Redfall: Hands-On Preview
Redfall has been something of an enigma for quite a while. Announced with a fancy cinematic trailer quite a ways back, it feels like for the longest time we had no idea what it was going to be. Then as more footage became available, there was a feeling it was going to be a spin on the Left 4 Dead style of game. This line of thought was corrected with the Xbox Developer Direct in January, showing a game that has more in common with Borderlands than Valve’s 4-player zombie fest but there were still concerns that the game didn’t look “Arkane” enough, that it didn’t have that unique DNA that all of their games seem to have. Well, I have played 90 minutes of it and can confirm, Redfall is an Arkane game through and through and seemingly their most ambitious title yet.
Thanks to Bethesda Australia, I was allowed to join them in their Sydney offices and tackle 90 minutes of Redfall to get a taste of what is going on for myself. My time started at a point a few hours into the game, which allowed me to play around with a level 7 character that already had a few abilities unlocked so I had a good idea of how things will play out. When it came to character choice, I went with Remi, the Latina robotic wiz that has a C4 charge, a handy robotic dog and a healing AOE that makes for the perfect team player. That isn’t to say that Layla, Dev and Jacob weren’t appealing, because they certainly were, but I thought Remi’s skillset would allow me to see as much of the game as possible in my 90-minute timeframe.
I feel like I made the right call because I was able to see a fair bit without dying too many times thanks to both my robotic pal who distracts enemies and the healing special, both of which saved my bacon on more than one occasion. That’s because combat is, surprisingly tough. There are two main enemy categories that I encountered, vampires and humans, both of which are split up into a host of different sub-types. The humans are much as you would expect, blokes with automatic weapons, shotguns and pistols looking to get in good with their blood-sucking overlords. Easy to take down, they make up for that by swarming players in groups. As for the vampires, well things are much tougher there. Even the most basic vamp takes a little more effort to bring down, with health needing to be whittled away before a stake can be driven through their heart. Other ways to kill a vamp include setting them on fire or freezing them with a UV lamp and shattering them. It is when the two groups joined up against me that things really got interesting, I was forced to switch tactics and weapons on the fly as well as make full use of my special abilities to get through a lot of the encounters.
Speaking of the vamps, there are a host of specialised, stronger vampire enemies that really take some work to put down. The sniping Watchers, exploding Bloodbags and freaky Angler to name a few. One, The Rook, deserves special mention. As I played and took down these higher ranked vamps, the vampire gods took notice of me and eventually it got to the point where they felt I needed some special attention. They sent The Rook, A giant vampire who looks like he took his fashion style from early 00’s Undertaker. He teleported in, and proceeded to chase me around the map as I vainly tried to put shotgun shells in his face until he eventually pinned me in a corner and pummeled me into a bloody pulp. It seems Level 7 characters should probably not try to take on The Rook. It will be interesting to see if he can be escaped or if copping a pounding until players are levelled up sufficiently to beat him is the only option.
In typically Arkane fashion, these vampires aren’t the traditional gothic, children of Dracula-type blood suckers we are all familiar with. No these are man-made, born of science vampires that have come about because of a greedy company and its desire to chase immortality. It is actually quite the refreshing take on something that has been pretty much done to death in media at this point. The six main board members of the dodgy company make up the Vampire Gods and they each control a portion of the city. In my time with the game, I got to learn about one of these gods, The Hollow Man, and discover both how he came to be and his potential weaknesses. The storytelling in general felt very much like what we have experienced in previous Arkane titles, with a mix of straight-up exposition, cool lore and tidbits of background information found around the map. It works well and the writing, or what I have seen of it, seems to be on point. Assuming this holds out for the entirety of the game, we all should be in for a rollicking fun tale with some great characters and cool story beats to… sink our teeth into.
As for how the game plays, well once again it is all very much in line with how other Arkane titles play. There is a weight to the weaponry that is unmistakably from the studio that created Dishonored. Their trademark mix of Action and Stealth is also here in spades, with the ability to approach combat situations in a host of different ways. The powers themselves are also very much a part of the Arkane DNA, with one character even having the classic Blink (though it is not called that here) ability from the Dishonored and Deathloop games. I can assure fans of the studio that were unsure, this is very much an Arkane-flavoured game, despite some of the pre-release marketing perhaps not being clear on that point.
Of course, being an open-world game, there has to be side activities to take part in, it is simply a given. With Redfall these activities seem to be quite inventive and entertaining. There are the expected side missions that involve setting up new safe houses and taking down enemy outposts, but there are also some very cool things that I haven’t really seen before. The most notable of these are vampire nests, which exist in a kind of parallel world. When I entered one of these nests I was tasked with reaching the centre and destroying a giant beating heart that was sustaining and growing the vampires in the world above. Upon destroying the heart the parallel world began to collapse, so I was forced to hightail it to the nearest exit else I get killed in the destruction. It seems like a simple concept but the combination of the warped map design, persistent vampire attacks and a timed element at the end of the section made it an absolute blast to play and satisfying to complete.
Even after only 90 minutes, there feels like so much I could talk about, but honestly, I feel like it is perhaps best to wait so I have some more context and more material to compare to. I will say that if I have one worry with the game, it is the same worry I have with any open-world game in this day and age. That concern is how it all holds up over a long period of time. I had a blast in my 90-minute playtime, but will I still be having a blast 10, 20 or 30 hours in? Impossible to say right now, I can’t even guess. I hope that Redfall has enough meat on its bones to make the entire experience entertaining because I feel like that is the only thing that could hold this back from being a bonafide hit. I can’t wait to play more and find out one way or another, especially with friends where I suspect the game will truly shine. Redfall lands on Xbox and PC on the 2nd of May so I don’t have too long to wait to find out once and for all.
Special thanks to Bethesda ANZ for giving us access to this preview build.