'Redfall' Review: Vampire Hunter 2K23

redfall mobile
Bethesda Softworks

Arkane Studios are held to a very high standard when it comes to creating atmospheric first-person shooters with unmistakable locales, intriguing storylines, and engaging plotlines. Both Dishonored games, the 2017 reboot of Prey, and Deathloop are clear-cut examples of that development studio's signature approach to game development. Redfall also falls into those same categories. But it also does something Arkane fans have been surprised to see ever since this game was revealed - four-player co-op. Now I will admit - Redfall doesn't do anything revolutionary when it comes to the looter shooter formula. Plus its graphical prowess and technical performance are shoddy in parts, which is highly disappointing considering it's being launched on Xbox Series X|S and PC hardware. While those deficiencies are disappointing, I still found myself having a lot more fun than I expected in this first-person vampire hunter. Now let's get into my full Redfall review.

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'Redfall' Review

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Bethesda Softworks

So here's the gist of the plot - the small island town of Redfall, Massachusetts, ends up within the grasp of vicious vampires. Their unsavory presence comes due in part to a failed scientific experiment. As you make your way deeper into the story, you'll run into the usual suspects connected to a story of its kind - a sinister therapeutic company, a crazed medical professional, and a mysterious device that results in him and several others transforming into bloodsuckers. Now it must be said - Redfall's plot won't get a ton of points for originality by any means. But it's not lacking by any means - I found myself playing through the campaign's main story missions in quick succession to learn more about the "Hollow Man" and everything that resulted in everything going awry in the first place.

While the storytelling isn't mindblowing by any means, I was fascinated by the environmental storytelling Redfall features. The very first mindblowing sight I peeped at was a solidified water wall that led to my only way of escaping being permanently capsized. The small-town Americana vibes are combined with gothic horror themes to produce a familiar yet creepy locale full of intriguing things to see. I love the fact that the open-world map for Redfall isn't too big - it's actually quite manageable and not overwhelming whatsoever. Wandering into abandoned churches, running along beachside fronts, perusing through vampire-filled shipyards, and wading into a massive mansion in the dead of night all presented compelling explorative segments. I'll give credit where credit is due - Arkane Austin has done a fine job here at creating a great atmosphere that's welcoming when the sun's out and spooky when the moon comes out.

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Bethesda Softworks

Redfall can be experienced solo or through a co-op option with up to three friends by your side. The co-op option is the best way to go since you'll have a ton of fun blasting vampires and their human followers while activating each character's special abilities to keep them all at bay. I chose to start my initial playthrough as the telekinetic student Layla Ellison, who's capable of bringing up a psychokinetic shield that can be sent out as a projectile, planting an elevator in the ground that can send her up into the air for a few seconds, and sending her demonic ex-boyfriend out onto the battlefield to tear up some baddies. The gunplay that's implemented here doesn't stray too far from your average first-person shooter mechanics - you'll be able to wield all manner of shotguns, pistols, revolvers, sniper rifles, and assault rifles. Redfall does go out of its way to inject some different weapon types that give you a bigger advantage against the growing vampire horde - a Portable UV Beam, a Stake Launcher, and even an Electric Pistol can be equipped and put to good use against Redfall's varied vampiric detractors.

On the enemy front, you'll have to contend with human cultists and their vampire overseers. The humans are nothing to worry about since their AI behaviors make them come off as simpletons who are incapable of putting you in too much danger. However, Redfall does have a bunch of vampire types that force you to change up your attack methods. Basic bloodsuckers are joined by vamps with sniper fire beams emanating from their heads, ones that can grab you from afar with their magic-powered lasso, other types that can reheal themselves by sucking your blood from a distance, and more. The real challenge of Redfall comes from struggling with multiple vampires at once, especially when you're trying to permanently close "Vampire Nests."

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Bethesda Softworks

Redfall certainly gives you plenty of incentive to do and find everything possible. Finding safehouses to turn them into fast travel hubs, closing down Vampire Nests in order to collect their extra rare goodies, and looting everything you come across with the aid of lockpicks and rewire kits provided me with a fun gameplay loop that's enjoyable via solo and co-op play. But while I was tending to all those activities, I couldn't help but take note of the ho-hum visuals being presented to me. Playing this FPS on an Xbox Series X at a locked 30fps at launch is a huge letdown. And what's even more dissatisfying are instances where texture pop-in and visible texture loading take place more often than not. Arkane Studios' games have a certain look when it comes to their character design. They looked fine enough back then when I came across them in Dishonored, but they look more off-putting and downright ugly up close in Redfall. The stylized look of the vampires makes sense, but the humans simply don't look all that great in comparison to their supernatural counterparts. I just couldn't put this Redfall review together without acknowledging some of the game's uglier visual attributes.

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