A year on, I'm playing arguably the worst game of 2023 – and I'm actually enjoying myself

Playing Redfall in 2024
(Image credit: Bethesda)

"What are we doing here again?" This is the question I keep asking my friend as we explore Redfall in all its strangeness. At the time of writing, we've completed about two thirds of last year's critically-panned first-person shooter, and I still have no idea what is happening. I'm told there is an overarching story taking place, one that necessitates a bunch of teenagers doing the hard work on behalf of the comparatively useless adults left holding down the fort. That's nice and all, but I'm largely just here to shoot things and chat shit with my buddy.

Maybe it's the freeze-frame style voiceover "cutscenes" sitting in lieu of full animation. Maybe it's the fact that I am obsessed with Arkane's stylish goth-chic vampires and would rather not kill them. Whatever the reason is behind my inability to get involved in its story, though, I have to confess that I'm having a great time using Redfall as a private playground to hang out in now that it's been patched up to the point of being actually functional.

Back to the street

Playing Redfall in 2024

(Image credit: Bethesda)

Redfall is a game I was so excited for, and yet never ended up playing after hearing how categorically broken and janky it was on day one. Between the gameplay clips I suffered through on YouTube and our Editor-In-Chief's bleak experience in her Redfall review, I conceded defeat before even trying it out. I largely agree with Sam's take – one year on, Redfall is still a far cry from being the most inventive FPS ever, comprising a handful of cookie-cutter mission formats underpinned by an uninspired storyline. 

But what it lacks in originality is made up for in a world that is so ridiculous, it becomes accidentally satirical. Suffice it to say: I'm not playing Redfall because it's a good game, but to test the bounds of its mediocrity and revel in the weirdness.

First things first: character selection. After a spot of debating, I opt to play as telekinetic medium Layla, with my friend Rhys loading in as boy genius Devinder. Neither one of us is expecting a lot from this game, but we quickly settle into its comfortable, predictable routine. Fast travel across the map, fight cultists, stake vampires, and fast travel back to the base – it's all pretty samey. The looter-shooter approach to weapon drops means that I still check each and every pile of ash after dusting a vamp, despite how most of them only offer up wedding rings or pearl necklaces to be sold for profit. The best guns can be looted from Rooks, a type of supercharged vampire that hunts you down after you slay enough "special" bloodsuckers. You know when a Rook Storm is coming because a meter will pop up and warn you that the "vampire gods are watching". It's just as hilarious as it sounds, because what vampire gods are you talking about, Redfall?

Playing Redfall in 2024

(Image credit: Bethesda)

I'm having a great time using Redfall as a private playground to hang out in now that it's actually functional.

The laughs don't stop as we delve further into this odd little town. Surrounded by frozen oceans and populated by wooden NPCs, it proves a delightful place to make fun of. When I look at the ground as Layla, I find I have no actual body. There's a bizarre bug that makes our characters fall down and stand up over and over again whenever we walk around safehouses. We watch in horror as a Bloodbag (the explosive Redfall equivalent of Left4Dead's Boomers) gets essentially milked by a weirdo cultist. Oh, and one of the NPCs gives birth in a hospital and wears her baseball cap the whole time – even while lying down on the gurney. 

It sounds bizarre to say it, but all these little oddities and lingering bugs are what makes Redfall stand out to me at all. The story and characters are extremely forgettable, and the environments risk feeling lazy as a consequence of its own gimmick – there's only so much hazy red skyline I can take. Redfall is technically bland and unimpressive, yes, but that somehow only highlights its unrefined charm.

When played like Call of Duty with vampires, Redfall can be a very good time. As far as multiplayer shenanigans go, I daresay that I actually would recommend playing it in 2024. Going it solo might be a weird choice; even if the enemies' strength and numbers were scaled in line with your party size, I just don't think there's as much fun to be had without someone on the other end of the line to share in all its weirdness. In terms of stability and functionality, two things it lacked at launch, Redfall should be solidly playable now for most of us. It's been a liferaft for me as I wait for the Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League server issues to be remedied, and at this rate, I'll likely be one of the rare few to finish it out of choice.

Check out the best FPS games ever for some less contentious options, from Far Cry 3 to Destiny 2.

Jasmine Gould-Wilson
Staff Writer, GamesRadar+

Jasmine is a staff writer at GamesRadar+. Raised in Hong Kong and having graduated with an English Literature degree from Queen Mary, University of London in 2017, her passion for entertainment writing has taken her from reviewing underground concerts to blogging about the intersection between horror movies and browser games. Having made the career jump from TV broadcast operations to video games journalism during the pandemic, she cut her teeth as a freelance writer with TheGamer, Gamezo, and Tech Radar Gaming before accepting a full-time role here at GamesRadar. Whether Jasmine is researching the latest in gaming litigation for a news piece, writing how-to guides for The Sims 4, or extolling the necessity of a Resident Evil: CODE Veronica remake, you'll probably find her listening to metalcore at the same time.