Redfall is finally here; the vampire focused action shooter has been on every Xbox player’s radar since its announcement way back in 2021. Coming from Arkane Studios, who have brought us the likes of Dishonored 2, Prey and the recent DEATHLOOP, Redfall hopes to attract Xbox owners to its co-op fun. During production, similarities to Left for Dead were dismissed by the studio, who instead suggested the Far Cry franchise from Ubisoft was a more apt comparison for the title.
So that leaves a question – Is Redfall a Left for Dead style experience, or does the Far Cry franchise have more in common with it? I’ll answer that question and more, as I take you through my experience with Redfall.
Set on an island which is separated from the outside world by a tidal wave caught frozen in time, Redfall gives players the choice of one of four characters – Jacob, Layla, Devinder or Remi. Each has their own backstory and individual play style. I chose to play as Jacob, who has a neat ability where he sends out a raven to mark targets, making it easier to plan out routes across the map.
Your mission in Redfall is to find out what happened, escape the island, and take out any vampires (and others) along the way. As well as having the island stuck in some sort of time bubble, the vampires have only gone and blackened out the sun. Along the way you will get missions to rescue and help other survivors by fulfilling their various requests. Finishing quests gains you XP that can be spent upgrading your characters abilities.
The characters do not get a lot of health, even on the easiest difficulty. Sure you may see that it says 100, but this drains fast. It is here where I would recommend spending your skill points, as you level up the obligatory skill tree system. See, even the lowly cultists can shave massive chunks off your health bar fast, so drop those points into recovery to increase your chance of surviving. Sure, there are paths to upgrade other abilities, but you can’t use abilities if you’ve lost all your health.
Redfall island itself is decent for an open world game, with tons of things to loot and discover, as well as lore items to pick up for those looking to gain some kind of backstory to things. Progressing through the main campaign provides you with pieces of information here and there, but a more in-depth story would have gone a long way in Redfall’s favour, rather than having to tediously read through pages of information dotted all over the place.
Luckily the fast travel system is great. Select a safe house and hit fast travel to almost instantly teleport to that place. This is handy when you are looking to avoid a scrape you have entered with no ammo. And that will happen, as weapons tend to run out fast when fighting groups of cultists or vampires (especially those with shields) so be sure to stock up on ammo by looting vehicles and lockboxes. Weapons tend to be fun to use and are based on a looter shooter system (upgradable and with different rarities), whilst loadouts need to be considered before taking on missions.
Side quests can be gained by speaking to characters or finding a note in-game, while main quests must be taken out at the mission table. These main story quests can be taken on in any order once available – yet only one can be selected at a time. This is handy, if only for your own sanity, as anyone who has taken on a game like The Witcher 3 can attest to an overload of ongoing missions being confusing.
During the day the vampires sleep, yep, in the middle of the street. They surround themselves with a red mist that will cause damage if you decide to stand around in some. At night, vampires come to life and cannot be taken down with traditional weapons. Instead, once their health is low, you must drive a stake through their heart to stop them reviving permanently.
If you have by chance read any of my past reviews for Series X|S games, you will know that I always favour performance mode over quality. What this means is I prefer a smoother experience to a shiny one, Redfall has an issue out the gate here. Launching with only quality mode means the game is locked to 30fps, even if the studio have announced that 60fps mode is coming via an update. Honestly, this should have been ready to go at launch. I can see the argument that this was done on purpose to show off the game’s detail and textures, however these seem to be unfinished and pop-in has been heavy for me throughout my time playing.
Combat in Redfall is functional; it can feel a bit flimsy when moving around though, especially for a game so focused on action. Sure you can try and stealthily navigate through places, but the game kind of pushes you towards the “Leeroy Jenkins” approach to various scenarios. It definitely does not feel like a Left for Dead style game on single player mode, although perhaps through co-op (not available at the time of this review) things might get a bit more hectic during battles to make teamwork essential. The safe house missions sometimes feel a tad overwhelming as a solo player, and defending against a horde even on easy is a challenge.
The Far Cry comparisons do feel accurate though – exploring the map definitely reminds of the newer games like Far Cry 5 or Far Cry 6. Redfall is however, not as polished or as vast as either of those titles, but certain things are similar. The weapons and customisation feel very Ubisoft to me, as does finding safe houses in each area. The Far Cry games tend to come with a bit more of an in-depth story told through cutscenes and gameplay, rather than having to piece things together by reading in-game collectibles.
A few technical hiccups during my play popped up; none were game breaking and will easily be patched out down the line. But Redfall has an unfinished, rushed-out-the-door feeling with blurry textures that take time to load in and bad clipping through objects; it’s a real shame to see this in a big budget title from a studio with the backing of Bethesda. Taking another few months, or even a year, for extra polish and shine would definitely have benefitted Redfall, especially when it should have knocked it out the park for Xbox.
Sound in general is fine but nothing really hit me as a stand out. In fact, for an action game there isn’t enough explosiveness and for a horror game there isn’t enough eeriness. Some more exciting rock based music would have fitted the game better, maybe even a licensed track here and there to spice things up. Horror wise the game doesn’t really succeed, and whilst this may differ depending on your tolerance for scares, if you have played the likes of Resident Evil 7: biohazard, then Redfall will be quite tame for you.
The biggest problem is that everything in Redfall is just “fine”. Shooting is fine, exploring is fine and the game mechanics are also… fine. What I wanted was a great game, not one that is just fine. At a time where Xbox needed a huge win, a must play game, Bethesda and Arkane have produced an average to good experience. It definitely has the Arkane DNA, graphics wise and gameplay is very reminiscent of DEATHLOOP or even Dishonored, although those games were allowed to cook till they were ready.
Redfall is a competent action shooter – the only problem is that the market is filled with other options that do things a bit better. It is one to download and try on Game Pass, especially if you have a few friends willing to play co-op mode. You may well be best off waiting for a patch or two in order to get a more optimal experience. Out the gate, Redfall just doesn’t spark joy.