I’m Sorry But Redfall’s Gameplay Sucks. Here’s Why

Redfall is out now and, uhh, boy, is it having a rough moment. And unlike Star Wars Jedi: Survivor, the conversation out on social media isn’t just about its horrid performance.

Arkane Austin has branched out to do something that isn’t an immersive sim, their bread-and-butter, to do an open-world co-op shooter that’s playable solo. When this was first announced, it was hyped up as the next new IP- Redfall got the “one more thing” reveal at the end of the Xbox And Bethesda Showcase in 2021.

As a fan of Arkane Studios (Deathloop would’ve been my personal GOTY if 2021 wasn’t a year stacked with great Xbox games) and immersive sims (Prey 2017 is still an amazing game), I cried with disdain when Redfall was announced.

I didn’t ask for this.

And personally, I don’t even think it has a strong premise to begin with. A co-op shooter shooting vampires isn’t an interesting pitch.

So every new info drip I heard about this game, from being online-only to limited to 30 fps on consoles at launch, it feels more and more like a trainwreck about to happen yet still, I need to know for myself if it is, and with this low of an expectation I might come out of playing this game and still enjoy bits of it here and there.

Now that I put some hours into Redfall, I found the game’s core gameplay loop to be extremely undercooked.

It has not clicked for me at all, and even if all the design hooks are properly adjusted after months of updates, I am still not convinced the end result will be a fantastic open-world looter-shooter.

Shoddy Looter-Shooter

First, let’s establish this. Redfall wants to be a looter-shooter. None of the marketing says this, but the game has weapons as loot with rarity colours that can be found throughout the cozy little American town now haunted by corporate-backed vampires. And as such, it has to be judged as that.

And to be fair, loot games aren’t inherently bad. I like loot games. I like it when numbers go up. But there are so many games that don’t do loot well that they ended up feeling tacked on to artificially pad the game with content in the eyes of most gamers.

But Redfall misses the point of why the numbers go up is satisfying. Take the Borderlands series, for example. That looter-shooter works because you feel progressively stronger at a decent pace throughout the game as enemy encounters also get more elaborate. The weapons that drop consistently get higher in numbers. And in the rare occasion, a purple or even a legendary gold weapon can drop in the early and mid-game, giving you an extra oomph in power trip. But since you’re not at the level cap yet, you’re bound to trade it off for weapons that are less cool, say goodbye to the weird unique traits they have, but with better base stats.

I have no idea what sort of progression the weapon drops in Redfall are. It’s all over the place. I somehow looted a gold weapon at level 2, and aside from it looking all fancy I have no idea if it’s any good or if it handles uniquely to the normal weapons. I didn’t get enough time to spend on normal-ass weapons to internalise what’s normal, how am I to be blown away when a legendary weapon says screw that and shows its unique perk or characteristics that makes owning one desirable?

Only after I looked through the screenshots that I realise that the unique perks are just percentage modifiers. No wonder I don’t notice any quirks at first hand.

AI Is Dumb And Evil (But We Need Smart Ones In Video Games)

But Redfall’s gunplay is lacking in so many things. The first obvious issue is the AI. They’re just not smart enough to make encounters feel engaging. Look, I’m not a good shot in FPS games by any means, but I can comfortably go in front of a group of cultists, take my time to line up headshots and the encounter under 1 minute, consistently, means that something is very wrong. Enemies don’t use cover properly. Sometimes they shoot in your direction despite not having line of sight. I’ve seen cultists rush into me to engage in close-quarters… with a sniper rifle at hand.

There’s really not much strategy to dealing with the early-game enemies. This also means there’s very little reason to use player abilities or take consideration of the environment to try use that to your advantage. Headshots are very effective- which isn’t a complaint. I find that human enemies not being bullet sponges because that’s what the vampires for is a good choice in design. But the AI doesn’t put up a fight to get you into playing your way.

We can cringe at Borderlands’ cringe writing all day, but it cannot be disputed how fun the moment-to-moment gameplay is. Even with the bullet spongey-ness of enemies, the way the enemies behave, reacting to the combat, forcing you to react as well, are the result of good AI.

I don’t see any of that in Redfall, unfortunately.

“Play Your Way” But There’s Only One Way

Speaking of, the “play your way” mantra as seen in all the recent Arkane games feels hollow in Redfall. Sure, there’s a tutorial prompt to hint you at the many approaches you can take, but since this is an open world game the choices feel reduced. I don’t feel clever for climbing up a rooftop to find an alternate route in this game.

I am never solving a problem, I am merely going from point A to point B.

Arkane’s “play your way” philosophy is profound when traversal is presented as a problem. I want to go there, but there obstacles, hazards and enemies. How do I go there? Is there anything that can help me remove the obstacles? Is there a secret or cheeky way to getting there?

Here in Redfall, the open world design just made everything bland and predictable. I’ve played one of these games before so a traversal problem is merely going around the point of interest and see if there’s an entry point.

Stealth options are significantly reduced. Maybe because there’s a character that has a whole kit for stealth, but there are no one-hit-kill takedown prompts, no silencers and not enough cover to run under.

So the game really wants you to go brash and gun the enemies down, I guess. I kind of dislike how Arkane games tend to favour stealth as being the “good” choice (Deathloop did away with that thankfully), but having stealth there means there’s always a choice in how to engage, or rather, a choice not to engage.

And if Redfall’s interpretation of “play your way” is the many combat options, not many are that interesting, either. Some of them work against the gamer’s muscle memory.

There are no red barrels that you can shoot to explore. Instead, any car, ATV, or car battery you find can be exploded. If you spot liquid on the floor that has visible rainbow bands, that can be ignited with a bullet shot. There are various electric panels and boxes that can be shot for a shot of electricity.

It’s cool, and dare I say, immersive, having these as environmental hazards. But with the AI right now being not-so-smart, I don’t see any incentive to use up a whole clip of an assault rifle to shoot a car that will take some time before exploding. All that time and resources versus a few seconds of standing still and aiming for a headshot, of course, the latter is easier to pull off. And less fun.

Remember when the internet mocked the early IGN First gameplay for Redfall? In hindsight, the game never rewards you for playing skillfully or smartly in the first place. No wonder even the captured footage is like that. I play like that too, because it’s the most efficient way to play- any less is not fun. And this way is not that fun either.

Vampires Suck

Maybe the vampires are more fun to fight against I hoped, but alas, Redfall disappoints there as well. Vampires can be a threat though, most of the times I died because of them. And that is mostly because I didn’t realise there’s more of them to be around than first expected, they overwhelm me with numbers, and I have no idea if the vampire encounter is something I can take on right now.

Enemies don’t seem to have a level attached to them- so I guess enemies just scale to your level. And what’s the purpose of having the numbers going up when you don’t have a point of reference for how the numbers add up against the enemies? The whole town is explorable from the get-go so I feel like I might have encountered an encounter that I was so under-levelled for it, but how am I supposed to know?

Defeating vampires requires an extra step, be it a stake in the knife, a full incineration by flaming them, or shining them in UV light so they get petrified into a smashable statue. Tackling them does make you think a little bit about using every tool in your kit, just a little.

I am massively disappointed by the discovery that vampires in Redfall can withstand sunlight. The game has a day-and-night cycle, so I presume that vampires just despawn at day and spawn in the night. So it was a fascinating discovery when I bumbled into a house only to find two of them. I lured them out into the light of day and… nothing happened. Combat continues normally.

I felt like a kid being told Santa isn’t real. Even if I don’t celebrate Christmas that revelation still stings.

But this one stings a bit more because it could’ve been a wild imsim system if vampires die in normal sunlight. There could be cool moments (destroying windows to shine light in) as well as lame ones (hiding in a corner where vampires are rampant until dawn). That’s probably why they only die under UV light.

And that’s only one instance of many where I feel like if Redfall was a full immersive sim maybe the game could have been interesting. What if we can stack and throw barrels? Create our own oil leak to ignite it later? The ability to lure enemies when in stealth to set up traps?

But so many of Redfall’s design as a co-op looter-shooter clashes with an immersive sim framework. And in this case, there are barely any immersive sim elements left- not even a 0451 reference in-game from what I played (the one on the promo trailer doesn’t count).

But unlike Deathloop, the elements that replace those imsim bits are for the worse.

That said, the world-building aspects thankfully remain intact here in Redfall. The town feels like a believable space with shops and homes, littered with signs that are there to flesh out the world, or to be literal signage. Plenty of lore notes to find to give you a glimpse of what’s happening with the remaining survivors of Redfall trapped in this vampire nightmare.

While I spent my time playing solo where I can afford to stop and smell the roses (or rather, skim through the lore notes), would players still do that when they are in a squad of up to four players?

Closing Thoughts

I feel both vindicated (because I was right) and also sad (because I wanted to be wrong) that Redfall turned out to be a dud.

There are bits of immersive sim design and co-op looter-shooter, but it compromised on both departments too much and what’s left doesn’t coalesce into a fun or engaging experience.

I still respect the good folks at Arkane Austin, and Arkane Studios as a whole, for their mastery of making immersive sims and some of the most talented worldbuilders. The best in the business.

Asking them to confine themselves to stay in their lane by forcing them to only make imsims when it’s those respected individuals who deliberately want to go in a different direction feels disrespectful. As such, I have made my critiques solely on the game, not the people, not the team.

So yeah, Redfall sucks. And it sucks that Redfall sucks.

Played On PC. Game copy received through reviewer’s PC Game Pass subscription

This website uses cookies to improve your experience. We'll assume you're ok with this, but you can opt-out if you wish. Accept