Thursday, 01 June 2023 11:05

RedFall – How to Enjoy an Awkward, Buggy, and Confusing Game

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For the second of our game reviews, since returning to covering games, we decided to look at the Microsoft flagship game RedFall. If you have heard of this game, it has probably been in a negative light. Most reviews have already come in and they are not good. Everything from calling the writing and plot “Woke” to buggy graphics, enemy AI, and terrible stylized artwork. So, with this list of negatives already in place, why even bother? Well, I am a glutton for punishment, I like terrible games (at times) and it was free on Game Pass… incidentally I also thought it might be funny to see if this game was as bad as everyone said and add something to the pool of snark surrounding it. For this review we will be covering the Game Pass PC version and playing it on the Xbox One Series X.

A summary of the plot is that you are on a small island called RedFall in Massachusetts. The town appears to be the epicenter of an outbreak of some sort that turns people into vampires. The vampires have taken over the town, pushed back the ocean (to prevent escape), and blotted out the sun (we will talk more about that odd point later). The action revolves around you (and up to three other players) fighting against the vampires, and their human supporters, to reclaim the town and (probably) save the world.

Let’s start off with the Game Pass PC version. I am playing this on an Alienware M17 R3. The hardware includes 32GB of RAM, and a mobile nVIDIA RTX 2080 Super. The game pass edition is the same as the $69.99 standard edition, there is a “Bite Back Edition” that goes for $99.99+, but that is not the one we will be covering today. Kicking things off on PC there were a couple of issues for me. The biggest one was the annoying crashes that happened at critical times in the game. Nothing like being almost at the end of a “mission” and suddenly the game crashes to desktop. Since you can only save when you are in a safehouse this means starting over. To add insult to injury, I noticed that my ammo would remain roughly the same as when the game crashed, and I was still out the money spent reloading. Very frustrating indeed

Now, where was I? Oh, yeah playing the game on a PC. When I launched RedFall the first thing I noticed was that even in the game launch screen it took several seconds for the textures to load. This was a bit of a shock considering it is a relatively static image. Yes, there are leaves blowing around and there is some movement, but there is no need to render anything beyond the intro field of view. Pressing any key or clicking on the mouse simply launches the game and puts you into the “hero” selection page.

In RedFall you get the option to choose one of four heroes to go through the game with. Each one has their strengths and weaknesses although none are all that special to be 100% honest with you. They are all some form of generic “unusual/unlikely hero.” Each character choice also has unique special abilities that you gain as you progress through the game via experience points. Your choices are:

Devinder Crousley - Cryptozoologist inventor
Layla Ellison - Telekinetic student
Remi de la Rosa - Combat engineer
Jacob Boyer – a former special forces sniper, turned private military contractor operator

For this play through I chose Jacob, really just because I often approach first person shooters from a long-range attack style, so it made sense to me to go that direction here. Jacob had an incident with a vampire that, for some reason, left him with a spectral raven that he can use to spot and outline enemies in his path. Jacob also seems to have stollen a cloak that grants him a form of invisibility, along with a ghostly sniper rifle that he can call up after gathering spectral energy. You start the game with the raven and gain the cloak and rifle later as you gain levels.

Actual game play is not bad, it is overly simplistic, and the AI is laughable. At one point I was standing at the entrance to a target and shooting at it with a sniper rifle. The cultists that were standing around the target set off an alarm and reinforcements were on the way. These reinforcements ran by me, completely ignoring me, up the road to the target, then turned around and ran back down the road at me firing. Maybe they could have spent more time on the AI here. It is better than some of the “bar fight” AI that I have encountered, but not by much. This flaw in the AI was repeatable so I was able to exploit it in a few ways against not only human enemies, but also the vampires that pop up around the game. This made the game a fairly simple loot and shoot open world, but not an unenjoyable one.

The graphics are another issue with delays in rendering textures, missing weapons (they just are not there) and odd lags in the game for no reason. Arkane went with a stylistic instead of realistic environment, this meant that everything looked a little cartoonish. The human representations are the most jarring with people having massively exaggerated features like feet, hands and ears. It was a bit reminiscent of games like System Shock 2, BioShock, and Thief. This resemblance extended beyond the graphical choices with the game itself feeling like those much better titles. The cutscenes are exactly like the “comic” page cutscenes in Thief and BioShock, and the intro from System Shock 2. There are notes and clues laying around and plenty of loot to be taken along with audio logs in the form of “gave locks”.  The weapons looked like they took inspiration from BioShock. I am all for taking inspiration from a previous and successful title (must have those “member berries”), but this was a poor attempt at that. Some other concepts in the game seemed like they were right out of Half Life, it really was a mishmash of games.

The story that evolves in the game is not good, it seems like they had an idea of what they wanted to do (again inspired by games like BioShock and System Shock 2), but it never really evolved. What I was able to gather was some form of “and a child shall lead them” concept with overtones of how greed and power corrupts those that seek it. I did not see the “woke” that some reviews have called out, but I also became quickly bored with the story line and just decided to hunt and kill cultists and vampires. To be 100% honest, once I did that, the game actually became more enjoyable.

I tried to play the game on Xbox, but the controller lag (even plugged in) was so bad that I gave up on it within about two hours. I will note that here, the crashes, graphical issues, stutters, and rendering challenges were exponentially worse. Because of this we will not bother to detail anything more about that experience.

My Conclusion -

RedFall is not a great game. It is certainly not worth $70 and I cannot recommend paying that. However, if you have GamePass Ultimate and a decent PC you could end up with an enjoyable loot and shoot vampire slaying game. You will need to completely ignore the story line (not hard to do) and just revel in the absurdity of the graphics, chuckle at the bad AI, and press on despite none of this making any sense.
I have played the game through completing the first “Boss” and all side quests and main quests for that stage. I also plan on finishing the game, not all at once (this is not a binge game at all), but through multiple gaming sessions. I am in and I am determined to see just how goofy the rest of the game and story can get. If you are looking for a mindless guilty pleasure game and have GamePass Ultimate (along with a decent PC), I say go for it. If not, steer clear just like Arkane was hoping Microsoft would do.

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