Redfall review – More gums than teeth

Everyone thought after seeing the first trailers for Redfall that we were getting Arkane’s take on Left 4 Dead, and while intriguing it wasn’t that interesting. Once more information dropped however, our thirst for blood began to return, with this open world game sporting a more Far Cry-ish feel. Since that revelation it feels like we’re constantly on different sides of a coin, with Redfall going from good to bad to live service to story-based. What really is this game? After some time with it, our Gaming Trend troop has formed a few opinions.

David Flynn’s thoughts-

Redfall Layla Xbox Series X Gameplay - Hard Difficulty [Midnight] - 30 FPS

I think expectations have been set unfairly high for Redfall. I’ve seen people think it’s going to be Left 4 Dead but open world or co-op Dishonored, and the truth is very different. After playing for about 8 hours, both in single player and multiplayer, the closest comparison is actually Sea of Thieves. This is what I like to call a Hang-Out Game; something a group of friends pick up as an excuse to be together online while they chat. It’s not terribly deep in either combat or stealth or RPG mechanics, so the main draw is to have a ton of horror themed things to do with friends.

I picked Layla as my character, but just about anyone will have something to offer to the party. Layla can use her psychic powers to block bullets, create an elevator to bounce off of, and summon her now vampiric ex-boyfriend (they’re still friends) to attack and distract enemies. I tried to play stealthily for the most part, and in Redfall that essentially means getting high up and sniping enemies. You can sneak up and melee enemies for a lot of damage, but this rarely kills and feels very bad. Silenced weapons are also very rare, and you can only tell if a gun is silenced after shooting it, so you’ll want to have some cover or be prepared to go close ranged at any moment.

Combat itself is fun and feels good, at least on PC with a mouse and keyboard. Aiming with a controller feels very heavy and imprecise out of the box, and even with a lot of tweaking it still feels a bit off. You can carry three weapons at one time, and my preferred loadout was a pistol, shotgun, and rifle. You already know what the rifle is for, but the shotgun was my go-to weapon for vampires. The one I’m currently using comes equipped with a stake to deal the finishing blow on any undead, and as a nice bonus that finisher will also heal for 15% of my max HP. Add in another 10% buff from an equipped Blood Remnant (vials of vampire blood that give passive bonuses), and suddenly I’m an immortal vampire hunter healing for a quarter of my health for each kill. I think there’s the potential for very interesting builds like this somewhere in the game, but most loot you find gives less interesting bonuses.

On most difficulties, the AI is dumb as rocks. Sure they hit hard, but you could be standing directly in front of them for a melee hit in stealth and they still won’t find you. This could contribute to a slapstick, horror comedy tone but the game takes itself fairly seriously unfortunately. If you’re looking for something a bit harder there’s Midnight difficulty, but any sort of difficulty is thrown out the window in co-op.

Playing on PC with a 3060 Ti Nvidia graphics card, the game has some trouble running. I normally get around 40 to 60 frames per second, which is perfectly playable, but not ideal and the drops are very noticeable. I had my visuals set to High quality with Performance DLSS enabled, and going lower offered no substantial gains oddly enough. Performance on Steam Deck is also comparable, so be prepared to shuffle between the 30 to 60 range on low settings with AMD Super FX cranked all the way to Ultra Performance. Capping the framerate at 30 or 40 with the Steam QAC (there’s no in-game option) resulted in a substantial amount of input lag as well, so uncapped it is. Once again, not ideal, but far from unplayable.

Redfall isn’t a bad game, I had fun playing it, but I struggle to find reasons to keep playing it. It doesn’t do anything particularly outstanding, lacks charm, and feels unrefined. The best thing it has going for it is co-op and the simple joy of making things go boom. Earlier I made a comparison to Sea of Thieves, and I hope that Arkane can continue to polish and improve the game throughout its life. Otherwise, the undead are just going to go back to sleep.

David Flynn’s final thoughts-

So I wrote all of that after playing most of the game’s first half. We don’t assume a score before we write a review, but our estimates would have been around 65. Would you believe me if I told you it gets much, much worse after that? Upon defeating the Hollow Man, an incredibly easy if frustrating boss, you receive a call from another part of town and are encouraged to head over there and take care of the vampires. Being a filthy completionist and seeing as you can’t return after you leave, I proceeded to finish every single mission available on the first map. This isn’t too bad, just retrieving a few things then fighting a miniboss, but it is certainly repetitive.

The issues begin to arise as soon as you start heading for the second map. There’s something of a maze on the way which isn’t bad in and of itself, but you will notice that enemies are much stronger now and come at you in much larger numbers. This is the game’s solution for a difficulty curve. Most foes will now be able to kill you in one to two hits, and some will even be able to spot you through walls and ceilings for no reason. Unless you have a silent sniper rifle and one shot every cultist in turn, stealth is out the window.

This means you’re going to die. A lot. Thankfully, there are no consequences for death aside from losing a bit of money, which is useless anyway, and a chunk of time walking back to wherever you were. Pro tip: if you’re stuck in a Rook storm (which can glitch to never stop by the way) either die or quit to the title screen to return to the safe house and move on with your life. You may also notice that performance is even worse, with bigger stutters more frequently and lower overall fps. At one point, I found the game had slowed down my entire computer and was moving at about 30 fpm (frames per minute).

Once you’re through the forest and arrive at the Maritime Center, you’ll get another set of missions leading up to the defeat of the two new villains: Miss Whisper and Bloody Tom. Somehow, both have even less characterization than the Hollow Man and their missions just feel unfinished. It’s difficult to explain without experiencing it yourself, but it’s like Redfall goes into fetch quest overdrive while simultaneously becoming ridiculously difficult. The open world feels even more lifeless (not in a cool vampire way), objectives repeat more often with several defend this point missions, and there’s even less loot to find. You have to do at least three generic missions to fight every boss anyway, but even the main missions start to feel more generic with less interesting level design. Oh, also your bullets just don’t work sometimes.

The second area has a much more vertical design to it, so thankfully using Layla’s elevator turns off fall damage entirely. I’m really just baffled as to why the game needed two maps anyway. Arkane has excelled at smaller levels that offer a ton of player choice, but that’s absent in both of these areas. The solution is always just to snipe from afar then charge in when you get caught. In the later half especially I could only find one or two entrances to buildings. I found three entrances to a single garage, but all of them require the use of a single rewire kit and end up opening the same door. I don’t feel like I’m learning about or connecting with the space here like I did in Dishonored, Prey, or Deathloop, it’s just a way to move from objective to objective.

In fact, trying to solve problems in your own ways usually leads to problems. Want to walk up to a turret and destroy it by blocking bullets using Layla’s umbrella? Sorry, your magic still isn’t strong enough to break it. Maybe try sniping a vampire from a nearby cliff to avoid dealing with their underlings? Oh, you did almost no damage and they all just teleported over to you AND there’s no cover here. If you try to explore outside of missions, you’ll often find most locations completely empty, with enemies only spawning until the story says to go there. There are one, maybe two, ways to play this game and if you deviate from that you’re gonna have a bad time. Well, you won’t be having fun regardless, but you’ll be having even less.

Usually when I play a bad game, I can feel at least some of the passion or see what the developers were going for and attempt to appreciate it. I feel nothing from Redfall. It’s an empty, lifeless game that may have had some love and care put into it at some point, but you can’t tell in the final product. I know game developers aren’t lazy and god knows no one goes into this industry for the money.

So what the hell happened? Take the soundtrack for instance. Usually, Arkane puts carefully crafted music into their games, these can be anything from an atmospheric piece to a bombastic intro representing the game’s aesthetic. So why does Redfall barely have any music? There’s a few stingers, using some interesting modern hip-hop or rap beats, but it’s deathly quiet outside of those.

I don’t say this to be inflammatory or cruel, Arkane’s games have brought me so much joy over the years and I want to see their creativity shine. These are some of the brightest people in the industry who truly want to push boundaries and see what they can make. I don’t think the problem is corporate meddling, otherwise there would be microtransactions all over the place. I don’t think the blame can really be put on any one party in this situation, it just didn’t work out.

I did try to complete Redfall. I really did. I finished every safe house mission, collected all the skulls, but late in the game one NPC just wouldn’t give me his quest. You can finish the main story, which we did after suffering through annoying boss fights and several fetch quests, but you can’t complete everything. Redfall begins as a middling experience, but devolves into an absolute nightmare of glitches, poor design, and an incomplete gesture of a story.

Anthony Shelton’s thoughts-

Before Redfall launched, IGN had their exclusive final preview and I posted a video discussing why I wasn’t convinced Redfall was going to be a game-changer for Xbox, for Arkane fans, or for anyone. Most of the commenters suggested I just play it or don’t play it. Well, I did. And after playing for 9 hours on the highest difficulty and finishing the first portion of the game, I can say it barely feels better than the preview looked, and it comes with a plethora of weird constrictions, and mediocre execution. But it’s getting better. Excruciatingly slowly, but it is getting better.

I also played as Layla. She’s not as interesting as I hoped she would be. Her writing is awful and her skill tree is almost useless. The latter isn’t her fault, though. She has an ability that drops a lift formed as an elevator and it launches you into the air. It’s fantastic for gaining high ground but useless during combat. There is a skill that buffs your damage while in the air, but it’s so hard to aim with the stiff aiming and nimble vampires, it’s not worth it. Her umbrella seems more useful. It blocks bullets and absorbs them to unleash more damage once she triggers a blast when she’s done shielding herself. But that ability doesn’t do anything either because enemies don’t shoot enough.

Redfall Isn't Good For Xbox Game Pass

Playing on the hardest available difficulty – Midnight – has been shockingly easy as well, up until the end. They take more damage and hit harder but the Hollow Man cultists run in straight lines and after Vampires stop whooshing around, all they do is charge you in a straight line. The most frightening enemies are easy to pick off. A nice flare gun/shotgun combo does the trick, and poof. Again, it does get tougher near the end, but if I wasn’t helping with this review, I would’ve bounced off Redfall a long time ago. It takes so long to get interesting.

For an open-world game, there’s hardly any reason to engage with it. You can fight anything on the map, which is nice, but after that, the organic actions you’re left with are finding safehouses, searching for collectibles, and discovering landmarks that act as fast travel points like safehouses (at safehouses you can get more missions and do other things). Otherwise it’s empty and because Arkane maintained their stealth design, enemies mostly hang around chatting with each other and vampires are suspended in the air or crouched on a rooftop like a gargoyle.

Besides all the egregious design, I started having fun because it started looking like Arkane either understood their design better or they purposefully held everything back with the intention of easing us into Redfall. I’m not sure which is the case, but Hollow Man cultists suddenly morphed and became deadshots (you’ll know what I mean if you play it), and in some sections I was swarmed by vampires, and it felt appropriately frantic. I felt like I was thinking and using my guns in interesting ways. My skills were, still, mostly useless, but I was able to respec my skill tree and put my skills in areas that were more useful.

Speaking of: you can’t respec until level 10, which is ludicrous. Most other games make you pay a penalty – some steeper than others. I have theories as to why it’s gated but they’re not reasonable. The worst part is, after you unlock respecing, you still have to pay, and it’s not cheap.

My concern at this point is that the fun I had will be short-lived. I’m not sure if Redfall will build on this. I hope it will and I expect it to, but seeing how many stumbles there are along the way to get to a point where it’s somewhat enjoyable, I’m not going to hold my breath.

Anthony’s final thoughts-

I was hoping Redfall would improve, but it didn’t. It doubled-down on what made it awful by doubling what it threw at you. More enemies meant increased instances of buggy encounters like enemies unable to hit you and you can’t hit them. Fast-travel points not working. Awful level design punctuated by a horrendous three-door maze section that was just a guessing game.

I never needed to switch my guns. One reason is because nothing dropped that was stronger than what I had and number 2, the guns I had were strong enough the rest of the game. Whatever damage scaling is here wasn’t good enough.

Everything in Redfall is meaningless because none of it is meaningful. Had the story been properly fleshed out, I would have really loved the concept. But I never grew attached to anyone. All of the characters were empty shells, barely offering anything of substance to build a connection to. Even the villains, who we had a lot more information on, didn’t have clear motivations and their complexity was wasted because of their pitiful development.

The only thing going for Redfall is that it does turn on, you can technically play the game, and you can get through the campaign. It is buggy and poorly designed along the way, but no number of delays could save this game. Redfall is bad.

David Burdette’s thoughts-

I’ve really struggled with what to say about Redfall, both in that my colleagues Anthony and David sum up our experience pretty well, and fighting with the old adage, “if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all”. My time spent with Redfall wasn’t a waste; I do see the potential in what Arkane was at least trying to do, but with a mishmash of genres and never fully realizing one of them, this live service wannabe just doesn’t cut it. If I can’t tell you personally what’s wrong with the game, how about I let the game do that?

  • In one instance, I watched as a vampire was feeding. The human it was feeding on, instead of lying there dead, was instead T-posing over it, with his toolbox floating alongside.
  • I died at one point during a safehouse mission where you keep a vampire in a crystal from receiving nourishment. The vampire I had to fight was spawning in, and got stuck mid-spawn. When I returned to the area post death to retry, there were a bunch of particle effects in mid-air with his glowing eyes in them. I had to restart my game.

  • Crashed directly after the third part of a Mcguffin mission in co-op and had to have my team restart with the fear we may have to do the whole thing over, which was a chore to begin with.
  • I walked into the church to kill Gideon, an underboss vampire from the same safehouse mission as Metamorphosis (crystal vampire). I opened the church doors, and as he floated unawares sniped him in the head. He took it like a champ and didn’t move, so I took a second shot. After that he rushed me, but the point is that he had all of a third of his health left. It was easy pickings at that point.
  • In the same mission I died to vampire fog, and when I went back to claim the skull somehow got stuck in the running animation. Even when crouched and not moving, I could hear my running footsteps, and my gun moved as if I was running. When I fast-traveled back to the safehouse, my gun was put away but I still saw my hands moving as if underneath it in the running animation, along with the sound of my running footsteps. Another restart.

  • Multiple times my gun loadout would change upon loading into the game fresh, to weapons I’d never equipped.
  • I randomly couldn’t crouch at one point in one of the final boss fights, instead getting a “this prompt isn’t working” error sound que whenever I pressed that button.
  • In the same time frame I had no health bars popping at all, leaving me to guess how I was doing in combat engagements.
  • The final bossfight was extremely easy to cheese, with my use of camo allowing me to have my co-op friends to distract the enemy as I did the required interactions (by the way, it’s a terribly designed boss fight). At one point my camo faded earlier than I gauged, and the vampire directly next to me did nothing as I finished off their leader.
Was Redfall Originally A Live-Service Game?

  • Countless encounters with absolutely braindead AI who straight up wouldn’t see me in instances where that should be impossible. That was when they were there, as the open world itself is just empty and not worth exploring.

These are just what I could think of at the moment, and it’s telling when I can only remember this about the game. Redfall doesn’t inspire remembrance of great moments, and that’s because it’s devoid of them. It’s as lifeless as the vampires you fight, and now that I’m done with it, I’m uninstalling for good.

Lead Video Game Editor | [email protected]

David Burdette is a gamer/writer/content creator from TN and Lead Editor for Gaming Trend. He loves Playstation, Star Wars, Marvel, and many other fandoms. He also plays way too much Call Of Duty. You can chat with him on Twitter @SplitEnd89.

Podcast Editor | [email protected]

Anthony Shelton hosts and produces the Gaming Trend podcast and creates opinion videos occasionally on YouTube. He carries some of the strongest opinions among the staff and is generally harder to impress. But if impressed, he sings developers' praises just as loudly. He typically plays everything except horror and most RTS, but genres he gravitates towards are platformers, FPS, racing, roguelikes, fighting, and loot-based games. He has quit Twitter and uses Threads. Follow him at iamashelton.

David is the kind of person to wear his heart on his sleeve. He can find positives in anything, like this is a person who loved Star Fox Zero to death. You’ll see him playing all kinds of games: AAAs, Indies, game jam games, games of all genres, and writing about them! Here. On this website. When not writing or playing games, you can find David making music, games, or enjoying a good book.
David’s favorite games include NieR: Automata, Mother 3, and Gravity Rush.

Executive Director and Editor-in-Chief | [email protected]

Ron Burke is the Editor in Chief for Gaming Trend. Currently living in Fort Worth, Texas, Ron is an old-school gamer who enjoys CRPGs, action/adventure, platformers, music games, and has recently gotten into tabletop gaming.

Ron is also a fourth degree black belt, with a Master's rank in Matsumura Seito Shōrin-ryū, Moo Duk Kwan Tang Soo Do, Universal Tang Soo Do Alliance, and International Tang Soo Do Federation. He also holds ranks in several other styles in his search to be a well-rounded fighter.

Ron has been married to Gaming Trend Editor, Laura Burke, for 28 years. They have three dogs - Pazuzu (Irish Terrier), Atë, and Calliope (both Australian Kelpie/Pit Bull mixes), and an Axolotl named Dagon!

Redfall resembles the vampires it's based on. It lacks identity, and sucks the life out of you. Every time I see a spark of potential, it's stomped out by bugs, braindead AI, and an empty world not worth exploring. I wish Arkane well in their next endeavor, because they need to let this one die.

David Burdette, Anthony Shelton, David Flynn and Ron Burke

Unless otherwise stated, the product in this article was provided for review purposes.

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