Redfall Review: A Horrifying Half-Baked Xbox Exclusive Looter-Shooter

A Failure on Many Fronts

Arkane Studios finally thought it was time to launch Redfall, the vampire-slaying co-op shooter. Available on PC and Xbox Series consoles as a Microsoft exclusive. It’s safe to say that PlayStation dodged a bullet with this one without lifting a digital finger.

A bit of advice for you, Microsoft, if you’re going to release an “exclusive” title, it actually needs to be good. But before I trail off hating on Redfall in the introduction.

Redfall is a four-player co-op open-world FPS looter shooter where players must vanquish vampires that have taken over the small town of Redfall in Massachusetts and uncover the mystery of their emergence.

Minimal Style No Substance

You may find the visuals and graphic style of Redfall familiar if you’ve played Deathloop or Dishonored. The steampunk and cartoonish visuals return in some capacity in Redfall. However, if you’re looking forward to experiencing the unique style created by Arkane Studios here, you will be disappointed.

The world of Redfall is uninspiring; wandering around the historical town, you realize that Redfall could look amazing if more time were spent filling in the many empty gaps.

Exploring Redfall made me wish for a vehicle, as there is little to do. Moreover, the poor performance and countless glitches make exploring it a slog.

It’s a damn shame as interiors, such as the Lighthouse, and minor buildings, like Dead Catch Records, are filled with details and bursting with color and life. If only there were NPCs to populate these areas…

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Redfall Lighthouse interior – Image by Alex Maksymiw
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Bar interior – image by Alex Maksymiw
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photographs of missing Redfall inhabitants – Alex Maksymiw

I wish this could be the same for Arkane Studios’s attempt at “Safehouses.” Safehouses can be unlocked in each neighborhood in the town, and all have the exact same layout with only minor details.

There’s very little distinguishing between each of these safehouses, and as a result, it makes this part of the game very boring, but more on safehouses later.

Vampires, Mercenaries, Cultists, and Dumb AI

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Vampire can’t see the player – image by Alex Maksymiw

The visuals of the vampires are great! Each type of vampire has its unique look, and the Arkane aesthetic works really well here. The Angler vampires look especially good with their flowing red hair waving in the air like blood in water, and their sharp features make for a cool enemy.

This is where the Lovecraftian aesthetic succeeds. Like everything else in Redfall, the vampires could use more work, as up close, they’re horrifying in a low-quality kind of way.

You will also be fighting against Hollow Man Cultists and Bellwether Soldiers, mercenaries employed by Aevum Therapeutics. They’re generic and poorly designed. Half the time, you don’t know what faction you are fighting until they throw their grenades, and that’s if they even see you or get stuck on geometry.

To finish off the visuals and graphics of Redfall, I’d like to say that there were some really cool artistic concepts.

Using colossal waves frozen in time to trap the humans in Redfall was a fantastic idea; it not only highlights the power of the vampires but also makes the now traversable sea bed an interesting area to explore, ultimately though the concepts are let down by poor execution and not enough time to be optimized.

Poor AI and Boring Gameplay

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bugged enemies – image by Alex Maksymiw

Redfall’s selling point is the unique vampire enemy types, and slaying vampires is at the forefront of the Redfall experience.

Unlike predictable zombies from the zombie and infected co-op shooters of old, vampires have many abilities, such as teleporting, flying, and blinding attacks, and are very fast. This makes them unpredictable in combat, making for a fun experience.

You can’t just shoot a vampire to death, like Dracula; you must stab the vampire in the heart with a stake to vanquish it. Players must sacrifice their cover to stake vampires unless they can vanquish the bloodsucking fiends.

Staking vampires became a chore after a couple of hours this, likely due to repeatedly seeing the same animations. Moreover, while you have a wide selection of stakes to customize your weapons, they would benefit greatly from combat effects.

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staking a Vampire – image by Alex Maksymiw

Why not add abilities or passives to the stake you are using? Maybe a stake emits a concussion blast to nearby vampires or UV light to damage vampires. This would add a bit more depth to this simple mechanic and character customization.

Early in the story, you unlock the ability to harness Blood Remnants (Vampire Blood) to gain new passive abilities such as combat resistances and max health boosts.

These Blood Remnants can be looted and equipped, adding diversity in character customization. However, Redfall is extremely easy. I barely ever died, so I wasn’t constantly looking for better Blood Remnants to min-max my character.

As a four-player co-op shooter, the skills and abilities would always be included. There is some great variation in each of the four characters’ abilities and skills. I played as Devinder Crousley for most of the game. His abilities include the following:

  • Arc Javelin: The Arc Javelin is a core ability that can be thrown to impale enemies and electric chain damage to other nearby enemies. Vampires struck by the emitting electric pulse will kill them.
  • Translocate: A throwable item that allows Dev and allies to teleport to its location.
  • Backlight: A powerful ultimate ability that emits UV light that petrifies vampires, turning them into stone.

Using the Backlight ability, I had a lot of fun wiping out several vampires at a time. It feels impactful using these abilities, and they can save your life.

For example, Bloodbags is an immobile enemy that covers an area with red mist that will damage all who walk through it. I fell into this red mist, but my Translocate ability allowed me to teleport quickly.

Dodgy Co-op and Single-player Experience

There is a lot of potential for players to synergize their character’s abilities. However, the mechanics of both multiplayer and single-player in Redfall are dreadful. In multiplayer, only the host progresses in the story, even if you and your friends start a new game together.

Now imagine if you’re playing with your friends and you have to change host due to a laggy connection on one side; you and your friends will have to play through all the same missions again!

And when one of your story missions is to place a watch on a grave (thats it) or fix a popcorn machine, you can see how tedious this could get.

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fixing the popcorn machine – image by Alex Maksymiw

Redfall fails to make for a compelling single-player experience. Here are some of the problems I encountered while playing:

  • You cannot pause the game in single-player there were a bunch of times when I made a coffee only to come back, and I had respawned at a safe house. In fact, this was my first death a few hours into the campaign, as the game is very easy.
  • You can’t play Redfall offline, even in single-player; this didn’t affect me, but playing offline should be an option, especially when you market the game to be designed for both multiplayer and co-op.

Open-World and Looting

As for looting, there are some cool-looking weapons to collect and several types of weapons to utilize in combat. I do not doubt that you will see the same legendary weapons pop up in players’ inventories, such as the Lockjaw shotgun, Death Spiral Pistol, and Grim Tide Shotgun, to name a few.

Moreover, players can get their hands on these weapons at the very beginning of the game as legendary weapons will spawn at specific locations, such as the Wheeler Sporting Goods shop, and they respawn every time you load up the game. I discovered this after taking a break and returning only to find a higher-level Lockjaw.

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the Clacker legendary pistol – image by Alex Maksymiw

This highlights that Redfall has poor open-world and looting mechanics. In most looter shooters, players have to earn high-level and rare weapons either by killing tough bosses, as seen in the Borderlands series, or earned as a reward for completing all of a character’s side quests.

This gives an incentive to repeat missions and kill bosses. However, in Redfall, there is less incentive to complete missions other than being forced to when you disconnect from the host and now have to catch up with your story progress.

This is not entirely true, as there is an incentive to slay Vampire Underbosses. These boss vampires drop a skull that can be placed in specific blood bags to unlock character cosmetics. However, the bosses don’t pose a challenge or any unique areas to fight them.

Destroying Vampire Nests is the most fun you will have in Redfall. These events make good use of the co-op experience but can also be cleared alone in a single-player.

Vampire Nests are procedurally generated events that appear in Redfall after completing enough neighborhood missions. The goal in these events is to destroy the heart of the vampire nest, collect the loot and escape before the nest collapses while fighting off powerful vampires.

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The heart of a Vampire Nest – image by Alex Maksymiw

The fun starts when the time begins to countdown, and you and your team frantically loot as many weapons and items as you can before the nest collapses. However, like the rest of Redfall, Vampire Nests needed more development time as they were too short and easy to escape.

While I had fleeting fun with this gameplay mechanic, I kept asking myself, “Why am I not playing Deep Rock Galactic” The game not only has a superior version of this but is significantly cheaper.

If you want a fun co-op shooter game, save your money and SSD storage, and treat yourself to Deep Rock Galactic, you will get significantly more value.

Spooky Beats and Thrills

Arkane Studios have created something truly unique with the music in Redfall; combining stereotypical horror fanfare with hip-hop beats is an odd choice, and while it doesn’t work all the time, it makes an impression and helps tie in the game’s cartoonish aesthetic.

This spooky beat, combined with the demonic sounds and raspy breathless whispers of vampires, is a chilling combination that got a scare me a couple of times. However, although there is a dark Lovecraftian theme here, it’s used very light-heartedly.

The ambiance of creaking old buildings is done extremely well. My favorite parts of Redfall were exploring the interiors of the old-timey buildings of Redfall, and the ambiance drills that historical feeling to the town.

Moreover, the sound effects of the towering frozen waves that trap the civilians of Redfall in the vampire’s new hunting grounds stood out to me, adding to the experience.

The voice acting, for the most part, is good; however, it’s not fully utilized with the playable characters. I mainly played Devinder Crousley, who repeatedly mutters the same voice lines in combat. This got tiresome a couple of hours into the game.

Gun sounds like the gunplay is mediocre at best, while the game has a variety of weaponry. Assault Rifles feel light and impactless, contributed by their audio. Shotguns, on the other hand, sound fantastic. As I mentioned earlier, the gunplay in Redfall is a mixed bag, and the audio for them is the same.

Less Slideshows, More Cutscenes, Please

The story was a cool concept, but unfortunately, its poor execution leaves it as a wasted opportunity. Once again, you feel disconnected from Redfall due to the overuse of environmental storytelling and lazy cutscenes.

Combined with boring missions, this leaves you uninterested and filled with buyer’s remorse, especially when the game’s steep $69.99 price.

The player’s goal in Redfall is to uncover the mystery of the occurrence of the vampire threat and the link between the Aevum Therapeutics company and take Redfall back from the vampires that have taken over. A simple premise with a unique take on vampires. However, the story is butchered by lazy writing and cutscenes.

Below I’ve embedded a trailer showcasing Jacob, one of the playable characters in the game. The video contains an animation in a comic book style and “Jacob’s in-game model.” The trailer is not a representation of Redfall in any way.

Now here is how the cutscenes look in the game. As you can see, there is a stark difference in quality and art style. You can’t help but feel as though these PowerPoint slides, EHEM, I mean “cutscenes,” are placeholders that would have later been swapped for animation.

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Intro cutscene – image by Alex Maksymiw
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Devinder Crousley – Image by Alex Maksymiw

Redfall’s four playable characters are somewhat interesting, with Devinder Crousley and Layla Ellison being the most interesting. On paper, Devinder Crousley is a famous ghost hunter who has traveled to Redfall to investigate Redfall to score information for his next best-selling book.

Layla Ellison is a Biomedical student living in Redfall who gained psychic powers after being exposed to the experiments that created the vampires. While they’re the most interesting characters, their dialogue is anything but interesting.

This is no fault of the voice actors but the lack of NPCs for the characters to talk to. Most of Redfall’s story is told through environmental storytelling, meaning that your feelings are just reacting with a couple of lines of dialogue to events.

Do you like to interact with characters and learn their backstory to paint a picture of the struggles of surviving in the game’s world? Well, you’ve come to the wrong place, as outside of the few major characters, you will barely get their two cents.

The characters of Redfall are incredibly shallow sure, they can sometimes be heard talking to each other after missions, but as soon as you try to talk to them, they will sigh in your face.

As a looter shooter and open-world experience, you will have a core base where you will be assigned story missions and resupply on ammo and items before heading off into Redfall.

As you explore Redfall, you will inevitably unlock safe houses for each neighborhood. Each neighborhood will have two missions to complete that will upgrade the safe house to feature ammo and a shop. It will also add NPCs, but you won’t be able to talk to them, and they offer nothing of value in narrative or gameplay.

Because most of the story is told through environmental storytelling, you will read a horrific amount of notes and journals. Even major characters will respond by completing a side mission with a post-it note on a wall or a dialogue line.

Journals and notes are a nice addition to a video game’s narrative when used as an extra for players to learn more about the lore and world of the game. However, when they are used as a main source of storytelling, it gets old fast, and the town of Redfall is littered with these notes.

Broken UI Works Against You

The UI of Redfall has all the standard FPS details, and looter-shooter, for example, waypoints, can be created in-game or on the map, which you will place all of the time since mission objectives don’t show up on the compass.

This led me to open my map to place a waypoint every time I got a new objective, and believe me; this gets annoying after the first couple of missions!

Icons that pop up worldwide can often be misleading as they do not disappear after you’ve picked up the key item. This affected my experience on multiple occasions as icons would highlight vampire blood in houses, only for me to discover that I had already looted it previously.

Sure, I was dumb to check a building that I had already looted, but when you’re exploring an open world, it’s easy to stumble across previously explored areas. Or maybe I was naive to think that Redfall was trying to tell me I missed something important.

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Misleading UI icon – image by Alex Maksymiw

On a final note, Arkane Studios loves to splash hints on your screen; many provide helpful information on the mechanics of the game, like Vampire Nests, leveling your character, and explaining your character’s abilities.

However, some were hilarious and felt shoe-horned in, like Arkane Studios was trying to trick themselves into believing they had created a good game.

Hints state that Redfall is an open-world game that allows players to approach situations however they want, like entering the Redfall Fire Station head first through the main gate fighting enemies as you go, or sneaking through a whole in a fence and breaking in using a lockpick.

In reality, none of this mattered, as I gave the building a good three-sixty as your typical Fallout player does, and I found two enemies in the entire complex, and the lock pick required a door? Well, there’s a half-opened garage door you can walk in next to it, so ditto.

This harkens back to the poorly designed open world, and while I might be going off topic a bit here, it’s a good point showcasing that nothing was really thought out properly, and all these issues, from the hints on the UI to the environments and terrible AI all bounce of each other in a bad way like two electrons repelling away from each other.

Nothing magnetizes together to make for a fun experience.

Another example of this that I encountered was when I entered a Vampire Nest for the first time, and Arkane Studios popped up selling the promise of an exciting event, followed by another notification pausing the game to tell me that Vampire Nests contain dead NPCs with ammo that are essential to destroying the nest.

This is not a unique feature of Vampire Nests. However, now that I think about it, the notifications do pause the game until you exit them, so if you need a water break, this will be your only chance to pause.

Flawed Progression

Redfall is an open-world game so. Naturally, the map will open up to you the more you unlock historical sites to fast-travel safe houses in each neighborhood. As a looter-shooter, Redfall is rather thin on the gear you can collect, but the game features the typical character leveling systems featured in the genre.

Each time you level up your character, you can unlock skills that enhance your abilities and support utility. Weapon customization is limited to skins and stakes, but players can customize their character’s outfit.

There is a great variety of outfits for the playable characters; however, in my opinion, none of them interested me, and I chalk this up to my lack of investment in the characters.

Weapons also grow in power as you level up; however, as I mentioned earlier, players can easily upgrade their legendary weapons by returning to previously visited locations, meaning looting weapons becomes pointless.

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Grave Lock audio collectable – Image by Alex Maksymiw

Now it wouldn’t be an open-world game without collectibles. In Redfall, you can collect Grave Locks, an item that triggers a criminally short audio log following a resident of Redfall’s story.

The problem is there are a hundred of these Grave Locks, and compared to the great quality of audio logs featured in Dead Island 2 or even Halo 3: ODST, for that matter, Grave Locks don’t even come close. Then you have the hundreds of journals and notes dotted around Redfall to check off the list in the menus.

Replayability Ruined by Flawed Mechanics

Replayability in Redfall is an odd one. While there is potential for multiple playthroughs to play as each of the four characters and an additional new game plus Eclipse difficulty, I’m not sure why players would want to even finish their first playthrough of the campaign, let alone a second or third.

This is amplified if players have to backtrack their own progression after joining a host.

The numerous glitches in Redfall contribute to this, but the host-only story progress issue will kill any thought of wanting to replay Redfall.

Redfall Rating

Score: 4/10

Redfall feels cheap to play unironically; its cost is anything but cheap costing $70 Redfall is a scam. The sentiment of buyer’s remorse constantly digs at the back of my head, along with the embarrassment that the people on my Steam Friend List know that a hustling video game developer had me.

I give Arkane Studios zero quarter for the score I’ve provided; broken, tedious, and lazy Redfall is everything that an AAA title shouldn’t be.

When you are lazy and naive enough to trade cutscenes for low-quality slideshow pictures under the guise of “style,” but your marketing of the game leading up to launch showcased rendered cutscenes and vibrant comic strips that had ten times more effort than what gamers got Redfall doesn’t deserve to score even a five.

After playing Redfall, I can’t help but shudder at the thought of the version gamers would have received before the decision was made last year to push the launch back.

Redfall Alternatives

deep rock galactic

  • Left for Dead
  • Left for Dead 2 
  • Dead Island 2
  • World war Z
  • Borderlands 2
  • Borderlands 3
  • Aliens Fireteam Elite
  • Warhammer: Vermintide 2
  • Deep Rock Galactic

Key Points to Consider

Pros

  • Vampires are fun to fight against, thanks to their unpredictable movement and blink abilities. There are enough vampire types to keep you engaged in battle.
  • Closing Vampire Nests is the best part of Redfall, as players will have to fight against powerful vampires and collect as much loot as they can before escaping, and the nest collapses.
  • There’s a decent variety of weapons to collect and many customizable options for your character. However, skins and Stake skins are the only customizable options for weapons, and legendary weapons are easily obtainable, removing the need to scavenge for weapons.
  • Characters have great abilities that are fun to use. I had fun rounding up several vampires before using Devinder’s Backlight ability to petrify them all.

Cons

  • Exploring Redfall feels like a chore; you feel disconnected from the world due to a bloated map with too few side activities and characters.
  • Countless bugs spoil the experience, from T-posing characters to torch glitches and movement glitches, in combination with poor performance, making playing Redfall a slog.
  • Enemy AI is dreadful; enemies will get stuck on rocks and objects, resulting in them running on the spot. This happens more often to humans than to vampires. Sometimes enemies won’t see or hear you even when you’re a foot away from them.
  • The story was a cool concept, but unfortunately, its poor execution leaves it as a wasted opportunity. Once again, you feel disconnected from Redfall due to the overuse of environmental storytelling and lazy cutscenes. Which, in combination with boring missions, leave you bored.

FAQs

Question: What is the Frame Rate for Redfall on Xbox Series X and Series S?

Answer: Xbox Series X and Series S console versions of Redfall are capped at 30fps! But Xbox fans can rejoice as a 60fps update is planned, although there is no information when this performance update will go live.

Question: What do you get in the Redfall Bite Back Edition?

Answer: The Redfall standard edition costs $69.99, while the Redfall Bite Back Edition costs $99.99 and includes the following items:
Redfall Hero Pass includes two future heroes.
• Outfits for each of the four playable characters.
• A stake Skin and a multi-weapon skin.
If you want to see the Redfail up close and personal to make your own decision on Redfall, I recommend waiting until it comes to Xbox Game Pass.

Question: Has Microsoft Addressed the Poor Launch of Redfall?

Answer: Yes, Phil Spencer, the CEO of Xbox Game Studios, addressed the poor launch of Redfall, stating in an interview with Kinda Funny Games in the Xcast podcast, “I’m upset with myself. The critical response was not what we wanted.”
Later reinforcing the decision to launch Redfall in its unfinished state by explaining, “at some point, we have to have a creative vision, and put the game out. Our reviewers and players will tell us what they think.”

Playlog

I played ten hours of Redfall on PC with a GTX 1070, 16GB RAM, and an I7 6700K processor, and my experience was choppy, to say the least. My computer struggled to keep up with Redfall.

However, I’m not entirely sure why; the game shouldn’t have been as hardware-demanding as it was. Although my graphics card is a bit dated now, it was able to run Hogwarts Legacy with decent graphics with occasional stutters and ran Dead Island 2 perfectly fine.

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