One-Offs and Editorials

Redfall And The Power Of An Awful First Impression

Redfall was always going to be a tough sell for me, despite being free on Game Pass. I wasn’t particularly impressed when it was revealed, but when my friend wanted to give it the old college try I had very little reason not to. We played on PC and after the Xbox app took longer than it should have to download the game (a regular issue with the app on PC) I was booting up Redfall for the first time. I was quickly greeted by the age-old Bethesda account sign-in screen where I struggled to remember what password I’d used. I hadn’t logged into a Bethesda game since the ill-fated Wolfenstein: Youngblood and had long forgotten I had an account, let alone needed one.

With the login out of the way, I began to scroll the settings, marveling that Redfall’s graphics options were robust without being overwhelming. DLSS was easy enough to enable and there weren’t dozens of settings to meticulously adjust. It was a breeze compared to something like Forspoken which seemed to have plenty of options, except for one to make the game consistently run well. We’ll get to the performance later as now I was tasked with selecting one of four aggressively angsty protagonists, each with their own particular set of skills. I settled on the yellow-jacketed electricity man whose name is unimportant because he only occasionally speaks and offers little narratively.

Finally, with my settings set and my character selected I was given the grand overview of the world of Redfall. I listened as the faceless narrator took responsibility for the vampire outbreak in the town, tricked into being a “patient zero” type. Redfall clearly believes in its narrative otherwise it wouldn’t spend so much time trying to set it up via Powerpoint presentation. I suppose this is the part where I should mention that if you don’t have Game Pass, Redfall is $70 (USD). I feel obligated to mention that because the game feels like it was ballin’ on a budget even at the price of “it came with my subscription so…” I can forgive the Powerpoint cutscenes, I play Destiny so I’ve seen my fair share of them across its many seasons, but something about this one just felt…off. Here was the big introduction to this world, and it was delivered with an underwhelming slideshow that did almost nothing to explain anything or motivate me. I won’t discount my prior lack of interest in the game, but my friend who was very much excited to jump in was equally unimpressed.

Image Credit: Bethesda

After being confronted by a very angry vampire with big Diadact energy (Halo 4 fans rise up), finally, we’re in control, and it just feels…off…again. The controls are unoffensive, but there is a strange floatiness to the game. My character felt like they were always just gliding along, like they weren’t a part of the world, just an addition to it. The shooting feels mushy and weak, even if most enemies go down in just a few shots. Redfall also features the most unintelligent A.I. I have seen in a game since the PS3/360 era. THey more often than not stood there and took their punishment for being in my way rather than fighting back. When they did, they were about as threatening as a six-year-old with a cap gun. In fact, we collectively took more damage from the environment than we did from any enemy, even the big boy vampire we fought in the firehouse toward the end of the first mission. Despite finally getting a shotgun that seemed like it would pack a punch, the guy just seemed to take it like a champ as we confetti’d all over him until he died of boredom. For a shooter, Redfall makes the gunplay feel like an afterthought. I cannot stress that even in the limited time we had the game felt awful to play. Sure there are abilities to complement the guns, but the guns just feel so bad. The abilities could be insane and the moment-to-moment gameplay would still fall flat as a result of the lackluster gunplay.

The game world looks dated right out of the gate with what I assume was supposed to be a visual style inspired a bit by Dishonored. It feels cheap in what was supposed to be Microsoft’s first big AAA release of the calendar year and only adds to the overall low-budget feel of the game. It runs well enough on PC, though there were a few weird stutters that took me by surprise. Nothing game-breaking, but  The loot aspect of the game is obviously inspired by Left 4 Dead, but it too feels like an afterthought. Redfall as a whole feels like a game cobbled together as a series of ideas that seemed good at the time but no one knew how to really blend them together. Everything feels separate, divisive, and distinctly opposed to each other. It’s like a cross-generation title that was ported forward at the last minute, but one from a generation ago that needed to add in all the new hotness that the gamers love at the cost of cohesion.

It didn’t take long for my friend to say what I’d been thinking from the start, “I think I’m done with Redfall.” The biggest shame is that this game had all the press, all eyes on it, and all of Xbox’s hype behind it. It never stood a chance. This isn’t a situation where a few patches will right the ship, this is a fundamentally bad game that all the time in the oven in the world wouldn’t fix. This is a game that needed to be torn down and rebuilt to address its issues, but that was never going to happen in a world where Microsoft still isn’t releasing nearly enough games. Hopefully, Redfall was sent to die so that games like Starfield can fly, but I am still shocked that the same studio that gave us 2017’s Prey could release such a disappointing title. Please, do not buy Redfall and if you do have Game Pass, save the hard drive space for something else.

Leave a Reply