Redfall kicked off the Xbox and Bethesda Games E3 2022 showcase with a bang. The first Redfall gameplay opened with an abandoned church. Signs of a struggle. Blood spatter on the walls. A narrow attic space. And then, boom, a vampire ambush. One, then two, then three. Jump attacks with swiping claws follow, then ghastly 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, screwed. Overrun with scores of angry neck-biters who've blocked out the sun, in turn drying out the water that once tied the archipelago to the mainland, Redfall is clearly far from the holiday resort it once was. And, as portrayed in several minutes of open world co-op gameplay footage, it all looks wonderful.
Not just because of its stunning visuals and frenzied shootouts, but because the DNA that underpins Redfall appears smartly woven into everything it does. Developer Arkane Austin is the studio responsible for the acclaimed immersive sims Prey and Dishonored, two games which, while set in contained environments, offer players choice at every turn – and it seems the same applies here on an even grander scale. In the wake of Redfall's latest gameplay footage, game director Harvey Smith said he hoped the trailer "put all the Left 4 Dead comparisons to rest". For me, it didn't. But that's also irrelevant. Because the most important comparison here isn't with Valve's dormant horror series, but with Arkane's own unique approach to immersive shooters.
Choices and co-op
After its E3 reveal this time last year, GamesRadar+ Features Editor Josh West said Redfall and Game Pass could propel Arkane onto the global stage where it belongs. One year on, with sister outfit Arkane Lyon's Deathloop having arrived between times, and that claim seems truer now than ever. Because despite its games being received well critically across the board – certainly since the arrival of the first Dishonored in 2012 – Arkane has held a somewhat cult status in the broad landscape of video game developers. Situated in what once might have been dubbed the 'AA' space in the late '90s/early '00s, Arkane's catalog isn't quite AAA in stature, and while operating as an indie during its first 10 years of existence, the studio was purchased by ZeniMax Media in 2010. In 2020, ZeniMax was, of course, bought over by Microsoft as part of the latter's acquisition of Bethesda. And, the fact that Redfall opened Xbox's own showing at E3 2021 says a lot about the weight Microsoft is throwing behind the upcoming game, and Arcane itself in 2022 and beyond.
Nevertheless, Redfall looks every bit an Arkane game at heart and that's great to see. During its Xbox and Bethesda Games showcase, we saw the open world co-op shooter's four central characters teaming up to bring down enemy vampires in a host of tight spots. The scope for variety in offense in the likes of Dishonored has always been bolstered by its Supernatural Abilities – wherein players can pull objects out of place using telekinesis, for example, or move quickly around the map using Teleport – and the protagonists in Redfall harness similar skills.
In one instance, we see the player activating a stealthy invisibility cloak, before sniping an enemy at close-range, then another at distance. In another, a fast-firing firefight ensues in a bar with shotguns and automatic rifles. Later, the player character is shown building a magic platform on the fly, climbing and leaping from the ethereal construct, before tossing a timed explosive into the crowd of foes scrambling in their wake. Even in the short segments on show, each one appears laden with possibilities, circumstantial outcomes, and a real sense that this world is a playground designed to bend to your every quick-witted whim in battle.
As much as it's become cliche to say so, Redfall's open world looks every bit as much a central character to its makeup as its gang of four players, each environment of which looks stunning. In horror terms, the cliches don't end there either – the gameplay showcase explored fairgrounds at night, decrepit cinema halls, isolated woods, creepy mansions, and the aforementioned abandoned church, each one brimming with bloodthirsty baddies ripe for slaughter.
As outlined in the first Redfall gameplay footage, the game can be enjoyed as a single-player game, much like Arkane's previous outings to this point, but just the thought of fusing playstyles and bespoke character abilities with other human players, under pressure and in real time, excites me to no end. The thought of doing all of this in an open world inspired by Prey's Talos 1 spacecraft or Dishonored's Dunwall, underpinned by the core design tenets that have served Arkane so well over the last decade especially, and I reckon, for me, Redfall is a must-have already.
Six years on since Dishonored 2, and we're still hailing the genius, majesty and expert level design of its Clockwork Mansion. It's been 10 years since the arrival of the first Dishonored, and Lady Boyle's Last Party mission is surely among the best the immersive sim genre has ever given us. Apply those ingredients to an open world and add a splash of unpredictable humans into the mix, and who knows what conversations we'll be having in Redfall's wake when it lands next year.