We're looking for new writers to join us!



Written by Eric Hauter on 5/1/2023 for XSX  
More On: Redfall

Redfall surprised me in a lot of ways. From the promotional materials, I was kind of expecting a four-player co-op shooter along the lines of Back for Blood, where a team pushes through pre-scripted scenarios. I know the trailers say "open world", but I couldn't get my head around what that meant. I’ve played quite a few four-player co-op games over the last year, enough to know that they aren’t really my cup of tea. Sure, four-player is fun for a night or two, but it’s tough to keep a group together, and I find that I end up wanting to dip back into the game by myself. I’m a solo player by nature, just naturally a little bit slower and more meticulous than most people I play with. 

In Redfall, it turns out that this is totally fine. Redfall has been positioned as a game you can solo, and as it turns out, that claim is completely accurate. Though I've dabbled with multiplayer as much as possible in the brief review period, I’ve been perfectly happy to play through Redfall’s creepy campaign by myself, having a blast exploring vampire-infested basements and busting up farm field cult meetings with my trusty sniper rifle. This is a game where it feels dangerous to rush; the first time I came creeping out of my hideout after the tutorial, I overextended, got flanked by cultists, and was immediately cut down. I’m going to play some more Redfall in multiplayer, but I’ll certainly be playing it more solo. When it comes to building up my stable of characters, I don’t want anyone pushing me to hurry up. When there is a nest of vampires under the house, I don’t need anyone Leroy Jenkins-ing down the stairs.

Redfall got its hooks in me pretty deeply from the start, and it hasn’t let up since. I really enjoy the entire concept – a city that has been overrun by vampires, who are keeping the population locked in place to ensure a steady food supply. At the beginning of the game, the player character has just tried to escape from Redfall on a boat, only to have the vampires pull some hocus pocus and push the ocean away from the shore, creating a muddy trench with a spectacular wall of water surrounding the city. To make it even worse, the vamps have thrown a shadow over the sun, allowing them to float around during the daylight.

With nowhere to run, a small band of humans in town bolster their position at the local firehouse, bathing the area in UV light and using it as a base. Aside from being a place to stock up on ammo and first aid kits, the Firehouse also doubles as a mission hub, delivering story missions to the player as they push out into the city.

The missions in Redfall vary greatly in length and difficulty. Sometimes the game will ask you just to run across town, grab something, and make it back. But sometimes you will be infiltrating vampire strongholds, fighting through waves of vamp-obsessed cultists and the undead themselves. Cultists are easy – a quick bullet to the dome and they go down like a sack of rocks. But vampires are more complicated. You have to first take their health down to a nub, then while they are stunned, you charge at them with a weapon equipped with a stake sticking out of it. Better hope you get there before they recover.

Most of the tension in Redfall emanates from the presence of the vamps. They tend to hide in foggy areas, or collect down in basements like rats. I can typically handle one or two on my own, but any more than that and I'm looking at a game over screen. They swoop around the battle field with something akin to super speed, and if you can't figure out where they went, it is likely that they are right behind you. It was a few hours into the game when I realized just what a danger they posed while exploring the city at night. After getting surrounded by vampires for the upteenth time, it finally dawned on me where they were coming from. They had been floating in the sky above me

As you explore the city, you find all kinds of cool stuff, including safe houses to unlock in each district which serve as both places to catch your breath and fast travel hubs. There are also tons of structures that have no bearing on the story or missions, places that offer exploration just for the sake of exploration. As usual in games of this nature, there’s a lot of environmental storytelling, both through the tattered remains of the populace and the writings they left behind. That said, there are wide swaths of the open world that appear to be pretty empty. It works in terms of the storytelling - it's not like the populace is going to be throwing block parties. But those that need constant stimulation will need to look elsewhere; a lot of the game's suspense comes from not knowing where people are.

I’ve been playing Redfall almost exclusively as Jacob, the stealthy sharpshooter. I tried out each of the characters before locking in on this guy. With most games, if there is an option to sneak around cleaning up a camp with a sniper rifle rather than running and gunning, that’s the direction I’m going. Playing solo as Jacob is a blast, and I've sunk the lion's share of my skill points (each character has a tree) into enhancing my raven buddy, who lights up a battlefield with the positions of baddies. His other supernatural abilities are also so clutch in a bad situation that they border on game-breaking. He's a powerhouse once you get a few levels into him. I don't feel like I'm missing anything ignoring the other characters for the time being; the entire story is fully fleshed out as though the game was designed fully with Jacob as the intended main character. Cut scenes, dialogue, everything feels like this game is the “Jacob Show”. 

I was a bit surprised at the more sedate pace of Redfall. It almost feels like a Fallout game, not so much because it shares mechanics, but from the amount of time I spend creeping around and picking up stuff. The systems are lighter – there’s no crafting, and materials you find are instantly converted to in-game currency – but the vibe of the exploration feels the same. Instead of creeping through a post-apocalyptic wasteland, you’re sneaking down foggy streets, avoiding the vampires that are hanging in the air just above the streetlights. As I mentioned, I got smoked pretty quickly the first time I left the firehouse, but it soon dawned on me that I could control when I engaged in combat by being a little more careful.

Redfall is also a lot bigger than I was expecting. The scope of the game has kinda blown my mind. I was merrily spending hours and hours in Redfall’s compact but detailed open world, under the mistaken assumption that it represented the entire game. I was hunting down secrets, cleaning up side quests, clearing out every vampire nest I found. Then I figured, okay, it’s time to beat that last boss fight and finish up the game, then jump into multiplayer. 15-or-so hours spent playing single player seemed reasonable to me, since there were four primary characters to run through the story, each which can significantly change the game and the combat. In my mind, this wasn’t a sprawling RPG, this was a FPS campaign, so I figured that I was being pretty thorough, checking all the boxes for my review before moving on.

I beat the big climactic boss fight, and was surprised to see a new quest pop up, showing me how to progress to the next area. Thinking that this was some sort of end-game last mission, I followed through, and was shocked to see a second open world show up with an entire new map, a new headquarters, and a full new quest list. That’s right, I had spent somewhere between 15 and 20 hours in Redfall’s version of the Hinterlands, thinking I was beating the full game. Redfall was like “Nah, fool. You’re just getting started.” Which is fine with me, frankly. The more content, the better. With multiplayer, I’ll be playing this one for a while.

Technically, Redfall is a bit of a mixed bag. Multiplayer works great, with players able to pull buddies into their game at will, regardless of their relative levels (there's no random matchmaking, so recruit some friends if you want to run multiplayer). A lot of the issues that plagued other open world multiplayer games at launch (Fallout 76, for example) are not present here. Things are smooth and easy, and your friends can hop into your game to help you progress, and leave and go back to their game with everything they earned while they were visiting. Each player can loot boxes for stuff at their own level, and XP still counts towards a character's development. It's slick, easy, and it works well.

But on the negative side, I did experience a few safehouse quests – needed to secure an area and eliminate sub-bosses – that would not complete. Some failed to register that I had completed certain actions, others seemed to fall victim to the “always online” nature of the game. There were times when I died during a timed mission, and the clock just kept right on ticking while I was dead and hoofing it back to the mission area. At one point when I made it back, a vampire I was supposed to kill was just hanging in the air, non-corporeal and utterly impervious to harm. I had to abandon the quest and reload the game, then start the whole thing over again. There were also a few situations where I died right as I was shooting a boss, and when I loaded back into the game, I was given credit for the kill, even though I didn’t see it happen. Not terrible, but it felt a little off.

I don’t even slightly care about the whole 30/60 frames-per-second thing. I’ve been playing video games for almost fifty years, on everything from a home Pong console to modern consoles, and I just can’t muster the energy to care about this whole framerate hoopla. I’m bored by the entire conversation. I see people online spouting off with sentiments like “We should demand more!”. Sure, buddy, you do that. I’ll be over here playing games. My only concern about frames per second is whether or not the framerate stable enough for me to see what’s going on.

In the case of Redfall, yes, the framerate is pretty stable. I only encountered one problem area where things got a bit choppy, and it was fairly inconsequential to my experience. (It was the Haunted Forest, for anyone interested). So yeah, framerate is not a factor in my review – other than to say that I played Redfall on both Series S and Series X, bouncing my save file back and forth between the two. I didn’t see any substantial gap in performance between the two, beyond the obvious resolution difference – and even that was tough to parse. My Series S is on a 55” 4K TV, and the game looked just fine.

I don’t play many first-person shooters, but every now and then one pulls me in and I continue playing it beyond the main storyline. Come into this one knowing what to expect, and I think you'll have a pretty good time. This is not a game where you’ll be running around like a loon, relying on twitch skillz and blasting away at anything that moves. It’s much more deliberate, and even when you are playing with others, you’ll do a lot better with discussion and planning than with running and gunning. It was not the action that kept me going in Redfall, it was the setting and the Halloween-spooky vibe. If that sounds like something you might dig, then check it out. Those vampires aren't going to stake themselves.

Redfall is a bigger and much more deliberately paced game than I was expecting. Fun in multiplayer, I found that I enjoyed it even more solo. Creeping around with a sniper rifle, shooting vamps with stake launchers from afar, I was able to play Redfall as a stealth game, which was highly enjoyable. Some technical issues still need to be ironed out, but there is a lot of fun here for folks that vibe with the spooky open world.

Rating: 7.4 Above Average

* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company.

Redfall Redfall Redfall Redfall Redfall Redfall Redfall

About Author

Howdy.  My name is Eric Hauter, and I am a dad with a ton of kids.  During my non-existent spare time, I like to play a wide variety of games, including JRPGs, strategy and action games (with the occasional trip into the black hole of MMOs). I am intrigued by the prospect of cloud gaming, and am often found poking around the cloud various platforms looking for fun and interesting stories.  I was an early adopter of PSVR (I had one delivered on release day), and I’ve enjoyed trying out the variety of games that have released since day one. I've since added an Oculus Quest 2 and PS VR2 to my headset collection.  I’m intrigued by the possibilities presented by VR multi-player, and I try almost every multi-player game that gets released.

My first system was a Commodore 64, and I’ve owned countless systems since then.  I was a manager at a toy store for the release of PS1, PS2, N64 and Dreamcast, so my nostalgia that era of gaming runs pretty deep.  Currently, I play on Xbox Series X, Series S, PS5, PS VR2, Quest 3, Switch, Luna, GeForce Now, (RIP Stadia) and a super sweet gaming PC built by John Yan.  While I lean towards Sony products, I don’t have any brand loyalty, and am perfectly willing to play game on other systems.

When I’m not playing games or wrangling my gaggle of children, I enjoy watching horror movies and doing all the other geeky activities one might expect. I also co-host the Chronologically Podcast, where we review every film from various filmmakers in order, which you can find wherever you get your podcasts.

Follow me on Twitter @eric_hauter, and check out my YouTube channel here

View Profile