Redfall is an open-world FPS developed by Arkane Austin and published by Bethesda Softworks. It launched on May 2, 2023, and can be played single player or co-op with up to four players. There’s a decent story to keep pushing you forward and although the map looks small and empty at first, as you complete main and side quests, more quests and locations become available. There is a whole second zone too which wasn’t apparent at first, so there’s plenty of content to get through. In saying that, Redfall feels more like a FarCry game than other Arkane classics, which is not necessarily a bad thing. It does feel different to how it was portrayed in the trailers over the game’s development. I still had an awesome time playing two-player co-op with Johnny, though the game is not without some flaws. None of the issues we faced were game-breaking, more immersion breaking and lack of greater potential.
The island town of Redfall, Massachusetts, is under siege by a legion of vampires who have blocked out the sun and cut the citizens off from the outside world. When I stepped out of the ferry for the first time, I was in awe at how the sea had been parted and waves frozen mid-fall around the coastline. Then later looking up at the eclipsed sun as helicopters flew past, I said to myself, ‘ahh the serenity’ as I marveled at the sprawling landscape in front of me waiting to be explored. Those helicopters subsequently got zapped by lightning and crashed while ‘The Hollow Man’ cackles to himself, and I was thrust straight into the story.
Custscenes utilise 3D models in a story-book style set of montages with narration over the top. The voice acting for all characters is outstanding, but I would have preferred to see fully animated cutscenes. The announcement and cinematic trailers were what got me excited to play the game but there’s none of that cinematic action here. The cutscenes are still effective at giving us enough story to carry us from mission to mission, they just could have been way better. It was cool though to see your character’s customised skins used within the cutscenes, and if you are playing co-op then your buddies and their outfits will be in the cutscenes too which is a nice touch. It makes you and your crew feel all part of the story rather than just focusing on the host character.
We get a choice from four main player characters at release with two more coming in the future which is exciting. There’s Jacob the sniper, Layla who has a psychic umbrella to block projectiles but also lift yourself or others into the air, Devinder who has an arc javelin and Remi who has a robot companion, and she can cast an aoe heal. However, these aren’t available until you gain some levels so you will rely on weapons initially. All characters can use all weapons so your choice of character will come down to which skills suit your playstyle and whether you’re playing co-op or not. Playing co-op will increase the difficulty of the enemy units and we certainly noticed a difference going from solo play to two-player co-op.
There are a couple of cool things about the characters and how they play in co-op. Firstly, is that your skills combined can be used to devastating and efficient effect. Johnny played as Jacob, and I was Remi. Johnny would scout ahead with his raven and have his sniper rifle at the ready. I would send Bribon the robot into position to distract the mobs while I moved to a closer position, and then we rained hellfire on them. If needed I could chuck out an aoe heal but we didn’t get overrun too often. When we did though, the combat was chaotic and you had to look out for each other, reminiscent of chaotic fights from previous Arkane games.
Another thing when playing co-op was if we got too far from each other, the host character would make a comment or wise crack about the dangers of splitting up which reminded you to regroup and move together. Also, when you fight and complete tasks together you will increase their trust score over time. This prompts unique dialogue between the characters as they get to know each other, as well as unique buffs for the group. There’s damage reduction, increased kill XP, bonus healing and more, so it’s well worth playing this game in co-op.
Armed initially with a pistol and a shotgun, I looted and ‘shooted’ my way through the streets, taking out cultists and the odd vampire here and there. The guns sound great and headshots have a distinctive sound that is oh-so sweet when it lands. Though when I shot killed a cultist with another standing right next to him, the other cultist didn’t flinch. This meant I approached most group fights with a sniper rilfe and finished the rest with a C4 charge or my trusty shotgun. There are so many things to loot around the place, but for a town that has been strangled by vampires, there weren’t many of them around. There were some that were sleeping under verandahs or jetties and hiding in houses, but thankfully more came out when night fell, and were more aggressive too. There were also watcher vamps that had laser-like security beams that would alert others if you set them off. While there was a decent variety of the stronger vampire variants that packed a punch, the same couldn’t be said for the cultists who got too easy to take out from range with coordinated sniper shots.
Off I went, unlocking historical landmarks and revealing safe houses which act as fast travel points, and the main missions were engaging enough to get me moving across the map. I started with a slower crouched ‘stealth’ approach like in previous Arkane games, however this felt somewhat different. I could sneak up to cultists and one-hit them with my fists from behind for silent takeouts but after a while I just opened with a sniper rifle then shotgunned the rest. As I explored houses and shops in my travels, I started to find green, blue, purple and gold weapons which increased in damage and statistics with some great bonuses. Side missions from safe houses had good variety and were a means to get vampire skulls. Collect three these from underbosses and it spawns a vampire god. There are a heap of newspaper clippings, notes and books to read that gave good backstory. When playing co-op though, only one person can read them first, and for the second person you can see they are undead but can’t click them, so you need to read them in your archive which was cumbersome and I stopped caring about them after a while.
Some weapons have great stats but no stakes, so you will want to have a weapon with a stake in another slot. On PC, switching between your three equipped weapons is as easy as hitting 1-2-3, but I hear on console it’s a lot more fiddly to switch. When you’re in the heat of battle and run out of ammo, it can get chaotic. When you deplete a vampire’s health, you need to quickly stake it to destroy it, otherwise they regenerate to full health again. You can customise the skins of weapons and you find new skins in your travels and as mission rewards. I seemed to find a heap of them out exploring than Johnny. You can also find skins for your main character, both in full outfits and parts for the head, body and backpack. Some of the skins great but the rest weren’t interesting enough for me. Once you finish main missions, you need to turn them in back in at the fire station.
When returning to the station, you will see more civilians as you start to clear out the suburbs. However, most of these civilians are largely lifeless in the station, just sitting around or staring at a vending machine. There are some key characters in there such as Terrence, Eva, James and Allison, and occasionally you will see them having conversations with other npcs and will acknowledge the host player as they walk past, but most of the time it feels lifeless in there. You would think they’d be more frantic considering the world outside those walls has gone to shit. At the very least it would be great to at least talk to them, where currently most of them just ‘humph’ at you.
The ammo replenishment is always a good option after long fights and I always stocked up on lockpicks and hardwires, but the armoury was disappointing. It is the one place you can really spend some of your hard-earned salvage points, however there’s very rarely anything worth buying. You can spend 2500 salvage to refresh the page, but it’s mostly the same lesser weapons. Only twice in my time with the game did it offer me an upgrade. Otherwise, there’s no real incentive to keep collecting salvage. It would have been awesome if we could have spent salvage to add-on to the station, providing upgrades like better defences, more access to a better upgrade system where maybe you could mod weapons. Just something to make the station a proper hub that you want to return to enhance.
We did have some issues when playing co-op in that I crashed a few times and each time it disconnected me from Johnny’s host game causing him to be kicked back to the menu lobby. In other games, the host usually can keep on playing and then re-invite me back in, but not this time. Any mission progress we had made would be reset which became frustrating as I crashed around every 45-60 minutes at release. I tweaked a few settings and managed to reduce the frequency of crashes. For the most part, the game runs really well and looks fantastic though we did have some texture popping at distances. This is likely a localised to me problem, but it’s worth mentioning that it crashes affects the host player too.
Vampire nests were a cool addition and really livened up the gameplay for us – sort of like the plague hearts in State of Decay 2. These pop up occasionally and if you don’t deal with them soon, their cone of influence increases as shown by a blue ring on the map. Any vampires in this area are buffed to be stronger and they were significantly harder for our duo. I imagine they would be pretty damn hard when the difficulty is raised even higher in 3 or 4 player co-op. Once inside a nest, you are faced with alternate versions of existing locations in a psychic mindscape that has modifiers to make it even more difficult. Once you defeat the giant heart at the centre, you have 30 seconds to escape. If you do, you are rewarded with greater XP, though there’s no penalty if you don’t make it out in time.
Overall, Redfall is an enjoyable game to play in co-op rather than single player as solo feels too easy and the AI needs a lot of work. The increased difficulty in co-op felt much more challenging and engaging. Too often we could take out groups of mobs from sniper distance without them reacting much at all. It was frustrating when if I crashed, the host got kicked out of the game too and we lost mission progress. Each character has decent skills to compliment when in a group and the trust dynamic meant we kept our co-op duo all the way through. While the world felt too sparse at times, once vampire nests started to form, it got a lot more dynamic, and I was thankful we got a second area to play in as it initially felt like there wasn’t much content on the map.