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Tuesday, May 2, 2023

‘Redfall’ Review – Vampire Shooter Is a Disappointing Step Backwards for Arkane Studios

Arkane Studios are perhaps most known for their takes on the Immersive-Sim genre. First-person games where the player is usually given a large toolset and environment to allow them to come up with multiple solutions for particular problems and goals. Dishonored honored the legacy of games like Thief, Prey played as if it was a modern take on System Shock, and Deathloop showed they could take these ideas and concepts and apply them to an original approach, damn near mixing them with a rogue-like. At this point, an Arkane Studios release has a certain level of pedigree and expectation, lending an air of excitement to their latest project, Redfall.

Redfall is a co-op looter shooter in which players pick one of four characters with their own unique personalities and abilities. They then enter Redfall, Massachusetts where a cataclysmic event has caused the town to be overrun with vampires and the sun permanently blocked out. Think Borderlands crossed with Dracula. Sure it may sound different from anything else Arkane has made in the past, but their history has proven time and time again that they make nothing but quality titles; plus it’s a game with goddamn vampires and that’s an absolute rarity in today’s landscape. I went into Redfall with excitement and an open mind, eager to explore the horrors that Arkane had crafted for me in their latest adventure.

Redfall is not only one of the most disappointing games of 2023, it’s also one of the worst.

After a brief introduction and character selection you’re thrown into the town of Redfall, filled with cultists and vampires. The tutorial establishes early on that since this is an Arkane game, most objectives can be completed in multiple different routes. To take back the game’s first safehouse, I had the option of sneaking to the roof and taking out the cultists from above, or going in absolutely guns blazing. Both options lead to a big gunfight regardless so I kicked the door in and started blasting. This early scenario is a prime example of Redfall’s seams showing nearly right away. The previous encounter showed me that I could sneak past enemies or engage them on the way to my objective and this one taught me there’s more than one way of engaging them when I do. Notice something missing? There’s little emphasis on stealth and player freedom. Most encounters boil down to loud gunfights, especially when you start to realize that sneaking past enemies and encounters awards no XP. Arkane games are usually known for multiple methods and player freedom when it comes to gameplay, but Redfall comes out of the gate saying “we don’t do that here.”

This wouldn’t be a problem if the game felt good to play. Gunplay is very clunky and there’s never a proper sense of speed or momentum when in encounters with enemies. Not even unique abilities can make it feel more lively. I chose the character who was able to summon a telepathic elevator that allowed her and allies to fly through the air. I thought this would open up opportunities for cool air combat such as popping off headshots while airborne but instead it feels so heavy that she came crashing down to the floor after only a second or so. And when you do finally encounter the blood-sucking undead, little about your tactics change. They have spotty AI, acting like normal cultists who have the ability to teleport around. You pump rounds into them and swap to a weapon with a bayonet (usually a shotgun or rifle) and stake them to finish them off; rinse and repeat. This is how 90% of my encounters went down. Sure, I got more unlocks from the grindy skill tree, but Redfall just felt more and more monotonous as it went on.

Objectives don’t do much to mix up the game play, either. You start each session in a safehouse with various weapons and supplies and travel out into the town doing missions that usually boil down to either “go here and kill thing” or “go here and secure thing,” while occasionally coming across an enemy-populated outpost to clear out. It in some ways feels like a spiritual successor to Far Cry, which is odd because they still make those games. I got the idea that these were really meant to be done in one way when objectives started having unlimited ammo boxes near them, encouraging fire fights. Traveling through the town from objective to objective isn’t a very fun experience, as the town is sparsely populated aside from a few pockets of enemies and some houses to explore for maybe a better weapon. I found myself mostly salvaging loot to buy health packs, and the extent of exploration usually means holding down a single button to use a lockpick. It’s a drab experience to put it lightly, from a studio that created the unique worlds and missions of Dishonored, Prey, and Deathloop. Redfall is a considerable step down from the studio’s efforts, feeling like an odd mishmash of game mechanics that don’t work. None of it works as intended.

And then there’s the sparse story, filled with common horror tropes and hardly a focus of the experience. It’s clear that this was a game made with multiplayer in mind. Which is odd because 90% of Arkane’s previous catalog is single player only. Those of you jumping in hoping for a solid single player experience are in for a surprise as the game doesn’t feel balanced for solo play. On Normal difficulty, I found myself getting wildly overrun in every encounter; this combined with the slow “hold to heal” mechanic allowed me to see my fair share of Game Over screens.

Now to address the elephant in the room. At launch, Redfall requires an always online connection to play, even in single-player mode. Arkane has come out ahead of launch and said that this is to “analyze player behavior” to find glitches and bugs, but they are currently looking into removing it in a future update. The game also has no performance mode at launch meaning that on both models of Xbox, the Series S and X, the game is hard locked with a 30fps framecap. They have promised that a 60fps performance mode will also come in a later update. These two features missing at launch have the game feeling massively unfinished in its current state. It’s also curious because graphically the game isn’t all that complex; in fact on my Xbox it looked worse than Deathloop, which is a game from 2021. I’m not sure if it’s multiplayer holding this game back in the technical department, but the game just does not feel good to play or control.

Redfall is a game I had high hopes for. I knew going in that it was going to be different than what the studio usually released. Unfortunately it lacks the polish and top notch gameplay designs that made them a powerhouse name. When the game’s problems stack up, Redfall dies by a thousand cuts. At best, it’s a very generic looter shooter. At worst, it’s a boring take on vampires from a studio known for their impressive pedigree. There could be hope if the game receives a MASSIVE overhaul that adds new objectives, enemy types, a difficulty balance, and the promised offline and performance modes. But as of now, none of that is here.

As it stands, I do not recommend Redfall at all. Like a stake through my heart.

Review code provided by the publisher.

The post ‘Redfall’ Review – Vampire Shooter Is a Disappointing Step Backwards for Arkane Studios appeared first on Bloody Disgusting!.


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