Redfall launched the Xbox and Bethesda games E3 2022 present with a bang. The first Redfall gameplay started with an abandoned church. signs of a struggle. Blood spatters on the walls. A narrow attic. And then, boom, a vampire ambush. One, then two, then three. This is followed by leaping attacks with sweeping claws, then hideous moans and gunfire and frantic reload animations and running. Lots and lots of running. This place, the eponymous Redfall, an island town off the coast of Massachusetts, New England, is in a word stuck. Redfall is overrun by countless angry neckbiters who have blocked the sun, drying up the waters that once connected the archipelago to the mainland. And as illustrated in several minutes of open-world co-op gameplay footage, everything looks wonderful.
Not just for its stunning visuals and frenzied gunplay, but because the DNA underlying Redfall seems to be intelligently woven into everything it does. Developer Arkane Austin is the studio responsible for the acclaimed immersive sims Prey and Dishonored, two games that, despite being set in closed environments, leave players with choices at every turn – and it seems the same thing here on an even larger scale. Based on the latest gameplay footage from Redfall, Game Director said Harvey Smith he hoped the trailer would “put all Left 4 Dead comparisons to rest”. For me it wasn’t. But that doesn’t matter either. Because the key comparison here isn’t to Valve’s dormant horror series, but to Arkane’s own unique approach to immersive shooters.
Choices and Co-op
Following the E3 reveal around this time last year, GamesRadar+ features editor Josh West said Redfall and Game Pass could bring Arkane to the global stage where it belongs. A year later, with the sister outfit Arkane Lyon’s Deathloop released in the meantime, that claim seems truer than ever. Because while its games have been critically acclaimed across the board – certainly since the arrival of the first Dishonored in 2012 – Arkane has held a certain cult status in the broad landscape of video game developers. Located in what was once dubbed the “AA” space in the late ’90s/early ’00s, Arkane’s catalog isn’t quite AAA sized, and while it operated as an indie studio for its first 10 years of existence, it was which was purchased by ZeniMax Media in 2010. 2020 was ZeniMax natural taken over by Microsoft as part of the latter’s takeover of Bethesda. And the fact that Redfall opened its own Xbox show at E3 2021 says a lot about the weight Microsoft is putting behind the upcoming game and Arcane itself in 2022 and beyond.
Still, Redfall looks like an Arkane game at heart, and that’s great to see. During the Xbox and Bethesda Games presentation, we saw the open-world co-op shooter’s four central characters team up to take down enemy vampires in a variety of bottlenecks. The scope for variety in attacks like Dishonored has always been bolstered by its supernatural abilities – which allow players to pull objects out of position using telekinesis, for example, or quickly move around the map using teleportation – and the protagonists in Redfall grab abilities in a similar way .
In one instance, we see the player activate a stealthy cloak of invisibility before shooting an enemy at close range and then another at long range. In another, a rapid-fire gun battle with shotguns and automatic rifles ensues in a bar. Later, the player is shown how to construct a magical platform on the fly, climb onto the ethereal construct, and leap before launching a timed explosive into the crowd of enemies crawling behind him. Even in the brief segments shown, each one appears full of possibilities, awkward outcomes, and a real sense that this world is a playground meant to bow to any quick-witted whim in battle.
As much as it has become cliché to say so, Redfall’s open world seems to be as central a character to its makeup as its gang of four players, each of whose surroundings look stunning. In horror terms, the clichés don’t end there either – the gameplay show explored nocturnal fairgrounds, derelict movie theaters, secluded forests, spooky mansions and the aforementioned abandoned church, each filled with bloodthirsty villains ripe for slaughter.
As detailed in the first Redfall gameplay footage, the game can be played as a single-player game, much like Arkane’s previous excursions up to this point, but only with the thought of fusing playstyles and tailored character abilities with other human players, under pressure and in Real time, excites me to no end. The idea of doing all of this in an open world inspired by Prey’s Talos 1 starship or Dishonored’s Dunwall underpins the core design principles that have served Arkane so well, especially over the past decade, and I think Redfall is a must-have for me.
Six years after Dishonored 2, we’re still celebrating the ingenious, majestic, and expert design of the Clockwork Mansion. Ten years have passed since the arrival of the first Dishonored, and Lady Boyle’s Last Party mission is easily one of the best the immersive sim genre has ever brought us. Apply these ingredients to an open world, add a dash of unpredictable people to the mix, and who knows what conversations we’ll have in the wake of Redfall when it lands next year.