Redfall | Critical Consensus
Polished world-building doesn't save Arkane's latest title from a very lukewarm reception
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Redfall released yesterday, Arkane Studios' first Xbox exclusive since Microsoft's surprise acquisition of its parent company Bethesda (and the first AAA Xbox exclusive period in quite a long while).
This created some commotion, as the title was initially in development for PlayStation 5 too, but this version was dropped after the acquisition. This prompted scrutiny about whether Microsoft broke its promise to the EU about Bethesda exclusives (long story short: it didn't).
Redfall was initially announced at Xbox's 2021 E3 conference and due to release in the summer of 2022. It was pushed back to 2023 in May last year.
Despite these delays, it looks like Redfall didn't quite reach the right level of polish, with the title settling for a 63 score on Metacritic at the time of writing. Prey, developer Arkane Austin's previous title, has a Metascore of 84.
"Redfall is not the game I expected it to be," said Sam Loveridge in her 2.5/5 review for Gamesradar. "What I hoped for was a multiplayer game injected with Arkane's single-player prowess, with a touch of viscera, a hint of blood, and lots and lots of teeth.
"It's a disappointment, and there's not much here that would make you think the same Arkane is involved"Sam Loveridge
"After all, this is the studio that brought us the dark and brilliant Dishonored series, the sci-fi intellect of Prey, and the detective thriller of Deathloop. I wanted this to be Arkane's take on vampires, and while they are cool blood-suckers, it's a disappointment, and there's not much here that would make you think the same Arkane is involved."
In an unrated review for Engadget titled "Good enough for Game Pass," Jessica Conditt added in her strapline that Redfall "isn't early access, but it sure feels like it."
"Redfall is not fit for public consumption," she wrote. "It may not give you salmonella, but Arkane Austin’s vampire-infused world is unpolished, underpopulated and littered with glitches. From the jump, there are signs the game would’ve benefited from another delay before launch day. That’s not to say Redfall is a bad game filled with terrible ideas, but in its current form, it’s difficult to see the brilliance among the bugs."
Bugs have been mentioned across the board by reviewers as a massive setback for the title. Fast travel sometimes doesn't work at all, animation glitches or stops working altogether, enemies get stuck or spawn in the wrong place, framerate drops, the game experiences crashes, textures don't load, and there's clipping and audio issues.
Arkane has already released a patch to fix some PC performance issues, but the console versions have problems of their own.
"The game is limited to 30 fps at launch on both Series S and X, and suffers immensely because of it, with heavy-handed motion blur barely smoothing out the judders," Conditt explained. "Playing with a gamepad on Xbox is especially jarring – hefty aim assist mixes with a significant dead zone to create an unpleasant, weirdly imprecise shooting experience. I was able to tweak things to make it bearable, but basic gunplay in Redfall feels bad."
Loveridge said that, ultimately, Redfall just isn't "up to Arkane's usual standards."
"It feels rushed, unfinished, and unsatisfying to play," she said. "Single-player is hampered by a squad-based open-world shooter structure, multiplayer held back by odd decisions, and decent gunplay is marred by uninspiring mission structures. It's a confusing game, full of contradictions, and the result is unfulfilling."
Redfall is an open-world multiplayer shooter with four playable characters – though once you've chosen your character, you won't be able to change again without restarting the game.
"So while it's very much a squad-based shooter in terms of structure, it managed to leave out the character-switching fun that you'd find in something like Back 4 Blood or Dead by Daylight," Loveridge said.
Left 4 Dead and Back 4 Blood were among the titles that players seemed to expect to find in Redfall. However Borderlands is the comparison that crops up the most in reviews.
In a review for Sports Illustrated's games section, Kirk McKeand also saw similarities with Far Cry. In his 7/10 assessment, he said that "Redfall isn’t perfect, but it is interesting."
"Arkane’s level design architects and narrative designers once again show why they’re the best in the business"Kirk McKeand
"While the reveal trailer accidentally tricked people into thinking they were getting a Left 4 Dead-like, the closest point of comparison to Redfall would actually be Far Cry. It’s perfectly fine to play on your lonesome, but the chaos ramps up as you add in more players, to a total of four."
For all the negatives in Redfall, which Loveridge described as "formulaic," with missions often feeling too linear and repetitive, she found the gameplay itself "good."
"Gunplay is satisfying and figuring out how to best wield all three of your characters' powers both in combat and traversal is great," she wrote. "You collect weapons and new gear throughout, and although, weirdly, there's no way to upgrade what you already have, there's a satisfying grind to proceedings."
It's a sentiment that was shared by McKeand.
"Gunplay is surprisingly good," he wrote. "My main gripe with loot and shoot games is how they turn every combat encounter into a war of attrition. That’s not the case here. If your weapon is sufficiently powerful, a headshot will down most human enemies in one."
However, the narrative feels "oddly lifeless in its presentation," Loveridge noted, which "comes as quite a shock compared to Arkane's other games."
Conditt said that the "characters represent a bright spot in the game" while McKeand added they "weren't all created equal."
"The sniper character’s raven feels almost like a joke when compared to Devinder’s electrical pylon," he wrote.
One aspect that all reviewers seemed to agree on is that the world of Redfall itself is a success.
"What is very Arkane about Redfall is that its world is dense and regularly gorgeous," Loveridge wrote. "It's not a huge game, coming in at around 20 hours in terms of a single playthrough, but what's there is compelling and intriguing to visit. Arkane's clearly taken time to make sure every area feels distinct, with historic spots to take in as you take out yet another vampire. It's reminiscent of Deathloop's Blackreef in design and visual interest but it's just a shame there really isn't much to make you need to explore more than the story requires – even if you might want to."
McKeand added: "Each building, stuffed with a life lived – taxidermy, ornaments, paintings, family photos – has a dark past to uncover. Arkane’s level design architects and narrative designers once again show why they’re the best in the business. The town feels like a real place, from the farmsteads of the second map to the underground car parks and parkour rooftop runs of the first."
Conditt described the setting as "charming," adding: "All told, Redfall is a neat place to explore. I just wish it didn’t feel so empty."
"Redfall’s entire world feels dead, and not in the on-brand, reanimated corpse type of way," she said. "There are long stretches of road and entire neighborhoods without enemies or points of interest, and groups of cultists and vampires are often incredibly easy to spot. Combine this with shockingly dumb enemy AI and an oppressive amount of aim assist, and most basic encounters end after a smattering of bullets and little tension."
She later continued: "Once I started playing with a friend, the game made more sense, with strategy talk and shared curiosity filling those long, empty stretches of road, adding intrigue to easy shots. However, co-op also introduced fresh glitches, including floating character models and choppy collision physics."
"It’s okay to feel sad that Arkane made this instead of another immersive sim, but you have to judge what’s in front of you and not what you want it to be"Kirk McKeand
Issues around how the title handles co-op were regularly mentioned in reviews, with Loveridge noting that "only the host will get story progression, meaning anyone else will have to replay all quests," for instance, and highlighting a lack of replayability.
"It becomes a case of how many repetitions you can endure before giving up on them entirely," she said. "It's basically pointless to play co-op, because there's simply not enough to enjoy together, and too little reward for doing so."
Overall, it's a really mixed reception for Redfall then. Towards the end of his review, McKeand noted that despite issues with the game, he enjoyed his time with Arkane's title.
"It’s okay to feel sad that Arkane made this instead of Dishonored 3 or another immersive sim, but you have to judge what’s in front of you and not what you want it to be. What we have is a solid co-op shooter created by a team that’s never made one before, set in the team’s first-ever open world, created in the midst of a pandemic and an acquisition. Not an easy road.
"Personally, I’d rather play a co-op shooter that’s flawed and interesting than the third iteration of a hyper-polished template – Far Cry 2 will always be more interesting than Far Cry 6 and the Breaking Bad man can’t even change that. Redfall has a personality all of its own."
In her review, Conditt pondered over where Redfall fits within Microsoft's wider strategy with Xbox Game Pass.
"As a feature-complete AAA experience with a price tag of $70, Redfall is a massive disappointment," she wrote. "However, that’s not how most people are going to play — Arkane is a subsidiary of Xbox Game Studios, and Redfall will be available to Game Pass subscribers on PC and console, day-one and at no extra charge. The barrier to entering Redfall is low and this might be its saving grace, allowing developers to continually update the game while thousands of playtesters provide live feedback. Hell, that might even be the plan."
"If Xbox plans to use Game Pass as an early access hub, then the terms need to be clear"Jessica Conditt
She compared it with Sea of Thieves' difficult launch.
"When it came out in 2018, Sea of Thieves was roundly criticized for feeling unfinished, lacking direction and being light on actual content. With years of updates and a consistent presence on Game Pass, Sea of Thieves stabilized, nurtured its player base, and eventually picked up a BAFTA award in the evolving game category in 2021. Its ninth season rolled out in March. Redfall could easily follow a similar path."
She added that the game has "good bones," continuing: "There’s room for Redfall, but only if Microsoft gives Arkane the runway to save it.
"Redfall is less ambitious than Sea of Thieves, and it really shouldn’t be in this poor shape: Arkane Austin has plenty of experience crafting AAA first-person shooters, and Redfall is a traditional loot shooter with online play. Nothing in this game falls outside of Arkane’s or Xbox’s capabilities, and personally, I’m interested to see how it shapes up over time.
"That doesn't make Redfall's launch state feel any less shady. If Xbox plans to use Game Pass as an early access hub, then the terms need to be clear. And if Xbox wants to release games that aren't ready for retail, then potential players deserve to know when they're spending $70 on potential, and potential alone."
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