Redfall marketed itself in a really weird manner. From everything that I saw, I expected the game to be another Left 4 Dead clone, maybe with some live service garbage attached to it. Until the moment I started it, I still didn’t have a good grasp on what the game actually was.
I can safely say now that Redfall is not a horde shooter that wants to grab you by the throat with multiple battle passes and timed content; it’s actually much closer to something like Dying Light, State of Decay, or Dead Island, just with vampires instead of zombies.
The game’s open-world structure is done really well; you have the map unlocked from the beginning, free to go wherever you want. No need to climb radio towers or complete specific missions; just go wherever and do whatever. How does the vampire shooter shape up overall? Read our Redfall review to find out!
This is a review coupled with a supplemental video review. You can watch the video review or read the full review of the below:
Developer: Arkane Austin
Publisher: Bethesda Softworks
Platforms: Xbox Series X/S and Microsoft Windows (Reviewed)
Release Date: May 1st, 2023
Redfall‘s map is very dense and full of hidden areas, caves, and more. Things have been placed in a way that just makes sense. There are safes and guns behind supermarket counters, sniper rifles on vantage points, and items in the trunks of abandoned cars.
It would be easy to simply copy and paste the same buildings around the map, like a lot of open-world games do, but every place in Redfall feels handcrafted. Each house looks different on the inside, and we can almost piece together how the family was attacked and tried to deal with the vampires.
From the smallest details, like picture frames that were knocked over, most likely as someone tried to get up in a hurry, to rooms that are completely covered in blood, hinting that a family member got backed up against the wall and couldn’t escape their attacker.
Each house is a little story on its own of how the vampires are slaughtering humans without a care in the world, and the fact that there are so many of these hidden places on the map is staggering.
Redfall‘s vampires slowly took over the small town in pretty insidious manners. The opening shows us how they bide their time, knowing that people couldn’t take rounds sleeping forever, and the town barely knew what hit them until it was too late.
After the opening sequence, where the vampires quite literally freeze the sea and block out the sun, we are dropped into the game’s open world. Redfall‘s map is full of hostile cultists who allowed themselves to be manipulated by the vampires.
The dialogue between them suggests that some work for the vampires because they believe them to be the next step in human evolution, while others simply do it out of fear. Some are even scared of going to jail just in case the vampires get taken down.
The vampires are really insidious in their manipulation; they use fake radio broadcasts to lure survivors into traps and spread their ideology for anyone cowardly enough to follow. The Hollow Man, the vampire god, is present on every screen you’ll find throughout Redfall, constantly reminding us that there is no escape.
Most vampires fully believe that they are gods, and they managed to fool a good part of humanity too. The cultists themselves aspire to become vampires but instead get turned into blood bags—these decrepit vampires with a giant blood sack on their back who really only serve as food.
Despite that being a miserable existence, the cultists fully believe that becoming a blood bag is like evolving into something beautiful, further showing how powerful the vampires are when it comes to brainwashing their cult.
Redfall‘s vampires loosely follow the rules we are all used to. Gunshots only stun them, and they need to be finished off with a stake through the heart. They have a weakness to fire, and they also can’t deal with sunlight, which is why they caused a permanent eclipse.
Redfall has four characters available, with two more available on launch day for those who have the hero pass. Each character seems to have a certain archetype meant for them, but they also have other skills to facilitate solo play.
Despite having interesting skills, the character’s talent trees are pretty bland; they don’t change how you’ll play the game and just make your skills stronger or more useful. It’s not a game where you’ll be theorycrafting the best build, since what you pick doesn’t really matter that much.
Progress also isn’t shared between characters, so your choice is really important, unless you are comfortable with replaying the game multiple times.
Redfall‘s open world is pretty seamless aside from a loading screen when entering safe houses, but there are some performance issues. The game really struggles with frame drops; even in closed areas with a single vampire, the game starts chugging. It runs fine a good 80% of the time, but these drops are pretty common, even on a high-end PC.
Some effects, like specific lights and fog, are also broken and look like weird lines that leak through walls. This isn’t a massive issue, but it’s clear to see that an area meant to look atmospheric now looks broken and awful.
The vampires also happen to be quite glitchy; they sometimes zoom through a wall randomly and have to teleport back to continue fighting you. Their AI is extremely lackluster, and that also extends to human enemies, who constantly get stuck on geometry or just fail to detect the player.
A lot of vampires also just teleport around at random without attacking the player or being able to be attacked. The vampires in general just act in really weird ways, which sometimes enhances how scary they are but at other times makes them look insane.
Redfall is completely fine played solo, but seems geared towards multiplayer. Every character has that one skill that would feel a hundred times more useful in co-op, like Jacob’s ability to mark enemies for the whole team.
This isn’t a huge issue, as these abilities are still good when playing alone, but the game is definitely intended as a chaotic multiplayer experience.
The player can establish safe houses around the map for quick travel, usually by restoring power to them, and each of these safe houses has two quests to make the neighborhood it’s in safer. Sadly, these quests are prone to repeating.
The neighborhoods can also spawn vampire nests, which are large areas encased in a blue spectral light that make the vampires stronger. The player can find a door to this nest and enter a mini-dungeon to destroy the heart that powers it.
The nest is a long stretch of linear levels pieced together that the player has to go through. Each nest has three modifiers that change how the vampires will act, and it can make things quite chaotic. The nest starts collapsing on itself when you destroy the heart, giving the player a few seconds to grab all the loot they can before having to leave.
This is a great way to acquire legendary and epic weapons, especially with characters like Jacob, who can simply walk through the entire level in stealth and loot the chests unbothered.
That said, the whole Borderlands loot the game attempts with the guns is largely unnecessary, just pick an epic or legendary gun and you should be fine. There’s no need to keep trying to find the perfect one because it largely doesn’t matter.
Redfall‘s vampires come in multiple shapes and sizes: the regular ones will just try to melee the player to death; the blood bags explode when approached; the siphons will drain your blood rapidly if they have a line of sight; and the angler has a long-range grab that pulls the player in for a bite.
The game underutilizes the vampire types to make them more important; siphons and anglers are big deals, and fighting them is usually a game of cat and mouse as you hope to not get slaughtered on sight.
I can’t say I kept coming back to Redfall for its attempt at RPG loot, the story, or the characters. I came back because Redfall is a really atmospheric game with a fun gameplay loop. There’s a good chance that if you enjoyed the multiplayer in games like Dead Island or Dying Light, you will enjoy Redfall because it’s simply fun.
Redfall still feels a bit unfinished in some aspects, but it has a good amount of content that is bound to have you hooked for 20 hours or so, maybe longer considering how addicted you get to clearing the vampire nests like I did.
Redfall was reviewed on Microsoft Windows using a game code provided by Bethesda Softworks. You can find additional information about Niche Gamer’s review/ethics policy here. Redfall is available for the Xbox Series X/S and Microsoft Windows (through Steam).