As a fan of Arkane’s portfolio of games, I went into Redfall excited and optimistic that this incredible developer was going to deliver another excellent experience. From Dishonored to Deathloop, Arkane has proven that it can create some of the best games of all time, with deep, immersive worlds, and enjoyable gameplay. Unfortunately, though, after sinking my fangs into it, Redfall hasn’t been exactly what I had hoped for.
Redfall opens with a quick rundown of the events leading up to the start of the game’s narrative. While most of this is shrouded in mystery, it does offer up more than enough information to bring you up to speed. In short, you wake up on a ship after a failed evacuation attempt as the water rises above you, and a mysterious vampire, known only as the Black Sun, clouds the sun in darkness. It’s a fantastic introduction to the game, but one that sadly isn’t supported by its actual gameplay.
The town of Redfall offers an open world experience, which is unusual for an Arkane Studios game. Unlike its previous titles, which consist of large, linear levels, Redfall gives you the freedom to explore. However, the likes of Dishonored or Deathloop had lovingly handcrafted levels that felt passionately made, whereas Redfall is a bland, paint-by-numbers open world that feels empty and lifeless – even more so than the undead creatures that now control it.
Traveling from one task to another across a mediocre-at-best world is hardly the only problem here. Each Redfall mission feels like a half-finished jigsaw, with a trail of different points of interest taking your focus for a few minutes before you jump back to the main base of operations, the fire station. There are hints of Arkane Studios’ usual brilliance in each mission, but they ultimately feel like they’re lacking the special sauce the studio has become known for.
The same can be said for the combat. At every turn, you’ll face a whole host of vampires looking to ruin your day. Luckily, you have an entire arsenal of weapons to use at your disposal, with a variety of types and rarities to help you hunt and slay. It’s almost a looter shooter-lite, and there are just enough minimal stat differences between weapons to make you check your inventory once in a while. It does its job, but it does also feel like a forced attempt to create more depth.
While there are various weapons to choose from, one thing remains consistent; Redfall’s gunplay is sluggish, unchallenging, and disappointing. Given Redfall sells itself on being a co-op shooter, the shooting part seems to have been missed off the list entirely. And it doesn’t help when most encounters with enemies expose issues with Redfall’s AI. Whether it’s being obstructed by furniture while chasing you, or simply not noticing the sniper bullet you left in their friend’s head, enemies in Redfall are not engaging, reactive, or smart. It ruins the immersion entirely.
That’s a shame because the world around you is full of neat little details if you look hard enough. The environmental storytelling on offer in Redfall is something I picked up on and praised during my preview of the game earlier this year, but at that time, I was playing the game on a top-spec PC. After playing the game on an Xbox Series X – a system I thought the game would be perfectly optimized for, given its from a first-party studio and a day-one release on Xbox Game Pass – it’s clear that Redfall just isn’t ready to be played on anything but a high-end PC.
I wanted to love Redfall. Everything about the game in the build-up to release suggested we were going to get more magic from Arkane Studios, but after playing it, the experience looks and feels like a slog. After plenty of hours spent in the lonely town of Redfall, disappointment now replaces my initial excitement. Let’s just hope this isn’t the final nail in the coffin for Arkane.
Redfall review (Xbox Series X)
Redfall’s environmental storytelling is somewhat worth witnessing, but shoddy performance, sluggish gunplay, and a boring story have left me drained – just like the victims of the town.