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A third way into Redfall is characterful and fun and currently a bit janky -By Fsk

Welcome to Redfall, where the town’s motto is “calm seas and sunny skies”. Today, the seas are unusually calm. It’s actually quietly terrifying. Step down to the dock and the sea has frozen in the midst of a tsunami – a giant sculptural wave in all its Hokusai curves and froth, the whole thing closed in space, with soft matte edges giving it a semblance of old sea glass. Little fishermen, but also a giant container ship, forever caught in its roughness and swell, halted mid-devastation, its cargo caught in the silent squall.

You see this sea very early in the game, and it stayed with me. I must say here, I’m still pretty early in Raidfall. This is not a review, although it is currently banned. I haven’t had enough playing time, and since it’s a cooperative game at heart – Arkane is calling it an open world cooperative FPS or words to that effect – I really need a good understanding of it with other players. But there is more. I’m playing on an Xbox Series X and the game is rather rough – rough in a way that makes me wonder if one day a patch might fix that. So I’ll give you some basic assumptions today with the caveat that they are subject to change – when I finish the full game, and will change even if a patch is released. (Full disclosure – a patch this afternoon took me out of the build for a few hours, and I can’t tell if it’s improved much until I’m back.)

Redfall is a game about a small American sea-side town – a wealthy one, somewhere like Cape Codish, Provincetown, perhaps – that has been taken over by vampires. It’s like Left 4 Dead in that you go on missions in heavily tooled-up online squads and smack around vampires and other horrors. But it’s also not like Left 4 Dead, because it’s arcane, so there’s DNA from the immersive sim here, too. You go on missions around the city, completing tasks and unlocking safe houses and other fast travel points as you go. Missions are short and broad, giving you a place to go and people to kill or an item to retrieve, but there’s a lot of leeway in how you do it. Because it’s 2023, there’s loot, so you’re always picking up slightly better weapons and saving older weapons for cash. Because it’s 2023, there are character classes, of which I’ve only played one so far — a British cryptid hunter who can teleport a bit, throw an electric spear that stuns people, and a super Can plant a elderberry into the ground for the Holy Ring of Light which turns vampires to stone for a few useful seconds and can heal me to boot.

The game is pretty cool if you ask me, but it’s pretty and ugly at the same time. The art design is wonderful, with great clapboard houses topped with thatched roofs, spectacular trees with red and gold leaves passed into the colors of autumn, and stoops lined with carved pumpkins. The city is quaint and adorably smug, carrying much of its pre-vampire opulence through broad Ozymandias strokes. The forests are lovely and craggy, interspersed with mountains that are interesting to climb. Everywhere there’s a set-piece building for you to enjoy, and a set-piece battle. There’s a light house, an old mansion on the edge of town, a hiking trail to the heights, and a beautiful old movie theater. Theater on Main Street. Catch Me: Your hub is an old fire house. I know right.

Redfall launch trailer.

So how is it ugly? This is technical stuff, I guess, and while I’ll leave it to Digital Foundry, I will say that the edges – technical terms – are a little rough. Textures sometimes show up late or not at all, so those beautiful trees are always bursting to fiery life, and at one point classic immersive sim storytelling graffiti on a wall was weirdly pixelated. 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 craggy texture – yes, I’m really about to say that – gives the city a slightly impressionistic feel. The Waxy characters are surprisingly waxy, the sort of thing you might find on a trip through the Haunted Hall of Presidents. Still, there’s no avoiding the fact that my wife came into the room while I was playing, looked at the screen in horror and said, “Jesus! What happened to Fortnite?”

I’m no cryptid hunter, but I’ve seen some technical problems elsewhere as well. Once or twice I’ve died and reloaded without important parts of the UI missing – I think that’s been the case anyway. The enemy AI also seems a bit clumsy, though I should add that I’ve had the most fun, and played most of the game, on easy settings, so they can be demonstrably dumb for my amusement. What do I mean by clumsy and dumb? If there are more than two of them, each eager to go first, they can get stuck in the door. They are slow to react when fired. I think – and maybe I’m reading too much into this – they don’t always understand the weapons they’re given. In one mission, the sniper came too close to detonate on me, while the shotgunner stepped back and effectively pelted me with buckshot. It has to be said: I do all this stuff in sports, too, because I’m fat. It’s just not the kind of human behavior I think AI design often is.

red fall

Fans of a certain Silent Hill game will love what’s going on in one of the city’s locations.

These are undead enemies, by the way, growlers and cultists. Vampires are often more successful. For one thing, long and thin and often floating silently in the air watching things as you approach, they are spectacular villains. And they often run straight for me when triggered, so I have to blast and stake them when they’re stunned. Racing on me is jarring as I’ve found the default control settings to be a bit cumbersome. They are excessively twitchy, meaning when I push them they move too far to one side and when I push them back they move too far. You know those first person games where highlighting an in-screen button can be a pain until you delve into the control options a bit? Redfall is that game.

It all sounds bad, or at least nitpicky. But here’s the thing: I don’t want to get nits in here at all. Part of the reason why I’m still so quick into Redfall is because I’ve been playing it very slowly, affecting the flow of missions, scraps of notes to read, the pretty atmospheric story that satirically at times. is beyond A space that is not only generously conceived but generously tended to, feels like someone has loved and studied something deeply to create it. I love the fact that my base of operations is a fire house, and I love that an early side mission had me restore my popcorn machine for morale purposes. I’m not bothered with loot, but I do like a stake gun I just got – my third or fourth of this strain of weaponry, but the first to really kick in – that finishes off vampires in one blast.

red fall

I know I must be thinking of Stephen King, but Redfall’s vibe is more RL Stine or Point Horror. It’ll be interesting to see how immersive sim DNA works with hordes of players in co-op.

I also love missions that send me into this lovely world of weird Americana either to do something great and explore some backstory, or to go somewhere cool to shoot vampires. The mission I had for the lighthouse was essentially Silent Cartographer: Pocket Edition but in reverse, going up instead of down. The mission that took me to a massive warehouse by the sea also dropped me into one of the more interesting places to take down enemies using a mix of stealth and outright destruction. Remember: I’m playing this alone. I can’t wait to see what these places are like with co-workers.

Elsewhere there’s a beautiful sense of progress. Getting home safe, which allows you to fast travel and open your own side quest chain. Root out the vampire’s nests, a lovely reuse of a dream-time asset that gives you a raid area to move through and loads of loot at the end. I look at the map now, and I can see my impact on it, as I await more people whenever I return to the house of fire and offer a greater sense of my impact on this world. I have been

Redfall, then: About a third of the way through – I’d estimate – and playing solo in a game that’s meant to be played with others, I’d say there are some good bones in here. Technology appears to be creaking and some ideas – loot and other assorted fatalisms – may have been imposed from above. But the game already has a lot of charm, and it’s very hard to patch after the fact. Calm seas and sunny skies? I’ll have a full review for you at the end of the week.