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‘Redfall’ review: Good enough for Game Pass

This isn’t early access, but it sure feels like it.

Redfall shouldn’t be consumed by the general public. Although the vampire-infused world of Arkane Austin may not make you sick with salmonella, it is unfinished, sparsely populated, and full of bugs. There are indications the game might have benefited from an additional delay prior to launch day right away. Redfall is not a horrible game with awful ideas, but it’s challenging to spot the genius among the problems in its current state.

Similar to Borderlands, Redfall is an open-world first-person loot shooter, except instead of bandits, it has vampires and cultists and is set in a charming fictional town off the coast of Massachusetts rather than a desolate wasteland. It contains four playable characters, each of whom possesses a set of magical abilities propelled by annoying nearby pharmaceutical studies.

Let’s start with the positive aspects of the game, which are the characters. My main character was Layla, a student with extraordinary talents including a psychic elevator that can lift both allies and enemies into the air and a brilliant purple umbrella that can absorb bullets. Her ultimate power conjures up her ex-boyfriend, a spectral vampire who turns up to draw attention and cause damage (typical ex behavior). I also spent some time with Remi, a member of the support class who had a cute robot dog. Each character has a skill tree with a fair number of upgrade slots, a backpack that can hold a variety of weapons, and three guns that they can always have equipped.

Redfall makes running immensely gratifying, which is important given that much of the game is spent walking around neighbourhoods. The run mechanic provides a big and quick speed boost that never feels too slow. It feels like gliding.

Redfall itself is a wonderful town. Two distinct maps, a historic district and a suburban center, are used for the campaign. While Redfall is unquestionably not Prey or Dishonored, Arkane’s DNA permeates the entire game, and the map is filled with a variety of locations that serve as the backdrop for world-building lore, including abandoned churches and homes, shops that can be looted, eerie mansions, hiking trails, farmland, and an amusement park.

There are side stories to learn, safe homes to unlock, and unique vampires to slay along the road. Missions are designed to gradually unveil new regions of the map. The cleaning of vampire nests, which teleports you to distorted versions of the town and offers a pleasant change from the gorgeous vistas, is one of the game’s highlights. Redfall is a fun site to explore all in all. Just make it feel less empty, please.

Things start to unravel at this point. The entire environment of Redfall has a sense of death, but not in the on-brand, reanimated corpse sense. Long stretches of road and entire neighbourhoods are devoid of adversaries or points of interest, and cults and vampire packs are frequently remarkably simple to spot. The result is that most simple encounters conclude with a scattering of bullets and minimal tension because to the combination of this, the obscenely stupid enemy AI, and the crushing level of aim aid. At least, there are always enough of shiny things to collect.

I played on a PC and an Xbox Series S, and the Xbox version in particular had a lot of glitches and crashes. On both Series S and X, the game can only run at 30 frames per second at launch, and as a result, it suffers greatly, with heavy-handed motion blur barely eliminating the judders. On Xbox, using a gamepad is especially awkward because the heavy aim assist and large dead zone make for a very inaccurate shooting experience. Although I was able to adjust some things to make it tolerable, Redfall’s standard gunplay is unpleasant.

The bugs are another factor. Environments appear with partially loaded graphics, framerate drops cause stop-motion animations, sniper rifle scopes entirely break, and the game fully crashes. Prompts to talk to individuals or read notes frequently fail. I experienced three game crashes in 15 hours using Redfall. With the game’s day 0 patch, Arkane claims to be resolving a few known crash locations, so hopefully they are fixed in time for launch.

Redfall can be played alone, although it was definitely made to be played with a group of people. The characters’ skills go together perfectly, and exploring the town with a friend is much more enjoyable. The game started to make more sense after I started playing with a friend. Strategy discussions and common curiosity filled the long, empty lengths of road, bringing intrigue to simple shots. Co-op, however, also brought up several brand-new bugs, such as floating character models and choppy collision mechanics.

Redfall is a colossal letdown as a $70 AAA game with all the bells and whistles. The majority of players won’t play that way, though; Arkane is an affiliate of Xbox Game Studios, and Redfall will be free to all Game Pass subscribers on PC and console from the start. Redfall’s low entry barrier might be its saving grace, allowing developers to make constant game updates while thousands of playtesters offer real-time feedback. That might even be the strategy, in a way.

Redfall makes sense as an early access game right now. Redfall’s fundamental loop is actually thrilling when all the mechanics line up perfectly, but the nuances need care. It’s a mess, but it’s still generally playable. For developers, the early access procedure is an essential tool, especially when it comes to online experiences. Every major platform, including Xbox, has pipelines for works in progress. Redfall has the air of a developing work.

Redfall isn’t being marketed by Arkane and Xbox as an early access title, though. They’re charging $70 for the right to play its buggy, imprecise missions, or at least one month of Game Pass, which is scheduled to renew itself, even though they’re calling it a finished product.

It everything has a Sea of Thieves feel to it, which was the initial “day one on Game Pass” release. Sea of Thieves received harsh criticism upon release in 2018 for feeling incomplete, lacking focus, and having little meaningful content. Sea of Thieves stabilised, cultivated its user base, and eventually won a BAFTA award in the emerging game category in 2021 because to years of updates and a constant presence on Game Pass. March saw the premiere of the ninth season.

Redfall might easily take the same course. The game has solid foundations and has room to grow into a fun co-op shooter with lots of replay value and additions – think Left 4 Dead for the Twilight generation, Borderlands crossed with What We Do in the Shadows, or a scaled-down Destiny with a Stranger Things typography. Redfall has a place, but only if Microsoft provides Arkane the opportunity to keep it alive.

Redfall is a classic loot shooter with online play, which makes it less ambitious than Sea of Thieves, and it shouldn’t be in such bad shape. Arkane Austin has a lot of experience creating AAA first-person shooters. Nothing in this game deviates from Arkane or Xbox’s capabilities, and I’m personally curious to see how it develops over time.

That doesn’t lessen how shady Redfall’s launch state feels, though. Clear terms are required if Xbox intends to use Game Pass as an early access hub. Potential players deserve to know when they’re spending $70 on potential and nothing else if Xbox wants to release games that aren’t ready for retail.