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October 2023


Platform(s): PC, Xbox Series X
Genre: First-Person Shooter
Publisher: Microsoft Game Studios
Developer: Arkane Studios
Release Date: May 2, 2023


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PC/Xbox Series X|S Preview - 'Redfall'

by Adam Pavlacka on April 21, 2023 @ 12:53 a.m. PDT

Redfall is a co-op, open-world, first-person shooter where up to four players face off against a legion of vampires that have overtaken the once-quaint island town of Redfall.

Spend some time in the New England, they said. Enjoy the lobster and the fresh ocean air, they said. Check out the island town of Redfall, they said. Unfortunately, no one told you that the island was being taken over by vampires, who not only have the power to block the ocean Moses style (effectively trapping you on the island), but they can also block the sun, allowing the vampires the freedom to wander around during the day. These guys really do give new meaning to the term "Masshole." So, where did they come from?

Discovering the story is part of the adventure in Redfall. The basics are laid out for you from the start. There is a mysterious company, Aevum, that was conducting medical experiments for the ostensible purpose of "saving lives," though they were looking for the secret to immortality. Something went very wrong (or possibly very right), and the vampires emerged.

Before starting a game, you need to choose one of four characters. Each has different abilities, which lend themselves to different styles of play. For example, one is a sniper, another has a robot dog that can assist by distracting the enemies, etc. When playing solo, you're limited to only your character's abilities, but when playing in a group, you can combine powers to pull off more complex attacks.

My character of choice ended up being Layla Ellison. Layla is the youngest of the characters, and she was affected by the weirdness on the island. There was no explanation for it during the part of the game I played (perhaps it is revealed later on in the story), but Layla has some telekinetic powers, including the ability to create an elevator/boost pad. Being able to easily reach extra high places can mean avoiding unnecessary fights as well as enabling shortcuts in the open-world map.

While exploring, there were two main types of enemies to worry about: vampires and cultists. The cultists worship the vampires, but they're mostly cannon fodder. As fellow humans, they don't stand up too well to bullets. Vampires, on the other hand, took a bit more work to take down. Bullets can injure a vampire, but they can't kill it. For that, you need to get all stabby-stabby and stake it through the heart. Alternatively, you can also use a UV gun to roast a vampire, turning them to stone.

Most of the vampires I encountered were of the standard sort, but there are stronger versions that appear from time to time. One was a flying vampire that attacked by yanking me into the air. The other was the Rook, a super-powered beastie that only appeared after I had caused a bit too much trouble (imagine a five-star GTA rating, only instead of cops, you've got a super vamp after you). Yeah, I didn't last too long there, but the developers also mentioned that not too many people do the first time that it happens. I'm curious to find out if the Rook is more about balancing aggression with stealth (to keep from raising the alarm over time) or if it's more about preparing before the big bad attacks. Thankfully, getting killed didn't seem to have too much of a downside. When I respawned, I just had to do a bit of backtracking, and I was on my way again.

On my way to complete the story mission, I took a detour to unlock a safehouse (which doubles as an additional respawn point) and clear out a vampire nest or two. The nests are vampire centers of power that appear to exist in a kind of parallel dimension. Once you find a nest portal, you're in a surreal, alternate chunk of Redfall. The goal is to survive and eliminate the heart to both bring down the nest and collect some impressive rewards. After all, you've got to keep upgrading your gear if you want to survive long term.

The story mission had me exploring a doctor's mansion, albeit one that looked like it had been torn apart by a supernatural force. It ended up raising more questions than it answered, which seems to be in line with how the story elements are doled out. As I explored the town, the story seemed to be conveyed through conversations with others and via discovered recordings. Scavengers who are willing to poke around in every nook and cranny will likely be rewarded on the lore front.

Speaking of lore, I mentioned earlier that Layla had been altered somehow by the events that kicked off the vampire invasion. Well, it also altered her ex-boyfriend, who serves as her ultimate ability. Unlike the majority of vampires in Redfall, the ex is a friendly vampire who can come to your aid in a pinch. I didn't run across any other friendly vampires during my time, so it's difficult to say if he's the only one, or if there may be others out there.

Based on first impressions, going through Redfall as a solo player should be rewarding, but the real fun isn't likely to happen until you group up with some friends and get the party started. While exploring the world as Layla was enjoyable, some of the fights felt like they would've been more interesting with a human teammate or two. You'll be able to stack powers, and a different strategy can come into play with a full team. One member can tank, while another flanks, and so on. Looking around the town, I noticed what looked like plenty of opportunities to play strategically. I'd love to see how those work in practice.

Redfall shares a lot of mechanics with existing games, but the way in which everything is mixed together feels fresh. If that feeling can be maintained throughout the whole experience, Arkane will have a winner on its hands. Check back soon for our verdict on the complete game.

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