Redfall vampire

Redfall Review

need to know

(Image credit: Arkane Austin)

what is it? Vampire Hunt Multiplayer FPS
release date May 1, 2023
expect to pay $70
developer akin austin
publisher Bethesda
Reviewed on RTX 3080 Ti, i9 12900K, 32GB RAM
steam deck Verified
associate Official Website(opens in a new tab)

I’ve been playing Redfall for 10 hours, and I have an idea: Maybe I’m having a hard time because I’ve been using my abilities wrongly. I’m playing Layla Ellison, a vampire hunter who can place a spooky purple elevator on the ground and ride it into the air to gain high ground. But a floor skill says it can send “people to higher places,” and it’s not just me.

If Redfall really has the DNA of an immersive sim in Arkane, like the clockwork world of Prey and Dishonored, then surely everything in this town plays by the same rules, right?

It doesn’t take long to find a vampire test subject floating on the sidewalk (as they keep respawning in Redfall, as if I have no influence over the town). I took a few pictures and it ran for me. I put my purple elevator between us, adjust my aim, and shoot this vampire out of the sky.

The vampire walks nonchalantly through the elevator like it doesn’t even exist. Human cultists also wear it. It’s not the immersive simulation I was hoping for, nor is it a co-op FPS or RPG.

No matter what genre expectations I brought, Redfall failed me. There aren’t enough enemies anywhere to play a Left 4 Dead-style game. The guns feel weightless, and their damage output is in line with level-scaled enemies, so it’s boring to think of this as a Fallout-style RPG. Vampires start out scary in the dark, but lose the tension through repetition—it’s no surprise that you’re fighting a vampire in an empty attic for the 10th time—so cross survival horror off the list. It can’t be a good hero-based FPS despite promising abilities like stealth and a stun baton that shocks enemies, as both take forever to recharge and won’t beat unstoppable stand-and-shoot tactics. The story lives up to the game’s entertaining premise: a town of rich people who literally turn into vampires, feeding on ordinary people.

Over the course of the 50 or so hours I put in, Redfall drained every drop of optimism I had. Nothing can save it, not even co-op with friends–in fact, it’s so bad I recommend bringing your enemies. Arkane has stumbled before, but its detailed world, evocative art direction, and clever systems keep keeping me coming back. Redfall does not. This is an amazing disappointment.

complete stranger

(Image credit: Tyler C/Arkane Studios)

Redfall doesn’t start with an assassination or a time loop, but its quiet first few minutes fit nicely with Arkane’s evocative introductory history. After choosing one of four heroes, you wake up on a ship where the vampire gods are preparing to flee before ripping the ocean around Redfall. There are dead bodies around the cabin, and letters will prompt you where to go next. I broke a window and went out onto the deck to see a whole wall of water curling around the boat. This eerie and visually stunning opening sequence comes to an end once you grab your gun and venture into Redfall’s lackluster open world.

You pass by inland ships guarded by cultists who never really give a strong narrative reason to be in the first place. You can crouch and sneak from them, but you eventually learn just how insignificant the threat posed by human enemies is, and how much of Redfall’s levels are designed to be trampled by teams of four.

The town of Redfall is probably one of the emptiest open worlds I’ve ever seen.

The game officially begins after you clear out the local firehouse and join a group of survivors looking to rebuild what they can and escape. Many of these characters have names, but none of them have much to say or seem to recognize you. Conversations with them have the mixed emotions of an MMO quest: “My family is dead and I want you to go and retrieve my daughter’s soft toy.” Redfall pretends you’re “fighting back” against vampires to save humanity, but in reality you’re just Got a to-do list that forces you to explore every part of the map.

The town of Redfall might be one of the emptiest open worlds(opens in new tab) I’ve seen, but it certainly has a refined fall vibe. This is the trick-or-treating neighborhood I grew up in, the perfect cozy town to tell a vampire tale. But after a while, I started noticing how much the town felt like a hokey theme park next to Arkane’s other immersive sim world.

(Image credit: Tyler C. / Arkane Austin)

Every human enemy in Redfall helps them gather around the most explosive objects they can find. The town is full of gas tanks, oil spills, and propane tanks, and I’m not sure vampires are its biggest problem. If this had a Borderlands zany tone where blowing up stupid enemies was the point, I wouldn’t mind. But Redfall’s dramatic text logs and side quests are about the horrors of townspeople’s friends and family being turned into semi-immortal monsters. Reading these notes and letters while scouting the town for loot and XP as your characters joke about how skilled they are makes Redfall’s tone confusing. It’s like you put your brave Overwatch hero into Netflix’s Midnight Mass. I’m sorry your aunt turned into a vampire, let me petrify her with a UV gun, then snatch the rare shotgun from her ashes, then I’ll be happy to comfort you!

For brief moments, narrative and environmental design come together to give you the kind of weird, haunting spaces Arkane is known for. On one mission, my partner and I entered the house of the Hollow Man, the progenitor of the vampiric plague, and during the first half of your journey there were annoying sounds coming from the TV speakers and radio. Redfall often pushes you into pitch-black houses and basements with only a flashlight to guide you. We crouch through this abandoned house until we turn a corner and enter a room that, like the ocean at the beginning, is frozen in time. Through the floating wood chips and debris, you can see another world behind the ceiling. It’s as expansive as a plunge into the dark fringe of The Void in Dishonored, but unexpected.

After spending a long time hunting around the house for hidden dolls to complete the mission objective, we were teleported to the same house in an alternate reality sitting on a floating piece of land. There’s not much to do other than listen to Hollow Man’s predictable origins before you’re transported back, but it makes me desperate to reach the turning point in Redfall, which often deploys twisting contraptions like this one. Sadly, it never did.

dead end

(Image credit: Tyler C. / Arkane Austin)

Redfall’s multiplayer structure works to the detriment of Arkane’s strengths. Enemies twitch, slide, and stutter when patrolling or chasing you, and items like backpacks and medkits are copy-pasted everywhere without logic. Half of the skills that improve your character’s abilities are designed for multiplayer, and are basically useless considering you’re often fighting in cramped houses. This is where the developers came up with Blink of Shame, one of the most flexible movement abilities in video games, and all Redfall offers is a bunch of abilities that can briefly distract enemies or skip them entirely.

Shards with vampires are more challenging in solo, but only because they all rush straight at you. With no one else to distract them, you spend most of the fight spinning in circles, trying to make enough room to heal. I just made my way through the vampire’s lair, a difficult, dungeon-like level with random enemy modifiers, by finding crouching places where the vampires couldn’t reach me. The same goes for the mighty Rook vampire, which descends on you after you make enough noise nearby. Adding friends to it also doesn’t help the balance. It goes in the opposite direction, that it’s so boringly easy (even on harder difficulty settings) that you might as well save your ammo and run.

As a fan of Arkane’s imaginative world and vibrant systems-driven gameplay, what stands out about Redfall most is the mystery of how it happened. It was the first Arkane game I didn’t like at all: a maddeningly incoherent and uninteresting shooter that seemed odd compared to the hilarity of 2017’s Prey or Dishonored games.

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Bart Thompson
Bart is's List Writer . He is from Houston, Texas, and is currently pursuing a bachelor's degree in creative writing, majoring in non-fiction writing. He likes to play The Elder Scrolls Online and learn everything about The Elder Scrolls series.