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From Resident Evil 4 remake to Dead Space, and Dead Island 2, the list of zombie-themed game releases has been overwhelming—and we are just in May. Therefore, Redfall and other zombie-themed games slated for release in the first half of this year must clearly stand out to please zombie-exhausted players. Perhaps, Redfall failed to do enough to earn that sweet spot on critic’s good books

All the characters in Redfall

Redfall is a first-person shooter developed by Arkane Studios and published by Bethesda Softworks. The game was released on 2 May 2023 on Xbox Series X|S. As an Xbox exclusive, players with Xbox Game Pass will have access to the game on release day. Players using Game Pass will also have access to bonus content.

Redfall’s troubles predate its launch day reviews. Earlier, we reported how Arkane was greeted with a harsh backlash after it disclosed that Redfall players will have to stay connected online to play the game—even when playing solo. Following the backlash, the company said they will find a way to fix it.

Arkane has a reputation for making great games including “Dishonored” and “Prey” and hoped to continue the same legacy with Redfall. However, things are not looking so good at the moment for the open-world co-op game.

Is Arkane now willing to make compromises?

Gamers that have followed Arkane for a while will know that the developer sees ladders in games as unnecessary. Instead, they prefer players to use their abilities to scale through obstacles. However, in Redfall players will be surprised to find ladders which left some people wondering if Arkane was making a compromise to what has become its grand ethos to fit into a genre it should have avoided.

Redfall allows players to play solo or in co-op with a squad of up to 4 players and face off against the vampires holding the island hostage. A description of the game that was released with the launch trailer video gave a sneak peek into the world and the gameplay.

Redfall

“In signature Arkane style, you will choose your path across the island and through the vampire masses as you discover what caused this plague of bloodsuckers. Explore a beautifully hand-crafted open world packed with detail and shine a light on the island’s darkest corners as you fight to uncover the vampires’ secrets.”

Bethesda Softworks Redfall – Official Launch Trailer

While the story of the game bears the signature of a classic Arkane game, combat improvisation, and immersive sim elements which have become synonymous with Arkane games are rarely found. Instead, Redfall introduced AI-driven enemies that were often unresponsive. This and a couple of other bugs make the game feel rushed and unfinished.

Arkane took a bold step in Redfall

Redfall alternate cover

It is always good to see developers pushing the boundaries of what they can do. With Redfall, Arkane created two maps that are grander than anything the team has ever done. However, due to the size of the maps, the team appeared to visibly struggle with filling it up with as many details that made Deathloop and Dishonored win Game of the Year.

Often, the player (or players) will move through stretches of barren beaches or woods sparsely dotted with campsites or sheds and nothing more, a feature that Gamespot called “half-staked”. However, the second map which players will unlock mid-way through the game feels better staked.

Arkane really showcased its open-world versatility in the second map with interesting landmarks that are closer to the reputation the developer has built over the years. However, the void was still visibly present.

Again, creatively moving from one location to another is one area that Arkane is really good at. The developer tried to maintain this reputation in Redfall. For example, in some areas, the player has to access buildings by going through the roof. At other times, the player will need to pick door locks or climb through a window. However, such moments are spread apart.

No reward for creativity

Redfall

Redfall makes no attempt to reward gamers for creatively completing missions or taking out enemies unlike what is the case these days where players gain supplies or points for creative takedowns. In Redfall, you just have to go all-out gun-blazing.

Eventually, the game nosedives into an all-out gunfight in every zombie encounter in such a way that the game starts to feel repetitive. Without any form of incentive for creativity, players will easily stop trying to play smart or attempt to solve any problem in a creative way.

Why would players even take the pain to creatively attempt sneaking up on enemies when that act is not tied to any form of cool animation? The enemies are simply hacked down in the same way that the player shatters a window.

The lack of animation also means that not all enemies will be instantly killed by a sneak attack. Some will survive the blow and initiate regular combat. That defeats the entire purpose of a sneak attack for most gamers who have come to associate sneak attacks with instant kills.

Redfall has questionable gameplay mechanics

Redfall

In some games, Enemies will show signs of consciousness if one member of their pack is killed, but not in Redfall. When an enemy is taken out with a sniper, nearby enemies will move on as if nothing happened. Also, enemies take too long to shoot in combat and struggle with taking cover.

These combat flaws make it easier for players to take out enemies which waters down the combat experience. Even bigger vampires that are positioned as tougher enemies sometimes deliver attacks that are easy to counter.

Redfall’s Stake Launcher is the most powerful weapon in the game—and feels like a mistake. A few shots will take out even superior vampires. While it is OK to have weapons that kill vampires quickly, developers will strike a balance by making the gun hard to find or making their bullet scarce. Arkane failed to strike that balance with the Stake Launcher.

Redfall

Perhaps, Arkane actually tried to balance this but failed woefully. In some instances, players will suddenly be overwhelmed by enemies which usually leads to instant death. Many players will struggle with these frustrating extremes as they power through the game.

Obviously, Arkane should have taken more time to further flesh out Redfall before getting it out to the public. A long list of bugs will also dampen the playing experience. Hopefully, all that would be fixed with a patch. Notwithstanding the flaws of the game, the story drives the game and still shines in many areas.

The bigger issue, I believe, is that zombie-themed games have been beaten to death. Therefore, developers have found themselves in a position where they are experimenting or visibly struggling to please an audience that is mentally exhausted.

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Anthony Emecheta

Anthony Emecheta has over a decade experience as a freelance writer. Gaming has always been a childhood hobby and he is excited to be collaborating with a gaming company as a content creator. It is like having all the things he loves in one place.

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