It's also the worst "AAA" developed title in recent memory.
One of the countless bugs in Redfall showing an NPC t-posing through a chair.

It was a struggle to finish Redfall. It was an absolute struggle thanks to performance issues, technical deficiencies, crashes, broken A.I., and uninspired quest design. It was the antithesis of fun and I pushed myself to complete the game out of pure spite.

Prior to playing Redfall, I saw Arkane as a studio that could do no wrong when it comes to their output. Dark Messiah of Might and Magic in 2006 was an absolute banger of a game that did not receive nearly enough recognition at the time of release. The Dishonored titles are iconic and so far nothing has come even remotely close to those gameplay experiences. Their 2017 release of Prey was superb, even if it didn't share anything with the 2006 game of the same name. There was a small dip in quality with Wolfenstein: Youngblood in 2019, but they came back with a solid release in 2021 with Deathloop. I know a lot of players did not much care for Deathloop but I had a great time with it, as did the friends I talked to who also played it.

Then there is Redfall. I have no idea what went wrong with this game, but the result is a glaring red mark on an otherwise solid lineup of well-crafted immersive sim and general gaming experiences. I honestly don't know where to even start with this one as there is just so much wrong with Redfall.

Maybe starting with the good things about Redfall is easiest as there just isn't as much to talk about here. I thought the voice acting was decent. This was despite hearing the same handful of lines over, and over, and over again from my character. I also found some of the lore building notes littered around the game's environments to be at least marginally enjoyable. Note that I said "some" of the notes.

There we go. That is the end of the things I thought were good about Redfall. Everything else. I mean literally everything else about the game is terrible. Redfall wouldn't have even been a good open-world game back when open-world games first started to become en vogue.

The lighting, shadows, and ambient occlusion throughout Redfall is comically bad. Several building interiors had zero light bounces from the outside environment. This led to situations where the sun was shining outside but the building I was in would be nearly pitch black. Here is one such location with the front door shut and then with the front door open.

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There were often doors and windows that displayed as pitch black even when it's clear they should have some light beings shown on them. The surfaces only appeared once I turned on my flashlight.

Pitch black window visual glitch in the game Redfall.

The undersides of cars showed zero shadowing or ambient occlusion. You can see this in the image below that I took only because I wanted to point out a different issue of the dead NPC's feet being clearly visible through the base of the car.

No shadows under a car and a dead NPC's foot is clipping through the bottom of the car.

I saw entire sections of buildings disappear and reappear before my eyes. In co-op, my friends and I saw stretched decals on top of the already low-resolution textures used often throughout Redfall. The blue light glow from the game's collectibles remained permanently after the collectible was picked up. Several different instances of floating or missing geometry were encountered that ranged from missing floor sections, floating gas cans, floating rocks, floating books, and the like.

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One safehouse exit greets you with a view of a rock wall, wherein you can look up, without moving your character, to gaze upon missing geometry.

Missing geometry faces in a rock wall in the game Redfall.

I saw at least one case of an NPC perpetually stuck in a T-pose. I was going to put that image here, but decided it made for a fitting opening shot for this entire review.

I had an issue where map icons remained highlighted yellow long after I completed the mission associated with those areas.

Map icon glitch in Redfall

There were instances in Redfall in which UI elements overlapped with one another. There was also a recurring issue where every single time I went to the Mission Briefing Room in the game's second main area, it told me that I was discovering it for the first time.

I discovered the Mission Briefing Room about 20 times.

For one play session, my character would shout out that the Rook (a supposedly more difficult vampire variant that would spawn in after you angered the vampire gods enough or something) was approaching. And then seconds later, my character would shout out that the Rook has been dispatched. The thing is, during that play session, the Rook spawned and was killed early on. It's just that my character didn't get the memo and decided to repeatedly warn the world about a non-existent incoming Rook fight.

That one was right up there with the fact that across multiple play sessions, every time I killed one of the game's few vampire variants, my character acted like it was the first time he ever encountered them. Ten hours later, he just kept being astonished at this new variant. Maybe he had the memory of a goldfish or something. Who can really say.

There was an issue where, upon exiting one of the Vampire Nest sequences, some of my keys just stopped working. I was unable to use my melee that I had custom bound to one of my mouse buttons. I was also unable to access the game menu by hitting ESC. A sound would play when these keys were pressed, but nothing happened. This happened each and every time I left one of those Nests. It's a shame too, because the Nest encounters were rather unique. You would go into this warped reality, slay some vampires, take out a giant heart, and then try to loot as much gear as you could and escape before time ran out. It was fun but I just had to stop doing them because I didn't want to deal with broken key binds anymore. It didn't particularly matter much though as there were a few other instances where some of my keys just stopped working again.

Glitch where an NPC indicated they had a mission for me to do, but they did not actually have a mission for me.

I had another issue where one of the NPCs in the second area of the game perpetually had a floating indicator above their head as if they had another side-mission for me to tackle. The exclamation point persisted through loads and full restarts of the game. They did not have any such side-mission to give me.

There were a few times where my character's viewmodel was stuck in the animation as if I were perpetually running, even when I was stationary.

None of these graphical issues were resolved or made to look better when changing the handful of graphical options between Low, Medium, High, or Epic either. The fire effects were also a major sore spot for Redfall. They looked blurry at best, when they even decided to render. I lost track of how many times I would lose health or outright die because the game thought I was standing in a fire that wasn't even visible to me. Either the damage field for fire extended well beyond the fire effects that were shown or the effects just never rendered in the first place. Whatever the case was, I took a lot of damage from invisible fires.


Another poor effect of Redfall lies with the red mist that pops up in seemingly random locations throughout the open world environments. These mists are created by stone-like vampires, which can be eliminated using your UV Beam weapon and a quick punch. The issue with the red mist is that, at least for me, they were framerate killers. I took to eliminating the vampires within these mist pockets not for experience or fun, but because I simply wanted some of my framerate back.

Speaking of framerate, Redfall is an incredibly unoptimized game. We already know that this game shipped with only a 30FPS mode on Xbox consoles, but the PC side of things is barely any better. In exactly zero occurrences did I ever see my CPU surpass 30% total usage or my GPU surpass 90% total usage while playing Redfall. I have a real imbalance of hardware right now with my CPU being a Ryzen 9 5900X and my GPU still being a GTX 1080 Ti. Running at 1440p, neither of these pieces of hardware were ever fully utilized. And yet, I still encountered significant framerate issues and significant traversal hitching.

The stutters and hitching when travelling in the open world happened at some clearly defined invisible lines in the map where assets for the area you are traveling towards had to be loaded and rendered into view. The framerate issues? Those could happen whenever and wherever the game felt like it. There was an instance when playing the game in co-op where I saw just 17FPS when looking at the sky at a specific location. I went back to that location when playing by myself later, looked in the exact same direction, and it was a solid 60FPS+. In all cases, the CPU and GPU were never maxed out.

I suppose it's a bit difficult to max out the GPU when Redfall is clearly CPU limited. While playing, my average CPU usage hovered around 20%-25%. When I ran across one of those invisible loading lines, the CPU would briefly spike to 30% while the game hitched and loaded the new area ahead of me. Looking at the CPU threads while playing Redfall showed me that only 12 out of the 24 available CPU threads were ever used to any degree. Like many titles built on Unreal Engine 4, including the recently released Star Wars Jedi: Survivor, Redfall just does not fully utilize multi-core CPUs efficiently. You would be better off having a CPU with fewer cores that are clocked higher.

Due to this CPU limitation in Redfall, half of my CPU essentially sat idle. The half that was working, still wasn't being fully utilized either. Again, the most CPU usage I ever saw while playing was 30% during those loading spikes. My GPU also couldn't be fully utilized due to this CPU limitation, so a lot of that power went to waste. Again, I'm still using a GTX 1080 Ti here. This is a card that came out six years ago now and Redfall can't even max that out while still having massive framerate and performance issues? This is just unacceptable.

Want to know what else is unacceptable for a newly released AAA game in 2023? AI that is broken to this extreme of a level. Look at these clips below. Really take them in.

In this first video, the AI for both the enemy and my companion robot just seem to completely break at the same time. The enemy stops moving and my robot stops shooting.


Then there are these three captured cases where the AI stopped and the enemies had no collision.




There were more instances just like this that I just couldn't be bothered to record and upload.

The following showcase of AI features a wall clipping vampire and a human that just comes waltzing up like nothing is going on. Bonus points awarded for the gun getting stuck in the wall at the end.



Here is a clip showing how the AI ignores another AI dying right next to them and then proceeds to nonchalantly walk into and then stand around in a damaging red mist.


A taste of many combat encounters in the game.


I quite like this one. I'm using an unsilenced weapon in an enclosed area. No fewer than three AI casually walk towards me, each totally unaware of the gunfire ten feet from them or the fact that their AI buddies just died in front of them.


By far, the best showcase of how anemic this game's AI is can be seen in the clip below. Witness as members of the game's two main human enemy factions square off against each other.


The AI is so bad in Redfall that I decided to change the character I was playing as. My initial pick of character had a robot companion that was supposed to follow me around. I could order it to distract enemies if so desired and even give it the ability to have a bonus healing aura which would be great for co-op play. Passively, the robot was supposed to aid me in battle by following me around and shooting at enemies.

At some point the robot just stopped following me around. It was just gone. It would only show up when I tried using its distraction ability. After it was done distracting, it just stood in place. It never moved, nor did it ever engage in battle, and it never followed me after the fight ended.

I decided to restart as a different character that didn't have to rely on the broken AI. The decision to change characters also came when one of my two co-op partners decided to uninstall the game after our first and only play session. The other co-op partner played a bit on his own as well but soon quit as well. There was no sense in my continuing to play a support role when playing on your own after all, so I started the game fresh with a new character.

When the AI isn't carrying around a bag of rocks for a brain, it's busy just being completely unfair. Here are a couple of instances I captured of AI spawning right in front of my eyes. The second clip also features a little reload glitch I sometimes encountered with this particular assault rifle.



Then there was the one time the game spawned an enemy inside of a large object. Whether or not this is any better than spawning them out in the open right before my very eyes can be up for debate.


Moving right along, let's talk briefly about some of the general collision issues I encountered while playing. In co-op, one of my buddies started to jitter into the ground repeatedly any time he moved his character.


The single co-op session also included at least one instance of a player model floating above the ground as they glided around without any animation. This then was followed by the model falling back to the ground and once again jittering around everywhere as seen in the above clip.

There were several instances where I could simply walk into objects in the game world. This also led to an instance where objects fell awkwardly through the no-collision object when punched.



There was this instance where I wasn't able to throw my electric bolt because the game believed it was hitting the railing below that is just barely on screen?


Behold, the most solid pane of glass in the world. Every other pane of glass encountered in the game was able to be smashed or shot through. The glass on this door though? Strongest glass in the world.


Here's a clip of an engaging battle with a bottle that could give this game's AI a run for its money.


There are several of these bottles in the game where they are near impossible to break with a melee unless you are standing at specific angles. I often just shot them with my guns if I needed to break any of them.

Here is how the animation plays out when trying to climb down a ladder. This happened every single time to me, but I only bothered to record this one instance.


I quite kind of like the next one. Here is a clip of my character mantling an airborne grenade that an enemy threw at me. I was in such disbelief right after it happened. The only reason I have this clip is because I wanted to make sure that what I thought happened is what actually happened. Special shoutout to Ray Narvaez Jr. for the background audio on this one. I was enjoying his stream on the other monitor because God knows this game wasn't providing me with any valuable entertainment.


Something I wasn't able to capture yet happened to me twice while playing Redfall is the fact that my character got stuck in the ground. Just walking along and thunk, stuck in the ground because of a little piece of broken collision perhaps, or something else entirely. The first time it happened was in the open world and I was somehow able to break free and continue playing. The second time it happened, I wasn't so lucky.

This second instance of getting stuck happened during a lengthy infodump story segment near the end of the game. I had to sit and listen to three unskippable story echoes (think of them as audio logs but with glowing blue nervous systems acting out the parts). After all three played, I jumped down through a hole to continue, took a few steps and sunk partially into the ground. Fearing the worst and hoping for the best, I ALT+F4'd the game in hopes that when I restarted the game would just load me into the same area near where I got stuck.

Nope. The game spawned me back at the main safehouse. I had to then travel back to where this story segment took place, fight off enemies that repopulated the area, walk through a door to the psychic realm, and sit and listen to all three story segments again. I then had to hope that after they were done, and I could continue that I wouldn't get stuck in the same area as before. Thankfully, I did not get stuck again. Though I did notice my view dip briefly when I walked near to where I was stuck, indicating some issue with poor or missing collision was going on in that area.

Unrelated to the above issue of getting stuck, these unskippable story bits were fine if you were listening to them for the first time. You probably want to take in the story after all. It's an issue when cases like the above happen, where you are forced to sit and wait for one to finish before activating the next that they become an issue. I had another case where I went to pick up a story critical item and accidentally restarted an echo that just finished playing. The item and the echo trigger were right next to each other. I had another echo in the area that I had to listen to before I was allowed to leave, but I just had to stand around and wait to activate that second echo while the first one played out a second time.

I suppose I should be thankful that Redfall ran for me at all. Several people have had issues with the game not starting. Others were hit with infinite loading bugs. The worst of those types of issues I personally ran into include one full game crash in my entire time playing. I also had issues merely logging into the Bethesda.net services multiple times when starting the game up. Repeated attempts to connect finally let me in. Not that I should be forced to even connect to these online services at all if I was playing the game solo anyway, but I digress.

I want to be extremely clear here: None of the issues featured in the videos and images above are out of the ordinary for this game. None of them. I did not go out of my way to cherry pick any of these as many of them happened repeatedly while playing.

A screen showing a story segment from Redfall.

I could maybe, MAYBE excuse some of these issues if the gameplay loop of Redfall was at least enjoyable, but it's not. As I said right at the start: Redfall was the anthesis of fun. Most of the main missions in Redfall involve going to X location to pick up Y item, maybe kill some vampires or evil humans, maybe go to location Z across the other side of the map because item Y wasn't at location X but there was a note saying where it really was, and then going back to the main hub for the next mission.

You do these missions a few times and they just all sort of blend together. Each main mission usually comes with a real-time PowerPoint presentation-style cutscene which was fine. They were odd, but it was fine. It's a style choice and I can't really fault them much for that. If you were planning on just mainlining the story missions though, you may encounter a progression blocking wall.

See, to continue the main story, you must clear three areas of the map. The map is broken down into separate areas, each with their own small safehouse. In the safehouse you can pick up a side-mission to go clear out a location of cultists or vampires. After that, you return to the same safehouse to pick up a mission to kill the area's underboss. These underboss encounters are usually an absolute joke as you can take the targets out with a Stake Gun shot or two from a safe distance. Upon death, they drop their skull and that area of the map is now considered "clear."

Well, if you weren't doing these safehouse underboss missions as you were playing, you may be annoyed to find out that you need three of these underboss skulls to open a door that grants you access to the next story beat. If you decided to ignore those safehouse missions, you are thus forced to do a total of six missions (two per safehouse area) in order to get the three needed skulls in order to progress.

Redfall does this three skull requirement not once, not twice, but three times. Three. Times. What should have been purely optional missions at these safehouses are required in order to proceed with the main story. Fortunately, I was kind of doing these safehouse area clears as I was playing and had the first three skulls already when the time came.

Once I got to the second main area of the game, I saw the writing on the wall and figured I would need to do the same thing and begrudgingly cleared out another three areas to get three more skulls. I'm glad I did, because when the second locked door showed up, I was ready. What I didn't expect was to encounter yet another locked door in that second area that needed another three skulls. So yes, I had to ignore whatever player agency there might have been in the game just to clear out a few more areas just so that I could continue the story.

I cannot even believe that gameplay design like this exists in 2023. It's even more unbelievable when this is coming from a AAA studio that made some real bangers like Dishonored and Prey. This repeated use of the three skull gameplay mechanic just felt like a really terrible attempt at trying to pad out the gameplay time. More side-missions would have been welcome as some of the non-safehouse side-missions in Redfall were somewhat unique and interesting when compared to the rest of the game.

Redfall, a town as devoid of life as the vampires themselves.

I have seen some players saying that at least the gunplay feels good in Redfall. I feel like I'm living in bizarro world when I read that because the gunplay in Redfall is terrible. It feels sluggish and slow. Deathloop had much better gunplay than Redfall. I even asked my friends what they thought about the gunplay in Redfall and they said it felt terrible. It's not great and probably isn't helped by the fact that you are limited to just three weapons at any given time. Maybe I'm just spoiled by games like Destiny 2 that also has a three weapon limitation but at least features fantastic gunplay, but I just did not experience anything close to good gunplay with any of the weapons in Redfall.

The differences in the difficulty options are thus: Higher difficulty simply means the enemies are more spongy and maybe do a bit more damage to you. There is no adjustment to AI or behaviors with changes to difficulty. There are no changes to the number of enemy encounters. Speaking of enemy numbers: There were long stretches of time where no enemies spawned in the open world. For a game that is already extremely devoid of interesting open world activities, having no enemies around took an already dull experience to new lows.

What more can I possibly say here? Redfall is one of the worst AAA games I think I've played in quite some time. It's unpolished, it feels unfinished, it's buggy, and is just completely inexcusable coming from a studio that has, at least until now, created some of my favorite gaming experiences ever. That "immersive sim" style of gameplay I loved from Arkane's past titles is next to non-existent here. The worst part about all of this is that Redfall is priced at $70 (USD). I have a total play time of about 19 hours in the game. That time includes beating the game with a character I started after ditching another character I spent five and a half hours with. I freely admit that I was able to play Redfall for free and I still feel ripped off. One friend I tried co-op with had a three-month free trial to PC Game Pass and even he flatly admits that he regrets redeeming that code just to try Redfall.

There is no redemption arc for Redfall. If I was Arkane, Bethesda Softworks, or Microsoft, I wouldn't bother with more content for the game outside of the two additional DLC characters that were already promised. I would try to fix the major technical issues with the game and then just move on to the next project. Those hoping for a No Man's Sky situation where a golden Redfall branded phoenix rises from the ashes shouldn't hold their breath. To "fix" all of Redfall's issues would require a total rebuild. The AI, the visuals, collision, animations, story, presentation, gameplay. It would all need to go and be completely redone. At that point, you really need to just cut your losses and move on to something else.

I also need to say something here about the (so far) only patch released for Redfall since its release. Arkane put out the V1.01 hotfix update for Redfall on May 8. The update included three fixes: A fix for an infinite loading screen issue, a fix for a specific game crash issue, and a fix for background communication with the servers. I get that performance issues take time to address. However, it would have been extremely nice to see some mention about the issues that are being worked on still. They could have included literally any mention anywhere on the myriad of outstanding issues present in the game. A simple, "Yes, we know and are doing our best" would have been incredibly welcome. The patch notes said no such thing. There has been nothing said on their social media channels either. That is not a good look in the slightest. Star Wars Jedi: Survivor came out around the same time as Redfall and EA at least had the decency to immediately let the public know they screwed up and are working on fixes for the performance issues in that game. These apology letters are a bit of a meme these days, sure, but they are still far better than being totally silent.‚Äč

That all said, it's time to wrap this one up with a little bow and the final score. I'm not even going to bother proofreading this or editing it. Why should I bother with that level of effort when the decision makers at Arkane, Bethesda, and Microsoft couldn't extend a similar courtesy to this $70 game? I know Arkane can do better. They have done better many times in the past already! At this point, all I can do is hope that future efforts are more akin to their pre-Redfall output. Because this? This sure isn't it.


Score
A review score showing 1 out of 5 possible stars on a system using whole numbers only.



Additional Information
  • Redfall
    • Developed by: Arkane Austin
    • Published by: Bethesda Softworks
  • Price: Starting at $69.99 (USD)
  • Platform reviewed on: PC (also available on Xbox Series X|S and Game Pass)
  • Release Date: May 1, 2023
  • ESRB: M for Mature 17+ (Violence, blood, strong language, and drug references)