The concept of Redfall is good in theory. A co-op-focused shooter in an open world overrun with supernatural enemies and featuring the gameplay Arkane Studios is known for. That’s a pitch I’d approve every time. But, unfortunately, Redfall plays nothing like its idea, instead having more in common with an Xbox 360 launch title. You see occasional moments of promise and the potential for the future of gaming, but it’s a limited and flawed experience.
Sadly for Refall, it’s not an Xbox 360 launch title. It’s the first Xbox exclusive after Microsoft’s purchase of Bethesda. As an Xbox Series X|S and PC game, it’s a complete and total failure.
How Did We Get Here?
One day, someone will publish an incredible deep dive into the development of Redfall. Then, we’ll better understand what happened that resulted in this unfortunate release. I wish I could say that tagging it as Early Access would resolve everything making sense. Sadly, Redfall’s issues run deeper than that.
If the game wanted to be successful, it would need to be torn down and rebuilt from the ground up. It’s as if two different games were jammed into one and often clash. The DNA of an Arkane Studios game feels trapped, trying to escape the clutches of a studio chasing the dream of a never-ending live service game.
For example, one of my first missions required me to salvage supplies from a local store. I left our base at the fire station, traversed through the titular town of Redfall, and arrived at said store. Unfortunately, the door was locked. There appeared to be no way inside. Out of desperation, I tried breaking the front windows. Success! I had broken into the store and was able to complete my objective.
A later mission tasks me with eliminating a specific enemy. I arrived at the destination and realized I had multiple choices to complete the objective: sneak in all stealth-like, eliminating enemies along the way. Additionally, I could isolate a shot at the target and snipe them, getting out before anyone realized I was there. Or, I could just knock on the front door and shoot everything in sight.
I tried the third option but failed miserably before trying the second option. Finally, I set up with a perfect view of the target, lined them up in my sights, pulled the trigger, and got out of there—piece of cake.
Redfall’s Positive Moments Are Quickly Forgotten
Unfortunately, these are the exception, not the norm in Redfall.
I had plenty of time to break into the local supply store because the open world is one of the most empty I’ve ever experienced in a video game. Using an assassin-like approach worked because I was playing a class that excelled at that role. Shooting first and asking questions second worked better on a hero better suited for that role. This wasn’t the freedom I expected from an Arkane game.
The more I played, the more I felt boxed in, like an old Xbox 360/PS3 game that developers hadn’t quite figured out to deliver on the promise of a true open-world experience. Instead, it’s chasing the latest trends of modern gaming: a co-op skill-based looter shooter that you could, in theory, play forever. The problem is that we’ve seen so many of those come and go over the years while Redfall is in development. If the game gave us a reason to keep returning, I’d be all for it. Sadly, that’s not the case.
Redfall has the look and feel of the best of modern games, with none of the execution. The best comparison I can make is taking a bite of a perfectly seared rare steak you ordered at a high-end restaurant, only to realize it’s well done. Its story is bland and forgettable, and the missions are even worse. It’s simply moving from a specific point of interest before moving on to the next one. Make sure you go to the correct point of interest and interact with the right object. Otherwise, you’ll be stuck wondering where you went wrong.
I Used To Know You So Well
Ironically, the best thing Redfall has going for it is its performance on consoles. Much was made about the game being capped at 30 FPS on Xbox Series X. Truth be told, the game has looked fine. I didn’t notice any slowdowns or issues.
Having said that, the art direction is a bit bland and lacking. I know that Arkane’s titles are always more artistic than realistic. Maybe it’s just the droopy, gloomy aesthetic of a New England town being overrun by vampires and cultists, but Redfall looks drab.
On PC, however, the game looks awful. Frame rate slowdowns, pixelations, and bugs (especially on higher difficulties) are the name of the game here.
This is why people think the game needs more time in the oven: it’s just flat-out broken in several areas, and extra polish could salvage the experience. Personally, I’m inclined to disagree. Squashing bugs can’t salvage Redfall’s issues. Instead, it requires a complete teardown of the entire game experience.
Why does this have to be a looter shooter? Did it really need to be a multiplayer game? Dishonored, for example, is an incredible title. While Prey doesn’t have the same accolades, it’s still a damn great experience. Redfall shouldn’t have been afraid to follow in Arkane’s footsteps. Bethesda, of all publishers, should know when a game needs to stay single-player and when it should be a multiplayer experience.
Redfall Review – Wrapping Up
My expectations leading into the release of Redfall were indeed a roller coaster. I went from shrugging my shoulders at its announcement to actually looking forward to getting my hands on the game. However, once I finally did, I was left disappointed and frustrated.
There’s so much potential here; we know Arkane can do amazing things. For whatever reason, however, Redfall falls short in virtually every way. The game’s an absolute mess in its current state and would require a No Man’s Sky reboot style to succeed.