Redfall is a serious game of the year contender | Hands-on preview

by on March 22, 2023

Let’s get this out of the way right now: Redfall has already done enough to convince me it’s going to be fantastic. After playing a few hours, it feels like a combination of all that Arkane has learned from the Dishonored series and Deathloop, but mixed it in with a supernatural narrative and, crucially, some fantastic shooting. There’s been a lot said about what Redfall is or isn’t, but having played it, I can tell you it’s perhaps more familiar than you might think.

To clear up the questions, it’s a first-person shooter that is playable in co-op, but also all by yourself. Of the content I got to explore the story sections feel like I’d perhaps prefer to play solo, but there are optional components in the world Redfall creates that feel like they’d be a blast with friends.

Redfall is a serious game of the year contender

Of the playable characters, I went with Layla because, to be honest with you, the fact she can summon her vampire boyfriend who will go and kick vampire ass for me was too much of a temptation to ignore. Also, the second I realised she could drop a purple spectral elevator that boosted me into the air? Yeah, I was sold. Oh, and that’s upgradable, too, by the way. Rounding out her abilities is an umbrella that acts as a shield, absorbing bullets before thrusting them back at her enemies. She’s a badass.

That said, I almost went with Jacob Boyer, who can summon a ghostly sniper rifle and eliminate multiple foes at once. What I’m getting at is that all of the characters seem viable, and good choices for whichever play style you like. The skill trees seem to allow you to spec towards solo play, or to make you the best teammate around. For example, Layla can easily upgrade her elevator skill so you can place more of them, but she can also spec towards buffs, so that when your pals jump off the lift, they become more powerful while in the air and shooting.

Redfall is a serious game of the year contender

I can’t stress enough how any preconceptions you have about the gunplay in an Arkane-developed title might need to go out of the window. Of the modern titles it has developed, this feels like a shooter first and foremost, with the powers, narrative, and world building from the previous games. That’s not to say the story is an afterthought, and in fact, it’s incredibly intriguing.

The main story mission I got to play involved infiltrating a mansion, and uncovering its secrets. What was most impressive about sneaking around this vampire infected mansion was how the world reacts to you as a player. You can clear everything out if you so choose, looting anything that isn’t nailed down in tried and trusted Bethesda-fashion, but if you do so, the enemies stay gone. But this isn’t a game that wants to tell you what to do either, and finding the objective was about exploration, and not following a marker on-screen.

Redfall is a serious game of the year contender

It took a few moments to actually retrain my brain, because so few titles give this type of freedom. From wandering around internally questioning the game with “well, what now?” running through my brain, I realised the clues were there. Re-reading, the locations are clear, and I whipped round the mansion finding the objects I needed. At no point was I nudged, it was on me to work it out. To be clear again: I was never just following a marker, and while it perhaps shouldn’t be, it was exhilarating to be trusted in a game world like that.

On top of that, despite expecting a huge boss battle, one never came. My reward for exploring and taking my time to navigate through this foreboding mansion was knowledge, and narrative that made me want to find more, and explore more of the Redfall world, and just how the vampires came to take over everything in town.

Speaking of, while there are cultists who worship the blood-suckers, it’s the vampires and the variety of types that are the most interesting. Each of the (many, it’s worth saying) weapons I tried had a stake on the end, because dropping a vampire’s health bar to zero isn’t the end unless you stake them. There were snipers (watchers), and all sorts who posed a genuine challenge at times. Redfall never tells you not to go somewhere, but I found an enemy it was clear I wasn’t ready for just yet. But I’ll be back, I can promise you that.

Redfall is a serious game of the year contender

Along with skill trees, a loot system, and what seems like a rich narrative to explore, there are open-world trappings you might expect. Safe houses can be unlocked, and side missions are tackled at your leisure. The verticality and powers of the heroes means that no two missions feel the same. Redfall is dripping with atmosphere, from the timed loot dungeons to the main story missions, I genuinely cannot wait to play more.

There are so many questions I have about Redfall after playing it. I didn’t get a sense of scale for how big or long the game might be, I didn’t get chance to try co-op and see how well everything links up, and I only managed to try out Layla (and Jacob really does look awesome). But now I can firmly say I know what kind of game it is, and Arkane continues to be one of the developers in the industry that have my trust, and I’d be stunned if it didn’t end up being a serious game of the year contender. Is it May yet?


Redfall is out for PC and Xbox Series S|X on May 2nd, 2023.