Inside of Redfall’s tutorial area, there are two near-identical civilian body props in adjoining rooms. The only difference between the two flannel-clad corpses is the wound they apparently died from, with one suffering from a self-inflicted gunshot to the back of the head and the other a fatal vampire bite. It’s possible that, given how much lore there is in Arkane’s latest title, these two doppelgangers are somehow related and their deaths foreshadow the two main types of enemies you’ll be facing for the next fifteen hours. However, it seems a lot likely that, because of how everything you’ll experience from the moment you load the game’s main menu until you beat its anti-climactic final boss feels sloppy and rushed, this specific visual oddity exists for the same reason the game randomly crashes, doesn’t have proper cutscenes and has respawning enemies.
For the first time in my video games journalism career, I need to break whatever our equivalent of the fourth wall is to say that I feel bad about hating Redfall. Arkane, the studio responsible for the phenomenal Dishonored series, DeathLoop and Prey 2017 is one of the best in the business. Their titles, with the sole exception of Wolfenstein: Youngblood are the very definition of instant classics, with each one sporting great visuals, unique gameplay and fun narratives. However, for reasons that can only be speculated on, none of these exist in Redfall, which is easily the most forgettable AAA game to release in years.
The team’s 2023 title puts you in the shoes of four possible vampire slayers in a coastal town that’s recently been taken over by a bunch of blood suckers. After a forgettable introduction that vaguely establishes why lamia-esque beings are snacking on the locals, you’re tasked with clearing out a small open world area because, well, that’s what video game protagonists do. And even though the game has a few dozen missions, there’s blimey-all pretence to Redfall’s story, or a narrative for that matter.
Well, technically, that’s not true. There is a lot of dialogue to be skipped through in Redfall, but the thing is that the game would be better off without it. If you’ve ever played one of these quasi-apocalyptic games before, or have watched a halfway decent zombie movie in the past decade, it’s safe to say that you can predict every halfhearted twist and turn Redfall has to offer. The game is chock full of pointless lore explaining the nature of the enemies you fight, the powers at play and even your character’s own backstory, but none of it comes close to being interesting or engaging. Unfortunately, it’s not even so bad it’s good; Redfall’s narrative is just bad.
The same is true for its gameplay, which is especially confusing given the title’s progenitors. Unlike in Arkane’s other titles, or even Bethesda-published games as a whole, Redfall is a co-op looter-shooter that shares more in common with Borderlands than it does with, well, anything the studio has put out in the past. Outside of the playable protagonists, all of whom have at least one trait that wouldn't be out of place in Dishonored or the like, there just isn’t a lot going on that isn’t based around hoovering up random items and killing bullet sponge-y enemies.
Generic is a bit too generous of a word to describe Redfall’s gameplay, come to think of it, because it’s filled with issues that range from minor to major. It’s easy to ignore the lack of logic in its colour-based loot tier system that generously gives you gold guns at almost every turn, and nobody will be complaining about the inability to revisit the first open world map you’re tasked with clearing after you beat all the story missions there. The complete lack of checkpoints in single-player, braindead AI that are either too easy or too hard to kill, entire skill trees that are useless unless you’re in co-op and the total lack of stealth options present bigger problems, however.
While none of these things necessarily ruin the overall experience, they do make playing Redfall feel superbly mediocre. Forgettable levels, an open world that lacks any real variety, enemies that all have similar attack patterns and shooting/skill-casting that is in the absolute middle of the road quality-wise simply don’t make for a very engaging time. The game is obviously more fun if you have a few friends to play with, all of whom can drop in and drop out but do not progress their own stories if they’re playing with you. However, given how many actually good looter-shooters there are on the market, Redfall is a tough sell from a gameplay perspective in addition to a narrative one.
It’s also a tough sell from a technical perspective because, sigh, Redfall doesn’t run very well. On a mid-range gaming computer that’s able to easily run the likes of The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt with its next generation update, we struggled to maintain a solid 60FPS even at the lowest settings. We also experienced a menagerie of other technical issues, including crashes, progress-halting bugs, t-posing AI, and textures that took forever to pop in. Considering that the game doesn’t look or sound very good to begin with, as it uses the same art style many of Arkane’s games have in the past, it’s more strange than anything that the game has so many problems from an audiovisual perspective.
But then again, it’s strange that Redfall is such a forgettable game in the first place. Although it doesn’t do anything terribly, save for the fact that it refuses to run at 60FPS on the computer we use to play banal titles like this, it also doesn’t do anything well. There’s a modicum of fun to be found in its modern first-person shooting, and the story is a few dumb jokes away from being funny if not philosophical, but every other aspect of the title is simply worse than its competitors. Anyone who’s absurdly desperate for yet another generic open world that has stats to be min-maxed may find a bit of enjoyment in the title, but everyone else is better suited to playing something that doesn’t reuse assets within the first five minutes of a slog of a video game.
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