It's a sad day when you have to admit your favorite developer made a bad game, but there's no better way to describe Redfall. As Tyler Colp laid out in his 40-hour review-in-progress, Arkane's co-op looter shooter is bland, unchallenging, and full of bugs.
At the center of Redfall's disappointing debut is its open world—the Salem-esque town of Redfall and its surrounding mountain trails. It's easily the biggest playable sandbox that either Arkane studio has ever made and it has no loading screens (besides brief loads to enter safehouses and the main fire station hub), which may help explain why it feels so lifeless. Arkane has traded its usual obsessive attention to detail in small environments for huge, sparsely populated city streets and awkwardly assembled interiors that aren't worth exploring.
I wondered if I was being too harsh with Redfall, so I jumped back into Arkane Austin's last project for a quick refresher, the underappreciated Prey 2017. My last save was in the Talos 1 space station lobby, which turned out to be the perfect place to compare one of the most sacred spaces in any videogame: the bathroom.
You can learn a lot about a videogame from its bathrooms. This Redfall loo is a good example of perplexing interior design that I'm noticing all over the town. It's as if every object in the room has been shoved against the wall to ensure there's room for vampires to suddenly appear (or for co-op players to roam around). Why is there only one stall and a urinal? What's up with the pillar half-fused with the wall? The tiles and walls actually look pretty nice, but the nonsensical layout throws it all out of wack.
Prey's piss palace, on the other hand, has ambiance overflowing out of its toilets. Forget that it's a fancier bathroom than Redfall (that's just a style choice), it's the tender lighting, realistic layout, and minor details like the plant, towels, and smoke alarm that make it a believable space. The best part? Two of the objects in this room are actually mimics.
OK, here's two bigger rooms:
Man, where to start with the Redfall room. I wandered into a church and went upstairs to find this inexplicably large gathering space with three tables, six chairs, and a bunch of other crap (once again) pushed against the edges of the room. Maybe there's supposed to be a boss fight here? At least you can press E to play the piano.
Rewind six years to Prey, and you see an office so packed with sharp lighting and lived-in clutter that you immediately want to know about the corporate bigwig who worked there. You can happily search this single office for over five minutes and probably find some ammo, fruit, and a hidden safe with an unknown code. I searched this Redfall room for about 10 seconds and found a teddy bear that I instantly converted into money and a green rarity pistol that's slightly better than the one I've got.
This one's more of a mood comparison. Redfall has a day/night cycle that's pretty neat on paper, but the minutes between high noon and midnight paint the world in this flat blanket of light that diminishes shadows and makes the seams between buildings and the ground feel extra artificial. Prey regularly plays with the contrasting light in its pre-baked levels, often opting for darkness when transitioning from chique wood-paneled offices to cold, mechanical maintenance corridors. Everything I've played of Redfall so far shares this same small-town autumnal look.
Players on the Redfall subreddit are also out there kicking the tires of its clumsy open world and are finding some gaps, like a chimney that's full of roof tiles or a sink with water sounds but no water (as spotted by GamesRadar).
I have nothing to say from r/redfall
These are all tiny cracks in the facade that would usually wash right over me in an open world game with kilometers of space to fill, but in the town of Redfall, cracks are frequent and hard to ignore.
This invisible air conditioning unit with its floating steel bars is not just an invisible air conditioning unit with floating steel bars: it's emblematic of a sparse world full of brainless enemies, weak characterization, underwhelming guns, and bugs.
Arkane is no stranger to rocky launches (especially on PC), but Redfall seems more fundamentally flawed. I don't throw around the word "unfinished" lightly with games, but it's hard to believe Arkane got to achieve everything it wanted with Redfall before release. On the bright side, anyone who wants to try it doesn't have to pay full price: you can buy a month of Game Pass or have a friend refer you for a free two weeks.
Or, I don't know, you could just replay Prey. It's still an excellent immersive sim with some great guns of its own, and I bet you've forgotten most of it. Here are some other Prey/Redfall comparisons to sway you: