Redfall review – More like dreadful as Arkane hands in one of the year’s sloppiest games

A vampire stands in front of all the redfall characters

Redfall is the latest game from Arkane Studios, and many will be hoping it can be a certified Xbox Game Pass hit. However, players may want to temper their expectations when it comes to the co-op vampire shooter.

Disappointment is an inevitability when you review video games. Making games is hard, and it’s never fun to disparage something many people dedicated years of their lives to. However, it comes around all the same, and you have to point it out when it does. If you think that sounds like an ominous opening paragraph for a review of Redfall – you’d be right.

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Arkane Studios has a wonderful history and has put out some of the best games in the last decade. Dishonored and in particular, Dishonored 2, are exceptional stealth games, while Prey and Deathloop are also filled to the brim with neat ideas.

I was rooting for Redfall, which seemed to have found a really attractive schlock horror tone, tasking groups of friends to take on all sorts of spooky vampires who have taken over the titular town. I’ve come away from my playtime with Redfall totally disheartened though.

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The studio, which is often so great, has whiffed wildly here. Redfall performs awfully (at least on PC), and even when running at its best, it feels like a jumbled, disjointed exercise in compromised ideas.  

Redfall – Key Details

  • Price: $69.99 (USD) | Also available on Xbox Game Pass
  • Developer: Arkane Studios
  • Release Date: May 2, 2023
  • Platforms:  Xbox Series S | X, PC

Redfall trailer

Poor performance sucks the life out of Redfall

Before getting into the broader conversation of the game, we should touch on the performance issues of Redfall. Put simply, on PC, it is a horror show. In a year of terrible PC ports, Redfall is arguably the worst of the bunch. It took a lot of tweaking to get it to look legible, and even when I min-maxed my settings to be as good as possible, there were times when I was still hitting as low as 10FPS for extended periods.

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While I found success in mitigating the issue when getting the correct anti-aliasing and upscaling settings, out of the box, Redfall can look horrendous. In one terrible instance, it had me nosing around a pharmaceutical complex. Inside, the walls and enemies started to blend into a smudgy, indiscernible mess. This was coupled with headache-inducing highlights around interactable objects, as well as a distracting blue border around the entire screen indicating a vampire nest was near. Add on top of that, the game was running far below 30FPS making it one of the worst-looking sections of a game I’d seen in a long time. 

A blurry highlight in one of the missions in RedfallIt can be hard to tell what you are looking at at times in Redfall.

As stated, after spending a long while getting the settings just perfect, I was able to get it to look legible, although it was at the cost of performance, which Redfall already struggles with. It’s hard to undersell how terribly Redfall can run at times.

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Not enough bite 

Now that we’ve gotten away from its performance woes, the saddest part is, even if Redfall was running great, it would still be a fairly uninteresting, clunky game. Arkane specifically feels like it’s leaning away from the things it does best. The studio is famous for its intricately designed levels that are excellent to explore, and a stealth system that is far better when not in combat. Redfall is the antithesis of this as an always online, co-op-focused shooter that wants you to be getting into the thick of the fight at all times. 

While it’s admirable to lean so against the grain of what they do best, it does not pay off here. Redfall’s world is, while tonally neat, a slog to explore. For the most part, you’re going to be traversing toward some far away and annoying to reach markers, either struggling to find the correct road to climb to the top of a hill or getting caught by several vampires on the streets, who are there to drain your ammo and time as much as your blood. 

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Three players face off against a special vampireRedfall’s moment-to-moment gameplay leaves a lot to be desired.

Combat is a huge focus of the game, but it so often feels awkward and imprecise. There are several weapon types, and you will have a heap thrown at you, but guns feel very slow for the most part, often taking an age to reload, and being difficult to use on quick-moving vampires. This feels like a deliberate choice, but it doesn’t work and it makes the combat unfun.

This isn’t entirely helped by each character’s abilities being a chore to use. While they can work, as is the case with Devinder’s Arc Javelin which can be upgraded to essentially one-shot vampires, they often feel laborious. In the same case, Devinder’s Translocate takes too long to throw, and it’s not well highlighted to teammates who may struggle to locate the portal. 

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Zero stakes

While all that is the moment to moment, Redfall doesn’t fair much better in the macro. The game has you choose between four characters, all with their own personalities and abilities, though I’ve found them to be bereft of much charm. Once you’ve made your choice, you arrive in Redfall to find it overrun with vampires and cultists who’re willing to give up their friends and family to buy favor with the predators. 

You then make your way to a fire station where you’ll very briefly meet a cast of people you’ll never really get to know, and then head up to a map and select missions. You run over to the location (after setting a custom waypoint as the game will not track your mission on your HUD), find a couple of items, and/or kill some enemies, then get out. There are one or two standout missions, but for the most part, this is mainly busy work in uninteresting locations for the 15 or so hours it will take to complete.

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Every mission begins with a small cutscene of your characters standing in still-moving shots, essentially telling you the story, as opposed to ever inviting you to experience it. It feels like a compromise, and the ‘tell don’t show’ attitude runs rampant throughout the game’s narrative. While not every mission needs fully animated cutscenes or Mass Effect-style dialogue trees with all the characters, it creates a feeling that there was once a much bigger and tighter version of this story that has been compromised to the point of being lackluster. 

The Hollow Man looks over RedfallRedall’s story largely stays hidden in the dark.

Disappointingly, even when the game stumbles upon an interesting mystery, such as ‘Who is the Hollow Man?’, it handles the resolution so bizarrely and abruptly, it’s hard to maintain attention when the game itself doesn’t seem that interested in its most successful aspects.

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The game’s online status makes missions feel awkward too. Often, if you die in the middle of a mission, you’ll get spawned back to a safe house, then have to travel back to the mission location, and because it couldn’t go into a fail-state, that mission is still ongoing as you left it. This could create some awkward moments. In one mission, I died to the final boss. I then walked back, only to find out the surrounding area had been covered in deathmist, so I had to make my way back into the fight by jankily abusing the terrain 

Light in the darkness

While Redfall is full of missed opportunities, it is not a total disaster. Some aspects are worth championing. There is a strong tone that is fun to get invested in. There is a light, spooky atmosphere reminiscent of great 80s horror movies that the title captures well. It has this creepy, yet playful soundtrack that does a great job of selling the ‘modernized retro’ feel the title is aiming for. 

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Redfall also has some neat enemy variations that are fun to go up against. Some can blind the area around you, others act as snipers, ready to one-shot you. There is also the Rook, who is an everpresent powerhouse that will show up after you complete enough missions or kill special vampires. It’s always an impromptu fight and the idea of a big, bad vampire that is always watching you, ready to strike you down after you cause enough chaos is a cool one. 

Layla uses here telekinesis powers in RedfallRefall’s enemy variety is worth a highlight.

The game also fairs better in a co-op setting, which can support up to four players. While this is true of most games, you’ll have a much better time with a friend or two rather than traveling through Redfall solo. Your characters also come to life in co-op as they have someone else to bounce dialogue off, making them feel like more fleshed-out people. The game’s imminent arrival on Game Pass helps, meaning the barrier for jumping in and trying the title with some pals is just the price of a subscription.

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None of these are saving graces for Redfall, however. When one of the best things you can say for a title is, “At least it’s on Game Pass”, it doesn’t exactly inspire confidence. It’s still hard to recommend investing too much time into it even if you are subscribed to the service and don’t have to pay full price for the game. And I really can not recommend any situation in which you should pay the premium price tag, especially in its current state. 

Verdict – 2/5

Redfall is one of the worst-performing games I’ve played in years, and even when it’s working, it’s undercooked and uninspired. It’s impossible to say if this is the case, but Redfall ‘feels’ like a game that has succumbed to too much compromise. There’s a world where there’s a great version of this concept, complete with a much grander vision, however, we sadly don’t live in that timeline. 

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The streets of Redfall do have some saving graces. The atmosphere is neat, the art direction and enemy types are engaging, and a run-through with a pal could be a decent time, especially with the accessibility of Game Pass. However, it’s all so rough that finding a good time might be an exercise in getting blood from a stone. Reviewed on PC

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