Redfall review for PC, Xbox Series X

Platform: PC
Also on: Xbox Series X
Publisher: Bethesda Softworks
Developer: Arkane Austin
Medium: Digital/Disc
Players: 1-4
Online: No

Redfall feels like it should have been a no-brainer. You have the studio that?s made games like Dishonored and Prey ? games renowned for their atmosphere ? making a game about vampires set in a town that?s been conquered by bloodsuckers. If Redfall had basically been nothing more than Dishonored 3: Vampires, it would?ve been an easy recipe for a GOTY contender.

Instead, we have this version of Redfall, which is decidedly not a GOTY contender.

Now, to be clear, I don?t think Redfall is a terrible game. It?s got some fun ideas, and Arkane deserves some credit for going out of its comfort zone and trying to make something new.

The problem is, what?s new for Arkane is old hat for other studios that are doing what Redfall is trying to do ? and, unsurprisingly, those other studios are doing it much, much better. You could look at Redfall as Arkane?s attempt at making a looter-shooter, except Borderlands has been doing this for years, and they do it much better, and with much more enjoyable guns and much more satisfying shooting. Similarly, you could approach Redfall as a Far Cry-style open-world game in which you?re battling crazy cultists ? except, again, as that very description implies, Far Cry exists, and they?ve also got that formula pretty much down pat.

A big part of why Redfall fails where those games succeed is that Redfall takes place in a sizable open-world that feels totally empty. You?ll wander around for awhile, and then suddenly stumble upon a pocket of enemies, have a short gun battle, and then?that?s pretty much it until you wander around and stumble across more enemies. Playing solo means you?re more likely to die in the battle, since the game doesn?t just have an annoying habit of having enemies spawn out of nowhere, it also makes it really difficult to tell where gunshots are coming from. Case in point: I had one encounter where my robot companion was apparently being shot at despite no one being in sight, and after running away to observe what was going on (since, again, I didn?t see any enemies), I discovered the robot was actually fighting a vampire that had appeared out of nowhere.

On a somewhat related note, Redfall takes a very inconsistent approach to vampires and sunlight. Sometimes I?d find myself battling a swarm of them in broad daylight and having to stake every last one of them, while other times they?d step into sunlight and crumble into dust. Given how much thought and care Arkane usually puts into their worlds, having such a glaring inconsistency felt weirdly sloppy.

The other thing that feels weirdly sloppy? The cutscenes. I found it utterly bizarre that, on the Steam Deck, I had no major issues when I was actually playing the game, but the moment I triggered a cutscene, suddenly everything looked like garbage. Admittedly, the characters look kind of ugly if you get too close to them during gameplay, but I could live with that. You?d think that cutscenes would be the one point in the game where everything looks fine, but the blurry images and weird lighting would suggest otherwise.

But really, the main reason Redfall fails in its attempt to mimic Borderlands or Far Cry is that the combat isn?t very interesting. The Dishonored series was a blast because of how it allowed you to build up your powers. Likewise, Deathloop had an interesting hook that made it fun to go into battle, and that gave you different options for approaching enemies. In Redfall, by contrast, it all just feels a little flat. The weapons are underpowered, the melee combat feels silly and unsatisfying, and there?s nothing compelling you towards uncovering more enemies, since there?s so little reward for doing so.

To be fair, if Redfall had come out from a different studio with a lesser track record, I could imagine enjoying it a little more. The town of Redfall is pretty and picturesque, and there?s enough of a story here, about trying to take the town back from the vampires and competing cultists, that you could see how it could be turned into a compelling experience.

To get there, though, would?ve required a much different game than we have here. Ironically, that different, imaginary game is one that Arkane would?ve been well-suited to make if they?d just stuck with their strengths. Instead, they opted to make this version of Redfall ? the one that doesn?t suit them at all ? and we?re all the poorer for it.

Bethesda Softworks provided us with a Redfall PC code for review purposes.

Grade: C