A small, provincial city is plagued with vampires and cultists, with all escape barred off by some strange supernatural force that overcame this previously quaint place. A ragtag group of heroes are the only thing standing between this bloodthirsty threat and the end of humanity as we know it. If it sounds like a mid-1980s B horror flick, that’s because this is what Redfall is, and it doesn’t pretend to be anything different. Bold in its approach that feels strangely steeped in nostalgia, it retreads old ground, but often stumbles over poorly implemented game mechanics that leave this game feeling unfinished and under realized. And while Redfall was delayed to its 2023 launch, it feels like this game could have spent more time in the oven.
Editor’s Note: The reviewer played through Redfall with the day one patch, which affected the overall review and score.
The narrative beats of Redfall are relatively interesting, though it is not entirely unique or novel in its execution. Vampires and cultists took over the town of Redfall, with the appearance of these bloodsucking monstrosities appearing after a medical experiment gone awry has transformed the town and its denizens for the worse. The premise is barebones enough to allow for some interesting environmental storytelling, with certain items and notes placed deliberately around the map to inform you about how things got to where they are now and what the people that lived in the town were like before everything went to hell in a handbasket. The town itself feels lived in, and the presence of the cultists turned your average run-of-the-mill suburban homes into haunts full of vampires and televisions broadcasting messages from a mysterious figure known as the “Hollow Man.” Sound design helps create a deeply unsettling atmosphere in some of these homes, with static noise and sometimes ominous chanting from the Hollow Man filling numerous rooms in houses, basements, and even local mom and pop shops.
While the environments feel lived in and the town itself feels well constructed, it’s littered with only a handful of enemy types. Cultists are your standard human enemies that carry weapons you cannot pick up, because you can only find them as loot in boxes, drops from vampires, or obtain them as purchasable items from an in-game weapon’s merchant. The AI is laughable, even with the day one patch, and they sometimes spin around in circles or endlessly climb cliffs in an attempt to get to you, making them easy targets. Vampires have a little more variety, but most will teleport to you and slap at you with their claws. Some will siphon blood from you, which is can be annoying at higher difficulties if you don’t have high level guns, or throw orbs of dark energy your way. You will need to stakes to kill them, which feel like they should come in limited supply, but are plentiful enough to eliminate vampires as any real threat. This makes encountering them just as boring as running into cultists.
Since Redfall functions on the looter shooter method of obtaining weapons, you’ll be scavenging for guns with random passives and levels to continue to deal significant damage to your enemies. There isn’t a huge drop off in terms of damage at higher difficulties, but you can feel it later on. The single-player mode was easy enough for me to tear through, but when I began adding other players into the mix, that’s when the game began to unravel at the seams. It took several attempts to get one friend into a lobby, with them needing to be re-invited several times as their game would keep crashing. Eventually they did make it in, but as all four of us began to progress the game we started encountering a lot of visual bugs and technical issues. This included frozen character animations, replicated player character models, and even one player appearing to phase through the ground from my perspective. Certain menus would also bug out, and I ended up getting stuck on the map screen because someone had continued a quest while I was in a menu, with me being unable to actually quit the game manually. Progress in multiplayer is also tracked based on the host, and progress is not shared between those in the lobby. This means you would need to play the game four times in order to complete the campaign for everyone.
Each player character possesses their own unique skills, which you think would improve your general multiplayer experience. But some characters are more useful than others. I played Jacob for most for my time in Redfall, and he ultimately felt the most useful. Him being in proximity to other player characters would increase their headshot damage, and his ultimate ability is a sniper rifle that automatically tracks enemies. Devinder’s ultimate ability is also extremely useful for making quick work of groups of vampires, but the characters that suffer from a lack of more utility focused offensive abilities are Remi and Layla. They feel like true supports. Which you think would make them the most valuable assets to the group, but Layla’s umbrella ability blocks any outgoing and incoming damage, including your own bullets. This makes her skill feel arguably less useful when you can just run away from enemies that are shooting at you, or snipe them from a distance. Remi can heal, but it’s locked to her ability, which takes longer to charge than using a med pack and those are plentiful around the map. It feels like there wasn’t a clear balance between characters, which makes it feel like Redfall‘s gameplay only favors two out of its four leads.
Redfall is a culmination of things. It’s a multiplayer shooter, an homage to folk horror and various vampire myths, and a looter shooter all in one package. However, it does none of these things particularly well, and feels thin as a result. It’s an amalgamation of ideas that could work in concept if given more time, even though I’m personally adverse to my experience being dictated by gun levels and arbitrary passives slapped onto my firearm of choice. RPG level up mechanics and skill trees feel sufficient enough to incentivize players to grind. It’s a game that’s fun with friends, but that in and of itself is a low bar to cross. Anything can be fun with friends under the right circumstance, and solo-play is a mostly mindless affair. Those looking for a meatier experience and something more in line with what Arcane has released in the past will be sorely disappointed. And as Redfall lacks any actual depth in terms of narrative or gameplay loop, it’s a hard game to recommend. But who knows, maybe six months to a year down the line, it could be a completely different and more engaging game. That’s just the time we live in.
Redfall is available for Xbox Series X and PC.
- NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3080
- 32 GB RAM
- AMD Ryzen 9 5900X 12-Core Processor