A lot is riding on Redfall, the new first-person shooting vampire slaying game out today (2 May) for Xbox consoles and PC. Not only is it the latest game from Arkane Studios, creators of critically acclaimed hits like Dishonoured, Prey and Deathloop, it’s the first blockbuster Xbox console exclusive since Microsoft folded parent company Bethesda into its Xbox Game Studios portfolio.
Xbox’s first-party offerings (ie, the games that appear only on Xbox consoles, and are not available on other platforms like PlayStation 5) have in recent years been seen to be lacking when put up against Sony’s own brand of polished, big-budget exclusive experiences.
For instance, 2022 was a dry year for Microsoft in this respect, with only a handful of mid-budget, niche exclusives released only for Xbox consoles compared to Sony’s blockbustin’ “triple-A” experiences, like Horizon: Forbidden West or God of War: Ragnarok.
So can Redfall begin to right the ship for Microsoft, and kick off a run of well-received, big-budget first-party exclusives that just maybe could tempt PlayStation devotees over to the alternative console?
Well, the first reviews for Redfall are starting to appear online. And let’s just say, Microsoft executives might just be reading them with sweaty palms. Here is everything you need to know.
What is Redfall?
Firstly, a little context on what the game itself is actually trying to be. In Redfall, a legion of vampires is occupying the titular Massachusetts island town, and have cut off the residents’ access to the outside world and the sun.
In the past, Arkane Studios have put together tight, single-player focused shooter experiences that allow players to explore a bespoke virtual world at their own pace, utilising all manner of tools and equipment to make their way through the environment in whichever way they choose.
Redfall retains these trademark features to an extent, but also sees the studio experimenting with something new. Instead of being a single-player first experience, Redfall was built around online multiplayer, designed to be best enjoyed as a group of friends taking on hordes of a vampiric foe.
Trailers showed the onscreen chaos ramping up as more co-operating players were added to the mix, each unleashing special abilities and taking down enemies in a cacophony of impressive graphical effects. While that admittedly looked fun, it left fans of the studio wondering if playing through the game solo would be quite as bombastic.
While these types of online-focused “live service” games are commonplace, they’re not overly welcomed by gaming fans, who would much prefer highly curated, streamlined single-player experiences over less intricately designed experiences that rely on emergent moments of team-based gameplay over impactful story beats.
It also doesn’t help that the majority of these kinds of games are thinly veiled attempts at making the studios behind them as much money as possible through additional paid-for content, battle passes and other cash generating avenues.
Ahead of the game’s launch, fans were cautiously optimistic about Redfall. Online fan forums clearly hoped that the game would surpass expectations, but those expectations seemed uncharacteristically low to begin with.
Then, just a couple of weeks out from release, news broke that the game would not be shipping with a 60 frames-per-second (FPS) mode, a now common graphical option that will instead be added to the game at an unconfirmed later date.
Higher frame rates, such as 60fps, mean that games can display more frames per second, resulting in smoother and more fluid animations. This can provide more accurate control over player movement and aiming - especially important in games like Redfall where split-second decisions can make the difference between winning and losing.
Is it any good?
Now, on to the all important reviews. The first thing to say is, the critical response to Redfall has not been good. Not outright terrible, but in an industry still overly reliant on easy to parse review scores bringing in less hardcore gaming fans to new titles, many times a 7/10 review might as well be a 3/10.
Put it this way: Redfall is unlikely to be the first-party, triple-A blockbuster exclusive watershed moment Xbox executives - and many of its fans - would have hoped for.
GameSpot’s Mark Delaney scythed down the game, giving it just four-out-of-10 in his review. Pondering whether Arkane Studios truly wanted to make this type of game (or were assigned the task by cash hungry higher-ups), he said “one of the best game studios in the world” has suddenly been “made toothless”, and Redfall is full of “elements that are poorly executed and ill-suited to the team implementing them.”
“Redfall is a game that should not have been released yet,” he added. “Its litany of bugs hampers the gameplay loop of exploring its world with friends, and that loop itself feels compromised.”
Jez Corden of Windows Central also felt that Arkane Studios would have been better off creating the type of game they are known for. He said: “It’s maddening that this is the product of the legendary studio that gave us Prey. Arkane is very clearly out of its depth with Redfall.”
“There are far too many similar shooters out there that simply do almost everything Redfall is trying to do, only far better,” he added, though his six-out-of-10 review did concede that “embers of fun do exist in Redfall.”
GamesRadar called it straight down the middle with their 2.5/5 review, with critic Sam Loveridge describing Redfall as feeling “rushed, unfinished, and unsatisfying to play.”
Again, the reviewer pointed to the development studio’s previous successes, saying the new game “is ultimately not up to Arkane’s usual standards,” and “single-player is hampered by a squad-based open-world shooter structure... it’s a confusing game, full of contradictions, and the result is unfulfilling."
What is Redfall’s Metacritic score?
At the time of writing, Redfall’s score on Metacritic (which assigns a weighted average score to video games based on reviews) sits around 63.
That might not seem all that bad, but Metacritic scores are giving huge weight within the gaming industry, and the site’s colour coded scores instantly turn from green to amber the moment a game score below 75.
That means that a game that scores 74 can at first glance seem to be a world away - in terms of quality - from a game that scored 75. In Metacritic terms, for a game with such high commercial expectations riding on it to score 63 will be seen by Microsoft to be more or less a complete failure.
To put things into perspective, earlier this year Forspoken - a PlayStation 5 exclusive from Final Fantasy XV developer Luminous Productions - received roughly the same Metacritic scores, and has become something of a byword for underperforming console exclusives.
When can I play it?
When all is said and done, the game is available on Xbox Game Pass, the subscription service that allows you to download and play games from a strong library of titles for a monthly fee.
That means that essentially, aside from the monthly subscription price, Redfall is free to download and play, meaning that gamers aren’t necessarily expected to make a risky £60+ investment on a game they may play once and potentially never come back to.
Microsoft will be hoping the above review scores and Metacritic ratings signify that there will be fun to be had from Redfall for certain players, and that its Game Pass inclusion will be able to at least retain a curious playerbase.
Subscribers can give the game a go for themselves right now, as Redfall released on Tuesday 2 May 2023. It’s availble on Xbox Series X/S consoles, and on PC through Steam.