With Redfall arriving at IGN just a couple of days ahead of its official release date we haven’t had enough time to complete a final review yet – certainly not without becoming a nocturnal monster myself and staying awake all weekend. However, after several sessions – solo, co-op with a friend, and also in a group of three – I must admit I’m thoroughly underwhelmed by Redfall’s vanilla missions and lifeless world, and very disappointed at its lengthy list of display issues and bugs.
Redfall is a distinct departure from the likes of Deathloop and Dishonored. Certainly some of that Arkane DNA has sidestepped its way into the finished product – chiefly in the magical abilities of the four available powered-up protagonists – but Redfall’s open-world approach to a modern day Massachusetts is otherwise a little more mundane in comparison. Not only does the architecture of Redfall seem a little flavourless compared to Deathloop’s funky retro-futurism and the Victorian backdrop of Dishonored, but there seems little to absorb whenever I stop to explore.
Perhaps best described as Far Cry with a supernatural slant, Redfall’s premise seems simple: take back the town from the slobbering vampires and their human flunkies that have occupied it. Unfortunately, so far the experience seems surprisingly boring and regularly broken. I appear to be just over halfway through and the mission design seems largely baked around poking through various locations around town looking for random items and picking them up, putting them down, or turning them on or off. Sometimes there’s a locked door involved, but a key for it will be sitting somewhere nearby – waiting to be arbitrarily stumbled across. It’s simply not interesting; it’s just a lot of walking around rooms looking at dull props until one of us accidentally highlights the one we need.
Even the kooky and otherworldly vampire nests, which essentially function as enemy camps you can assault for loot, seem to be a letdown. These nightmarish nests, which remix parts of the overworld and warp and cram them into twisted tunnels descending to a huge and haunted heart that needs to be destroyed, quickly became chore-like – especially once I began to notice the same segments being recycled and reused in subsequent nests.
Fangs for Coming
With four heroes to choose from, each with three special abilities – plus co-op support for up to four players – there are objectively many ways you and a team of friends can approach combat in Redfall. At its best you’ll have players strategically teleporting around, conjuring up a ghostly sniper rifle, or summoning a friendly vampire ex-boyfriend to fight alongside you – like a David Boreanaz booty call. It’s kinetic and it’s bloody, and there are moments where it does come together in battles that would have Blade dipping his sunglasses in disbelief. Unfortunately, such moments are irregular at best, and I think it’s probably due to Redfall’s enemies lacking the wits to put up a stimulating fight.
Human enemies seem largely disinterested with taking cover in a firefight, and I’ve had snipers rushing at me like Medieval knights. The vampires, however, are easily the worst offenders, charging and slashing at us like mindless animals. Worse, they just seem woefully underutilised as scary threats. A lot of the time they just float around in the open – apparently sleeping peacefully. They just hover, waiting for us to walk directly up to them and attack them – sometimes blissfully unaware you’ve just turned the vampire that was beside them to dust.
It’d be easier to look past the plain combat had the rest of Redfall been able to get its fangs into me, but it still hasn’t and I’m sceptical it will. The story itself seems to be unfolding in lightly animated paintings or static, in-engine dioramas. They all look like placeholders for cutscenes that aren’t coming, and I have to say fighting my way to a film projector to run what’s essentially a slideshow certainly gives Redfall a cheapness that’s hard to shake.
Redfall doesn’t save progression for any player but the host in co-op games, which seems fair enough if you and your mates don’t have the same missions unlocked but makes a lot less sense if all players are at identical points in the game. I began Redfall from scratch with two friends, all three of us fresh from the first mission, but while they kept their gear and XP they’ll now need to play those missions again.
A lot has been made of Redfall only running at 30fps at launch on Xbox Series X|S but, while it’s certainly noticeable when moving rapidly, it’d be disingenuous of me to pretend it’s a dealbreaker. As a console gamer who grew up playing on 50Hz TVs at 25fps, I’m not going to throw my toys out of the pram over it. What’s far, far more pressing an issue than Redfall’s Xbox frame rate is its raft of other performance problems, from textures that take an absolute age to pop in (or don’t load at all), disappearing characters and animations, and other mission-breaking bugs.
Sometimes my friends appeared completely stationary, sliding around the map like chess pieces, and sometimes they weren’t there at all – they were just a floating gun. On the other hand, sometimes a character appears but their gun doesn’t – making them look like they’re playing air guitar. During the climax of an early boss fight my character completely vanished from my friend’s screen, turning what could have been a satisfying team victory into a moment of bemused laughter.
During one side mission I died trying to kill a vampire, but when I came back to finish the job he was just a non-interactive blue ghost, rotating to face me but otherwise rooted in place. When I came back again his energy shield was there, but the vampire… wasn’t in it. During a co-op session I found myself (more than once) fruitlessly attacking an enemy who was standing right in front of me but my friends saw as a dead body. At one stage, while playing solo, my crouch and start buttons broke. They just made clunking sounds. My inability to crouch persisted after death, but returned when I fast travelled to a safehouse. The start button doesn’t pause the game, by the way. It’s obviously understandable when playing online co-op, but completely baffling and inconvenient when playing solo.
Right now Redfall is not the game I’d expected, certainly not following the excellent Deathloop, but you can check back with us later this week for our final assessment.
Luke is Senior Editor and part of the IGN reviews team. You can chat to him on Twitter @MrLukeReilly.
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Author: Luke Reilly