart the nest’s heart and, in return, getting sweet loot.
These moments feature Arkane’s best talents on display. One featured a movie theater where messing with the projector turned a once 2-dimensional screen into a gateway to the heart.
The movie screen had depth and allowed players to walk through it with no loading screen or interstitial. It was a moment of magic.
Just as quickly as we destroyed the heart, we were teleported back to the open world, where your only goal is to get a purple or gold shotgun and hope that the perks it rolls with are better than what you already have.
However, the performance in these areas is some of Redfall’s worst. The game slows down on PC to merely a few frames, making it hard not to be ripped out of the experience. Playing on PC, I often switched between medium, high, and low settings and found that all of them still had frame drops in more complex areas. The PC performance in Redfall is rough, even if you have the recommended specs for the game.
Several bugs in cooperative play make the experience a slog. Players glitching through the floor, flying through the sky, and items only being able to be picked up by one player. Not to mention that Redfall only provides story progress for the host. So if you’re planning on playing through the entire game in co-op, make sure you designate one player always to be the host.
Redfall’s main draw seems to be unlocking cosmetics for your character and weapons. Side quests will offer up unique gun skins that look straight out of Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2. These can be slapped on your Stake Launcher, Machine Gun, or whatever else you find out there. They are mostly underwhelming and feel like another feature, rather than an exciting thing for players to earn.
The primary way to interact with the environment or Redfall is through the barrel of your gun, and in a game where that’s the focus, the shooting better feel fantastic. Redfall’s gunplay feels unsatisfying and never evolves into something more. Some of the more unique weapons, like the UV Beam and Stake Launcher, add some good utility, but an average shotgun will get you through every encounter in the game.
Situations may have a few different ways of going about them, but at the end of the day, Redfall is still staring down the barrel of a gun. I’m not really sure who the target audience for Redfall is because the game never does any one thing perfectly; instead, it’s little slices of something buried under mediocrity everywhere else.
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review. Reviewed on PC