After more than a year of content drought from Xbox Game Studios, Arkane’s vampire hunting RPG Redfall has arrived as the next big Xbox exclusive, and it’s a complete insult to anyone invested in Microsoft’s console ecosystem.
Following the hype of Hi-Fi Rush, a surprise launch from Tango Gameworks, Redfall has been pushed the saving grace of Xbox’s exclusive lineup. It’s everything Xbox is known for: action-packed FPS gameplay, online co-op and mature-rated content. Unfortunately, Redfall falls short on every aspect of its design, and it’s legitimately painful to see any game — let alone a title from Dishonored developer Arkane — launch in such a sorry state.
At the time of writing, we’ve only spent a few hours playing Redfall. Booting up the game in co-op, as the game is intended to be played, we were immediately met with an inexcusable number of issues.
My co-op partner, playing cross-play on PC, wasn’t able to see the vast majority of items in the world. In the tutorial mission guns wouldn’t spawn, mission-centric objects were gone, the game’s dangerous red mist was invisible and entire groups of models — cars, corpses, boxes and gates — were nowhere to be seen.
After a restart, everything was fine and dandy, but Redfall’s horrid first impression only leads to a bafflingly disappointing final game. Once you complete its tutorial mission, Redfall becomes a shoddy single-player game with bolted on co-op that feels like it was rushed out of the now-dead Steam Greenlight program.
The main mission structure of Arkane’s newest Xbox exclusive is similar to that of more successful multiplayer games like The Division. In a safe house, you’ll access a mission table that lets you select your next objective. Afterwards, you leave and make your way to the mission area.
In the inescapable, vampire-infested, titular town of Redfall, streets are completely lifeless. Small hubs of two-or-three human enemies populate specific houses, occasionally a vampire may be floating in the middle of the street, but Arkane’s latest is remarkably barren.
Within half-an-hour, you’ll have access to a dozen different weapons, more guns than any batch of enemies you’ll encounter in the first few hours of playing. Even worse, when you finally do encounter something to fight, enemy AI is so ridiculously archaic that you’ll only die if you manage to shoot one of the game’s many explosive environmental objects.
In just a few hours, Redfall’s gameplay formula is already spread thin. Go to the safe house, walk to a mission area, shoot a few enemies, rinse and repeat. You’ll also unlock a number of class-specific abilities, such as being able to summon an elevator, but even these skills fail to make the game exciting at all.
In a time when Xbox Game Studios desperately needs killer exclusives, Redfall genuinely feels like an insult to Xbox gamers. After the cancellation of Phantom Dust and Scalebound, the botched launch of Halo Infinite and the complete lack of other exclusive titles, the release of Redfall is another major disappointment in the Xbox Series story.
Unfortunately, it also makes it clear that without investment, Xbox’s plans are wildly unpolished for a console lifecycle. Without its acquisition of Zenimax Media, Redfall wouldn’t even be an Xbox exclusive. Which leads to the question: what is Xbox Game Studios even planning?
I have been an Xbox gamer since I first played Halo on the original Xbox. As my favourite game series, Halo has made me an Xbox fan for generations. However, when compared to the prestigious exclusive lineup offered by Sony — Ratchet and Clank, Demon’s Souls, Last of Us, Spider-Man 2, Final Fantasy 16 and countless more — Xbox is so far behind that it’s not even a competition anymore, it’s a murder. Or, more specifically to Xbox, it’s a suicide.