People Are Not Having A Great Time With Redfall

Redfall, a vampire shooter out this week on Xbox and PC, was developed by Arkane Studios, the same team behind classics like Dishonored and Prey. It’s one of Microsoft’s first-party exclusives for 2023, a big release for the company’s Game Pass subscription service. And by most accounts, it sucks.

We’re currently playing the game together for our own impressions, which will be published soon, but in the meantime—because I find the reception so extraordinary given the scale (and price) of the release—I thought I’d roundup some of the impressions and review pieces out there from outlets who managed to receive code ahead of Redfall’s release (we, obviously, did not), or have been updating a review-in-progress piece as they go along.

Let’s start with GameSpot, who reviewed the game and gave it a 4/10:

Ultimately, Redfall is a game that should not have been released yet. Its litany of bugs hampers the gameplay loop of exploring its world with friends, and that loop itself feels compromised by elements that are poorly executed and ill-suited to the team implementing them. I can’t pretend to know whether Arkane chose to make a loot-shooter or was assigned to make a loot-shooter, but I can tell you what it feels like: one of the best game studios in the world suddenly made toothless.

GamesRadar gave the game 2.5 stars out of 5:

Redfall is ultimately not up to Arkane’s usual standards. It feels rushed, unfinished, and unsatisfying to play. Single-player is hampered by a squad-based open-world shooter structure, multiplayer held back by odd decisions, and decent gunplay is marred by uninspiring mission structures. It’s a confusing game, full of contradictions, and the result is unfulfilling.

IGN’s review-in-progress is not a positive one, and deals mostly with constant bugs afflicting both single and multiplayer modes:

With Redfall arriving at IGN just a couple of days ahead of its official release date we haven’t had enough time to complete a final review yet – certainly not without becoming a nocturnal monster myself and staying awake all weekend. However, after several sessions – solo, co-op with a friend, and also in a group of three – I must admit I’m thoroughly underwhelmed by Redfall’s vanilla missions and lifeless world, and very disappointed at its lengthy list of display issues and bugs.

Giant Bomb’s Quick Look says:

Redfall fails to compel on nearly every level, not just in its uninteresting story, but also its all-too-familiar gameplay. Not only does Redfall feel like a game stuck in yesteryear, even its performance finds a way to disappoint.

Eurogamer’s early impressions are actually quite optimistic, writer Christian Donlan preferring to reserve final judgement until the game was done, but I thought his anecdote at the end here was a pretty good summary of the game’s visuals:

So how is it ugly? It’s technical stuff, I think, and while I’ll leave that to Digital Foundry I’ll say that the edges – technical term – are a little rough. Textures sometimes pop in late or not at all, so those beautiful trees are always bursting into fiery life a little too close by, and at one point the classic immersive sim storytelling graffiti on a wall was weirdly pixellated. Character models are still and oddly lit. I should add here, I’m trying to be objective, which is always a mistake. I think the patchy textures – yes, I’m really about to say this – gives the town a slightly impressionist feel. The waxy characters are wonderfully waxy, the kind of things you might meet on a trip through a haunted Hall of Presidents. Even so, there’s no ducking the fact that my wife came into the room when I was playing, looked at the screen in horror and said, “Jesus! What happened to Fortnite?”

I should note not all reviews and impressions pieces are so down! If you head over to Metacritic you’ll find some outlets—many of which I’ve literally never heard of, but still—have given the game positive scores, like We Got This Covered, who rated it 4.5 stars out of 5, saying:

With rich, beautiful open worlds, a multitude of weapons, and a wide variety of enemies to square off against, Redfall amazes. Players won’t regret staking their claim on Arkane’s latest masterpiece.

OK. Enough with the professional reviews. Let’s see what people who paid for the game—and if you bought this instead of playing on Game Pass it was a full-price $70 release, an important point to remember here—have to say. Here’s a selection of some of the top Steam reviews at time of posting:

Ignoring the performance issues, this game is bad. The AI is pathetic, even on the highest difficulty. The controls are clunky. The graphics are average. The world is empty. I don’t understand why these companies think they can start charging $70 for unfinished garbage. I couldn’t even stomach an hour of this game.

Extremely average and unfinished game. Poor performance on PC and riddled with bugs and glitches.

I’ve heard great things from Arkane, but this is not it. I played with two friends, who also refunded. Going to try and give it a go tonight on the $10 PC Game Pass instead. But that first hour was clear to me: this is not a $70 AAA release.

I’m going to wind up with that last one because, having played it for most of yesterday, it’s actually the closest to my own experiences with the game. This plays like a remaster of a PS3 shooter. It’s an unfinished concept piece, a pitch project that somehow made its way to retail.

It’s tough to explain how raw the whole thing feels without playing it yourself. Even the fonts look like placeholders. Arkane is a studio responsible for some of the most important first-person games of the last decade; to see their name attached to this just…really bums me out.

Anyway! Like I said, our own impressions will be coming soon, so check back to see if a few days of multiplayer madness will have our team (not me, I live on the far side of the moon) thinking any differently to these reviews.