There’s a slew of games that pit gamers against the supernatural while they team up with their friends, with Redfall by Arkane being the latest. Given that Arkane Austin has been making games for quite some time, and they have a decent track record with crafting enjoyable titles such as Dishonored, Prey, and a personal favorite, Deathloop, I was excited to see the end product. To say they rarely disappoint is an understatement, and as such, I had hoped that Redfall would impress me, but more often it doesn’t.
Game Name: Redfall Platform(s): PC (reviewed), Xbox Series X|S Publisher(s): Xbox
Developer(s): Arkane Austin
Release Date: May 2, 2023
**This review was written before the day-0 patch was released, but I did go back to see what had changed, and sadly, my pain points are still pain points**
Redfall tells the tale of a town in Massachusetts that is down on its luck due to it being held hostage by bloodthirsty vampires, who were created by this scummy company called Aevum. Aevum, promising things such as better cures and extended life for everyone, had other plans. Throughout the story, all told by items scattered throughout the game, NPCs, and cut scenes, you’ll be able to piece together what transpired. The story is basic at best, and honestly, it never captured my attention, which was sorely disappointing as I consider Arkane, a master of storytelling when it comes to games.
What I did enjoy is that I noticed that some missions have chains, and there seem to be multiple ways to finish them. For example, there was a mission where I was asked to save an NPCs brother. Once I located him, I charged in to rescue him, and in doing so, I managed to blow him up as he was booby-trapped. Now, had I taken the time to notice the trap, I could have disabled it and saved him in the process. Another example is I was asked to take a pocket watch to a grave, which I did. But afterward, the game let me take the item for myself. Thinking nothing of it, I took it. Only to find out later that the NPC went looking for it, and it ended up getting him killed. Whoops!
Buildings can be entered to look for baddies or weapons; there’s always something to explore. There’s plenty to do outside of missions, such as unlocking safe houses that serve as places to relax, heal up and restock your ammo, or locating vampire nests, which are procedurally generated dungeons that reward players will lots of gear upon completing them. That said, for an open-world game, there sure is a lot of empty. Sure, you’ll eventually run into enemies after a while, but overall, the city is lifeless, which also applies to missions, and reminded me of another open-world shooter that is devoid of life, The Divison. You’d think that Arkane would have paid attention to Ubisoft’s The Division and learned how to do a better open-world experience.
The enemy variation was a bit stale. The humans that serve the vampires were generic, and I don’t recall seeing any different ones outside the ones I originally encountered. On the other hand, the vampires were teeming with different variants, but even then, they started repeating once you got further into the game. There’s also a night and day system that introduces various elements. The vampires will become stronger at night, while during the day, the vampires tend to be in fewer numbers. Instead, you’ll encounter vampire cultists and the Bellwether security team who was sent in to wipe out any wrongdoing by Aevum. The gunplay is simple, fun, and repetitious at times. See a baddie, kill it, collect loot, and repeat. And if I’m being honest, which I am, the game looks outdated. Nothing here hasn’t been seen in Left 4 Dead or Back for 4 Blood.
On the PC version, textures were detailed, and it was easy to make out the text on posters and documents across the town. Zooming in on textures on walls and floors didn’t cause them to become pixelated, unlike what I noticed on the Xbox version (more on that when our Xbox review goes live). Sometimes, I’d notice that animations in the game would go wonky, especially in a co-op game. Characters or enemies would glide across the ground, and players’ characters would get stuck in the ground while I’d watch them moving rapidly across my screen. Other times, the hands used to aim and carry weapons would disappear. A gun I picked up was busted with its scope sight being pushed to the left, even though it would still fire at center mass, rendering the weapon useless. Visual glitches that looked as if the game was having a seizure round out the list of complaints I have with the game.
Heroes and Winners
There are four playable characters in Redfall, all with a unique skill set that should appeal to players; Jacob Boyer, Layla Ellison, Remi de la Rosa, and my favorite, Devinder Crousley. At the beginning of the game, before you even jump into the playable section, you’ll be presented with those characters and their skills. From there, you’ll have to decide what will mesh best for you. Beyond their special abilities, each character will be able to utilize all the items and weapons found in the game. As for the skills, at the start, you’ll start with two, and as you level up, you’ll unlock an ultimate attack, that provides a super-powered ability. This is why I enjoyed using Devinder Crousley, as his ultimate attack provides an ultraviolet attack that petrified vampires, making them easier to put down. Playing in co-op mode, the characters can benefit each other, allowing you to maximize your vampire-killing potential thanks to synergizing their abilities.
However, the biggest standout in this game is the weapons. At the start, you’ll find generic or gray weapons, but along the way, you’ll find increasingly rarer items from green, blue, purple, and yellow legendaries. Once you start getting the rarer weapons, you’ll find that items will now have different abilities. For example, you may find the same assault rifle, but one possesses a higher magazine count; others will have a perk against enemies. Meaning you’ll have to pay attention to every weapon you pick up. The downside to this is that you’ll find that your backpack will get full of weapons, and they tend to blend, and the game tends to feel like a looter shooter The flip side is that you can salvage them for in-game currency.
As you battle with the vampires and various other baddies, you’ll gain experience points, which will level up your character and allow you to access various perks on a skill tree. These perks vary from helping out the character by giving them stronger attacks, health, better synergy when playing in co-op mode, and more.
Single player or party animal
Arkane had stated that Redfall could be played solo or within a group setting. However, it doesn’t force you to do either. If you want to play solo, the game is perfectly manageable, but playing co-op is definitely more fun, and encouraged. For the first 20 hours of the game, I played by myself and never felt overwhelmed, and I enjoyed the game as a single-player experience. However, when I finally played the game with a buddy, I noticed that the game provided incentives for doing so, such as the “Trust” system. This is another way of rewarding players who stick together, revive each other, and so forth. As for now, I’m content with the single-player experience, as I enjoyed the gunplay and exploration a bit more while going solo. Yet, throwing in that preverbal monkey wrench, you still need to log into the game to play it as a single-player game, and well, that bites.
One thing that was painfully obvious is that when you do play multiplayer, the game didn’t seem to scale in difficulty, which made things a bit too easy.
While Redfall supports cross-play between the Xbox and PC versions, upon starting a co-op game, there were several issues that sucked the fun out of the game. When attempting to join an Xbox lobby from the PC, I was constantly told I couldn’t connect to the Xbox version. Switching up gears, the Xbox had no issue joining the PC lobby. However, when playing on the PC version, the game would crash more than I would have liked, and with it went the lobby. There’s no option to rejoin the session, nor do the session host duties transfer to any of the current party members, killing any process you had already made. Adding to that, there’s no structure with the co-op mode, and given the game’s “go anywhere” open-world, it can be a pain to get everyone on the same page.
How’s the PC performance
Well, the good thing is that the PC version isn’t locked to 30fps, unlike the Xbox version of the game. I was able to play at 60fps, and when disabling VSync, I saw my framerate soar up to 200fps. The downside to that is that the game doesn’t feel smooth, despite having a higher framerate. I tested Redfall on two different PCs. One consisted of a Ryzen 9 5900X and an RTX 4090, the other with a Ryzen 9 7950X and an RTX 4090. On both PCs, the frame rate was all over the place. One moment it’s in the high 100s, then the next moment, it drops to 50-60, then back up to 100fps+ again. At some times, the fps drop doesn’t didn’t recover until I quit the game. This happens when I’m in combat or just standing still. Locking my game to 60fps didn’t make any difference at 1080p, 1440p or 4K.
When exploring the areas in Redfall, traversal stutter is clearly present, which is why the game’s frame rate doesn’t feel smooth. I wish I could say the stuttering isn’t notable, but it clearly is there and does cause a bit of frustration. This was present regardless if I had DLSS or FSR enabled or with upscaling disabled. My CPU wasn’t being pegged, either. There’s also a noticeable amount of pop-up, and it’s very apparent if you’re looking at the trees, buildings, and shadows. Given the technical chops of Arkane, I expected better, especially after playing the masterpiece that is Deathloop.
Yes, there’s a lot of doom and gloom, but despite this, the game was playable,
This doesn’t completely suck
I had much to say about Redfall, but let’s close it out. The game suffered from a number of technical issues, there’s no denying that, and it does hurt the game as it will put people off. Despite this, the gameplay loop is enjoyable, if not repetitious at times, and while we had a heck of a time trying to get multiplayer to work, once we did, it was fun, and there’s where the game shines. Hopefully, the technical issues will be corrected, and yes, they should have been addressed prior to the game’s release. As it stands, if you’re looking to play this on anything outside of Xbox Game Pass, I’d caution you to wait.
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For all its shortcomings, Redfall isn’t a bad game; It’s a bit dated but entirely not bad. The PC version suffers from several technical issues that affect the game’s performance, and the multiplayer mode has shown to be a pain to get started. Once things get going, it’s enjoyable, if not repetitive. Sadly, this being a 1st party Xbox title, I feel people will judge it based on its technical issues without giving it a chance. I’m not saying overlook the issues, but at least try it. Thankfully, the game will be available on Xbox Game Pass, so people try it before writing it off. I’m not sure what happened. However, the result doesn’t feel like anything from the Akrane studio I’m familiar with.