Arkane's first open-world endeavour may not be the masterclass that is Prey or Dishonored 2 but it's still a very good video game, offering hours of enjoyable vampire slaying in the town of Redfall.
What you need to know:
- What is it? An open-world vampiric shooter that can be played solo or in co-op.
- Reviewed on: PC (Ryzen 5 3600, RX 6800, 16 GB of RAM)
- Publisher: Bethesda
- Developer: Arkane Studios
- Release date: May 2, 2023
- Available on: PC , Xbox Series X|S , Game Pass
After a successful batch of immersive sims such as Dishonored and the underrated Prey , Bethesda studio Arkane Austin decided to mix it up a bit for Redfall , a vampiric horror shooter set in an Autumn soaked American town of the same name.
Described as an open-world co-op FPS, Redfall is exactly that, although yours truly didn't spend a lot of time playing co-op for this review, despite clocking around 20 hours of game time, which is enough to complete the main story and a plethora of side quests and activities.
My overall impressions are, well in the review below, but if you asked me to tell you what kind of game Redfall is, I'd say it's a close relative of Far Cry in terms of gameplay and world design but at the same time, a rebel teen of its proud immersive sim parents.
So, is Redfall any good? Was Arkane Austin right to take a leap of faith into the unknown or perhaps, they would be smarter to stay in their lane and continue doing what they do best? Well, the answer is not so black and white. Yes, Redfall is a fine video game but one that feels undercooked and dated in some ways, but still quite enjoyable and somewhat unique in others.
Black hole sun, won't you come...
Despite being very unoriginal with its plot, the story in Redfall serves its purpose of building a world that's atmospheric and immersive. Basically, a big corporation that was developing medicine for a long-lasting life turned evil, creating vampires who then blocked out the sun and started feasting on the local townsfolk.
Whether you're exploring the world or playing main or side missions, story and lore bits are everywhere. From the little notes and recordings that uncover the backgrounds of the citizens and the town itself to Arkane's signature environmental storytelling that can be found at every corner.
Redfall's story kicks off when you and a dozen other people, including the three other playable characters, try to escape this Vampire-infested town by boat. Sadly, the creatures of the night get the better of you, raising gargantuan ocean waves around the island, crashing your boat and making the escape an impossible task.
As you wake up on the crashed boat with a dizzy vision and your ears sizzling, Vampires are already having the time of their life, devouring the passengers who tried to escape, and are about to get a taste of your own blood.
In a twist of fate, you are saved from a terrible death (or denied a wonderful rebirth if you're a Twilight fan). You then get directions to a local fire station, which becomes your base of operations once you clear it of vampire-worshipping cultists.
In the base of operations, you'll meet people of various backgrounds who act as vendors and quest-givers. You can replenish your ammo, medkits, buy new weapons, and choose your next mission at the mission table.
During my time in Redfall, I fixed a popcorn machine, protected a doctor delivering a baby in a local general store surrounded by Vampires who wanted to suck that newborn dry of blood, I've explored creepy attics, and orchards, and hunted Vampires in all sorts of places, from Church towers, large mansions to otherworldly dimensions.
You'll find plenty of different quests in Redfall, and while most of them will eventually require you to clear out a camp of Vampire worshippers, deal with the private military company Bellwether Security, who have their own business on the island, or pierce vampires' hearts with the good old wooden stake, the different approach you can take with every mission results in a lot of fun and possibilities.
Stealth until noticed...
Be it a stealthy infiltration or all-guns-blazing Rambo style, it's up to you. To help you with that, various guns can be found all over Redfall, although those yellow rarity ones can only be looted from boss fights, special vampires and vampire nests, which are the game's procedurally generated mini-dungeons.
Weapons include standard American assault rifles like M4 and ACR to name a few, handguns, shotguns, sniper rifles and legendary modded weapons that offer special bonuses. There's a light customisation feature too, allowing you to apply new skins and stakes to guns but that's about it. Just don't go in expecting a full-fledged gunsmith.
Each character also has unique abilities that separate them from the rest of the gang. I played as Jacob, a sharp-eyed sniper, followed by his trusty psychic raven companion, which is one of his unique skills. Jacob can send out the bird to tag enemies and even deal damage once you unlock a couple of skills. His other special skill is Cloak, which, as you've probably guessed makes him invisible for a short time.
Jacob's ultimate still is called Heartstopper, which spawns a ghostly sniper rifle that automatically locks onto enemies and fires deadly headshots, insta-killing human enemies and weaker vampires and dealing massive damage to special vampires and bosses.
I had a great time combining these as the gunplay felt really snappy and movement was fluid, creating countless enjoyable engagements with creatures of the night, its worshippers and Bellwether soldiers. I can only imagine the hectic experience in a four-player co-op where players can combine their special abilities for ultimate carnage.
There's a small skill tree too, where you can spend earned experience points but it really feels undercooked and like an afterthought. The skills you unlock are pretty straightforward you'll rarely be excited by that new skill point, unlike the skills in Dishonored 2 or Deathloop, which pretty much offer a totally new play style with each unlock.
Brain dead but not zombies
I also wish Redfall offered more weapons and gadgets like hand grenades, mines and traps, which are unusually missing from the game. It's an odd design decision and one that really doesn't make a lot of sense given that enemy factions will use that little bit of AI brain they have to regularly use throwables against you.
Yes, human enemies can be as daft as a brush. Sometimes, they won't notice you standing a few feet away, or they'll watch their buddy's brain turn into mush right in front of them but they won't react.
During combat, they'll constantly run around like headless chickens making themselves an easy target. They come in numbers too, which makes it baffling that AI doesn't even try to flank or surround the player.
You'd expect vampires to act smarter but other than teleportation powers and speed, they too are quite dumb. For example, one of the game's special vampires called Rook, which only spawns once you kill enough vampires and piss off the vampire gods, can easily be killed simply by having an object between the two of you, like a car or fallen tree. Rook will constantly run around the tree trying to get you, while you spray bullets into his empty skull.
Vampire gods, which are the game's main bosses are one of my main gripes with Redfall. You'll fight the bosses as you progress through the story but you'll also need to do safehouse missions to collect skulls of their underboss servants in order to open the door to the Vampire God's lair.
I was disappointed by the simplicity of the Vampire gods, who only had a couple of predictable and cheap tricks up in their sleeves. Other than a visual spectacle and the mystery leading up to their lairs, they offer nothing unique or memorable.
You'll spend hours collecting evidence about the Vampire Gods' whereabouts and how to destroy them, which builds up the tension quite nicely only to have it fall apart completely once you get to the actual fight encounter.
This is especially true for the final boss, which has to be my biggest disappointment of the entire game but since I'm trying my best here not to spoil things, I'll only say that you won't need to shoot a single bullet at the boss and can even play through the entire fight with Jason's cloak ability.
Redfall's open world certainly doesn't offer a revolution or something never before seen in open-world games. Redfall does have its own vibe mainly thanks to the unique vampiric setting and great atmosphere, built by decent environments and iconic Arkane art style, which will be quite polarising.
If you prefer realistic visuals, super-detailed textures and ray-traced lighting, you won't find that here. On the other hand, if stylised visuals, strong environmental art and a moody atmosphere is your thing, Redfall truly delivers, especially during the night and indoors.
Whenever you find yourself in a mansion, a house or one of the Vampire nests, you'll witness that signature Arkane set pieces, all over the place, and truth be told, rarely anyone does it better.
Like most open-world games, Redfall has plenty to offer if you're just looking to wander around and explore a bit. You can loot for supplies and weapons in the town, mess up the cultist's parties, hunt down vampires roaming the streets, go full pest control on vampire nests and more.
These are fun little distractions between the main missions or while you travel towards the next quest marker.
Fast travel is also included, allowing you to fast travel to any unlocked safe house or monument, which are scattered all over the two maps. Yes, Redfall has two open-world maps but unfortunately, you can't travel between those as the first one gets locked away as soon as you travel to the second one. It's a weird design, even more so since you can't return to the first map at any point later in the game to complete side content.
The first map represents more of an urban area, containing the town centre and cosy American neighbourhoods while the second is rural with more mountains, forests and farms. Personally, I found the second map to be prettier with a stronger atmosphere, mainly due to a lot more environmental detail.
Some locations did look barebones, to be honest, and the otherwise great stylised visuals don't really come into effect that much, making Redfall look outdated and bland. This is especially true for the first map, which can look two generations old at times.
The screenshot below is one of the worst examples of poor visual presentation I've found in Redfall. Notice the lack of detail, shadows and very spongy-looking hedge.
A small disclaimer about the performance and bugs before I jump to the conclusion. The performance on my PC was not ideal as I was constantly having FPS drops to below 30 FPS in the open world during hectic combat sequences.
In closed spaces, the FPS would reach close to 100 FPS for a buttery smooth experience. The graphics quality was set to medium as the ultra requires 32 GB of RAM.
I've updated all of my drivers and BIOS and installed the day-one patch and the performance seems improved now, without the annoying frame-rate drops. I've talked to fellow reviewers and none of them had performance issues on their PCs of similar hardware so this could be an issue on my end.
As for the bugs, I've noticed a fair amount of visual bugs and have found myself stuck in floors or fallen through objects a couple of times. That being said, I did not encounter any game-breaking bugs that would prevent me from finishing Redfall.
Despite some obvious flaws, Redfall is still an enjoyable experience even if you don't have a buddy or two to help you out in staking those bloodsuckers in co-op. Arkane once again managed to create an immersive, atmospheric world with their signature environmental storytelling and gameplay.
While Redfall definitely isn't the studio's strongest game to date and can feel a bit undercooked I couldn't put it down as I had a blast wandering around the vampire-infested streets and countryside of this cosy American town.
And since it's on Game Pass right now, it's really an easy recommendation.