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Game preview: Redfall
Thu, 23rd Mar 2023

I’ve been a huge fan of Arkane Studios since their breakout title, Dishonored. With Prey, the French developer’s US arm, Arkane Austin, branched out to create a game that retained the essence of the studio’s signature style but with a more grounded and less stylised look. Redfall, again from Arkane Austin, is very similar in that it is almost a traditional shooter but with a little more meat.

I’d be lying if I wasn’t a bit dismissive of Redfall when first announced. The trailer seemed derivative, and the game looked OK but nothing special. All I was interested from Bethesda was Starfall. With a rather exclusive invite to play 90 minutes of Redfall, I figured I’d best keep these thoughts to myself. 

First, we watched a scene-setting trailer. The island town of Redfall has been taken over by vampires. These seem to be the result of some sort of experiment rather than the more traditional vampire legends. As well as a town overrun by vampires, a few of the vampires have elevated themselves to god-like status. The town is also overrun by human cultists.

Redfall is an open-world first-person shooter which will, on release, feature cooperative gameplay. For this demo, I had a choice of one of the four protagonists, each with their own unique traits and abilities. 

My previous dealings with vampires have taught me that they are best kept at arm’s length or further. So, I chose US special forces sniper Jacob Boyer. Not only does he start with a sniper rifle, but he also has a raven (or some sort of big black bird) that can be deployed to expose enemy locations. Very handy if being spooked by vampires isn’t your bag. He can also turn invisible, again, handy in the presence of vampires, and has a supernatural sniper rifle as his uber-power.

Whilst cultist provided me with a fun traditional hapless enemy duck shoot, the vampire didn’t mess about. As soon as they knew where I was, they were after me. Even with the sniper rifle, in no time, they would be on me. The vampires were able to turn to smoke, easily flanking me. Having more than two on attacking Jacob and things became frantic as they laid into me whilst reloading. Making matters worse, to properly kill a vampire, they need a stake through the heart. Luckily, Jacob’s rifle was equipped with a wooden stake bayonet.

The combat is good, from a carefully aimed headshot to the satisfying explosion as you pierce a vampire’s heart with a stake. Whilst I did have to watch my ammo a bit, it felt a lot more accessible than previous Arkane games. In the past, especially with Prey and Deathloop, I’ve felt they required a pretty consistent playthrough, or else you’d just get lost and confused. However, this game feels like you can just pick up and play, getting right back into the action.

Rather than just tasking you with killing things, the missions do include puzzle elements- just enough to set the game aside from more mindless shooters. One mission had me searching for dolls to unlock the next part. For another, collecting personal items that had me navigating across the town.

The entire map was unlocked for the preview, and I imagine the same with be true for the retail game. The environment is packed with detail, making exploring a lot of fun. Plenty of buildings are open for you to take a look at, but as I found out, they are not necessarily empty. There are also cultists and vampires wandering the streets, waiting to be on the receiving end of your bullets and stakes.

Scattered across the map were vampire nests. These transported my character to a weird place, like a jumbled-up version of the town in a cavernous area. I had to fight my way to a massive heart, destroy its tethers- destroying the heart itself, and get out before the nest collapsed. I looked at two of these nests (one of which I just accidentally stepped into and quickly got out of). I didn’t feel too taken with them, to be honest. They both looked the same inside, so I’m not sure what was going on there. In any case, I can see them being a decent distraction between missions.

The game’s open world also invites players to embark on side missions. I unlocked a few, even during my short playthrough. These offer some shorter, but still tasty, morsels for players looking to grab a quick bit of time with the game or a break from the main narrative mission. 

It’s always difficult getting a feel for a game after only a short time, but I was very pleasantly surprised. The game has an interesting open-world map, fun characters, gorgeous visuals, and some visceral and very satisfying action. I can’t wait to return to the town of Redfall and hunt some more vampires when the game comes out in a couple of months’ time.