Look, I know comparing an Arkane game to Far Cry is going to run a gamut of responses depending on how you feel about Ubi's open world cookie cutter. But it's the best one line hook to get across what playing Redfall feels like. Imagine all of Arkane's world building from things like the Dishonored series, Prey or Deathloop, but filling out a fully explorable map where you can go anywhere. I keep thinking about those Dishonored moments where an out of the way alley or side door could open up a whole new thing you could have missed – this is that, spread over an entire town.
When I start my 90 minutes hands-on, Redfall opens up before me: buildings and roads roll off into the distance, strange lights flicker in the distance while weird silhouetted structures rise up against the skyline. There are side missions and map markers to investigate, encounters scattered all over its streets, and plenty more. Even in the brief time I have to look around there's loads to discover among some satisfying combat and atmospheric weirdness.
Strange new world
Clear of the Firestation base it all starts in, I'm immediately drawn to the sound of voices and stumble into a group of cultists – human survivors that worship vampires like gods. I open fire and I'm immediately surprised by just how good the gunplay feels. There's a meaty impact to weapons here I wasn't expecting, and some of the most satisfying headshots I've felt for a while. Arkane has obviously done shooters before but nothing has felt so obviously full caps GUNS as this does. After the fluidity of games like Dishonored and Deathloop it does feel a little stiffer in terms of mobility, but that passes after a moment or two of adjustment.
However, this is an Arkane game so you'd expect some powers and, of the four playable characters, I've chosen Devinder. He's a cryptozoologist and inventor who comes equipped with an electric spike, a throwable teleporter disk, and a super attack that drops a massive vampire petrifying UV light. It's an immediately satisfying combination: using the spike to electrify a group and taking them all down before they recover never gets old. While the teleporter disk is just plain fun to toss around and zap from point to point. The UV light, on the other hand, is the classic 'save it till you need it' alt attack that drops a huge pulsing circle of UV light that can also be upgraded to heal you and your team.
While this can be played as a co-op shooter, I'm playing alone and it works beautifully. I don't get a chance to try the other characters, but Devinder's powerset defines my experience in a way that makes me think each option will be worth a playthrough in their own right. There's a telekinetic character, a techy one with a robot and stealthy sniper type – all with interesting abilities that, even if they work half as well, could still carry the game. I can only guess what the multiplayer interplay of powers would feel like but I suspect it's going to be hugely entertaining to mix it all together.
While shooting cultists generally takes care of that problem, fighting vampires is more reliant on tech and gadgets. They can't die unless you stake them while downed, or smash them while they're petrified by UV light. There's a great cadence to battling them as a result, as you weaken, incapacitate or delay them via various means; always looking to make room to stab the glowing heart that's exposed when the time is right. One of the key weapons for me against the undead is a UV cannon that lets me hose them down with light and smash them to dust the second they turn to stone.
What I find interesting, as I shoot and scout my way to a mission marker, is just how much this feels like an Arkane game while still being an open world looter shooter. There are crates and bags full of green, blue and purple weapon variants for example, but it doesn't feel too in your face – there are just some better guns around if you stop to look. It just plays like an Arkane game that has those elements included. There are also some moments that are so Arkane it almost feels like an Easter egg – like Grave Keys that open special loot chests and recount sad little tales when you collect them. The cadence and tone of the voice that speaks is 100% channeling the Heart from Dishonored.
However, the Arkane feeling really comes to the fore when I finally reach the house I'm meant to investigate to find out more about the vampires' origins. Having zigged zagged between all sorts of interesting distractions to get here, my destination immediately has a big set piece vibe. First I have to scout the grounds to find a way in, avoiding Watcher vamps that act like security cameras from high up roosts. I find a rear window and choose that, because you never use the front door in games like this.
Once inside it's classic haunted house territory as I explore and piece together the story here. The setup of Redfall sees the vampires that have taken over rise up as part of a shady biotech firm's investigations into immortality, and I'm here to investigate one of the company's founders. Things feel far more focused and crafted inside, as slamming doors and spooky crashing from other rooms draws me through the building. That ultimately leads me to a doll house that, once I find three missing dolls, I'm able to psychically enter and uncover the memories of the little girl that owned it to find out more.
There's a lot of spooky weirdness in Redfall's misty streets and this dollhouse is just the pinnacle of that. The geometry of the building warps and twists in dreamlike ways. Parts of the house are just… gone – a huge sphere like hollow, scooped out of the middle by some psychic event that wiped the memory. This strangeness also continues into things like the Vampire nests you can clear out around the town, which take place in a sort of ethereal otherworld. They're all floaty, disjointed levels filled with versions of things you've seen in town, like the cinema or fairground, twisted in dreamlike ways.
If you can fight your way to the center of one of these nests and destroy the heart, you'll clear it out, get some loot and weaken the local undead influence. This is where a lot of that Far Cry feel comes in as you take on things like this, or other objectives like claiming safehouses (by driving out cultists and getting the power back on) to gradually reclaim control of the map, and get advantages like fast travel points.
All this fighting back comes at a cost, though – as you explore and do various things, a meter slowly fills up showing how much attention the vampires are paying you. Max it out and you'll be visited by the Rook, a sort of vamp enforcer that pops up as a boss fight if you've been causing too much trouble (and reminded me a little of Prey's Nightmare as a recurring bogeyman thrown into the mix). You'll definitely know when he's coming as forks of red lightning smash all around you, giving you warning and important time to prepare…
What impressed me the most with the time I had with Redfall is how well it mixes the familiar feeling format of its open world with Arkane flair. The supernatural, spooky ambience shines through, making even basic objectives feel unpredictable while throwing out surprises just when you think you have a handle on what to expect. I saw enough creative and atmospheric twists here and there to keep me genuinely excited for what might come next. If that's indicative of the game overall then I can't wait to fully explore what the town has to offer.
Redfall is one of our most anticipated upcoming Xbox Series X games, and it's set to release on May 2, 2023 for PC, Xbox Series X, and Xbox Game Pass.