My biggest disappointment of Redfall 2023. As a big fan of developer Arkane Studios’ past work, from Dishonored through Deathloop, my expectations were high For the new release of the company. However, this vampire-hunting first-person shooter is messy, plagued by technical flaws and head-scratching design decisions towards the game itself. The result is often a dull experience, one that’s occasionally let down by potential glimmers, and it’s sucked the life out of me.
The fictional port town of Redfall, Massachusetts, is overrun with vampires and worshipers of their cult. Your goal as one of four unique heroes is to restore the haunted area to its former state. Standing in your way are the Vampire Gods, a wealthy group of scientists-turned-monsters whose backstory never impressed me despite the campaign’s surface-level efforts. This is about as much as the introduction gives before throwing you into the action.
After completing the introduction to Redfall, you operate the story and side missions from a centralized base of operations. The first few hours of the narrative follow The Hollow Man, a mysterious entity eavesdropping on the city’s radio signals. It seems that The Hollow Man is present everywhere you go, and his presence is unnerving. This section contains some of Redfall’s best missions and locations, requiring you to explore a dilapidated mansion and its gruesome past, fight a powerful foe at the cliff’s lighthouse in a lightning storm, and… Rescuing the hostages who control The Hollow Man’s followers. Unfortunately, the game tries to replicate its opening hours throughout the rest of its run; Difficult-to-follow story revelations, repetitive side activities, and a secondary, less-interesting map make it feel hollow and formulaic. Finally, Arkane presents the story of the Vampire Gods through flashbacks in which you stand in an abandoned lot watching vaguely humanoid ghosts talk to each other. The result is largely forgettable.
On a positive note, I love the four launch protagonists: Remy and her robotic partner Bribone; a teleporting cryptozoologist named Devinder; Jacob, a psychic marksman; and Layla, a biomedical engineer who inherited telekinetic powers after a medical test gone wrong. Each character has unique skills that you can upgrade through a straightforward but substantial skill tree, but with only three total abilities per character, you won’t use them as much as your firearms. The experience could have been more interesting if I could choose from the game’s 12 abilities to carve out my play style, but sadly you have to select a character and their pre-set skills for the entire game.
Redfall’s shooting mechanics and arsenal of weapons are serviceable, with the bulky steak launcher and ultra-violet raygun – which scares vampires – being the main attractions. As you explore the world and complete missions, you’ll discover new weapons, each slotting somewhere in a rudimentary tiered-loot system. Despite the random perks of guns, such as increased damage to fearsome ghouls, I didn’t pay much attention to them because the loot system recycles the same dozen or so weapons over and over again with slightly higher stats each time. Notably, it does the same with enemy vampire types. I often fought the same type of vampire over and over again, but my character would comment that it was a new vampire because it had a different name.
Looking at Redfall’s world, I cringe at its wasted potential. For every great spot, there are some forgettable spots. The result is an empty-feeling game with a number of nagging problems, such as a lack of proper stealth takedowns, a tedious search and waypoint system, and the inability to pause gameplay in single-player mode. Massive technical issues hinder the brighter moments, including frequent server crashes during multiplayer, input failing to work, broken animations, and a host of other bugs that make Raidfall a frustrating experience. For a game about fighting the undead, Redfall feels soulless in all the wrong ways.