Like other game developers who’ve made co-op games in the vein of Left4Dead — including the people who made it and its spiritual successor, Back 4 Blood — the good people at Arkane Austin who made the vampiric first-person shooter Redfall (Xbox Series X/S, PC) assured us that we could play their game solo. So, as someone who doesn’t play well with others, I decided to test this theory, and found that while it has some issues, I actually had a lot of fun playing this supernatural shooter on my own.
an island town in Massachusetts called Redfall has been taken over by vampires. Playing as one of four supernaturally-enhanced vampire hunters, you have to save the town by killing all the bloodsuckers, and their human collaborators, while also securing supply drops, searching helicopter crash sites for tactical information, and completing other missions that will undermine the occupation.
At its core, Redfall is a first-person shooter. And in this regard, it excels. Well, once you adjust the controls; the default sensitivity setting makes this feel like you can only turn 90° or 180° at a time. But once you lower the sensitivity, Redfall becomes a really solid shooter, with enemies who don’t just stand there, and weapons that are effective at taking them down. And yes, that includes the pistols.
Of course, since some of your enemies in Redfall are vampires, you can’t just shoot them and hope for the best. And not just because they move so fast it’s like they’re Nightcrawler from The X-Men, bamfing everywhere. Rather, it’s because gun shots don’t kill vampires, they merely weaken them to the point of being stunned. You then have to stake them through the heart. And they don’t stay stunned for long.
You can also destroy them with fire, and not just when they’re stunned. Good thing the people of Redfall carelessly leave full cans of gas just lying around, where they can spill everywhere, and that they drive cars that explode like they’re in a Michael Bay movie about the Ford Pinto.
Vampires aren’t your only enemies in Redfall, though. They’re not even the most common. No, most of your gunfights pit you against human collaborators, vampire cultists who, like Scud in Blade 2, would, “…rather be a pet than cattle.” And what they lack in speed and wooden stake allergies, they make up for with numbers. And guns.
What also keeps things interesting in Redfall…
is the titular town. Largely suburban, it has tons of houses and small buildings to explore. There are even safehouses that can be unlocked, though this takes more than just a key. Once done, these not only give you fast travel points — necessary given how Redfall is large in terms of acreage — but also some interesting side missions.
The town of Redfall also feels different because it used to have large waterways, but now they’ve been drained. It’s like when you blew up the ocean in Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands. This adds a lot of hills and valleys, making for more three-dimensional combat than the town’s sloping hills would’ve provided on its own.
As for how the game itself is structured, here is where Redfall really distinguishes itself from Left4Dead, Back 4 Blood, etc. Instead of having you fight your way from one end of a level to the next, Redfall is more like The Division 2 in that it’s set in an open world, and has you running all over town to complete missions. And while those areas do get repopulated with both enemies and supplies after a while, any missions you complete stay completed, and every safehouse you unlock stays unlockled.
The missions are also more varied than in Back 4 Blood, et. al., though not by much. Most have you trying to locate an item, or figuring out how to get into a structure so you can, well, locate an item, but all involve shooting anyone who gets in your way. Y’know, like in every shooting game.
Though there is some variety. Like when you have to stop waves of vampires who are trying to donate blood…to a super vampire gestating in a cocoon. Or when you have to infiltrate a nest and, well, let’s just say that shit gets weird.
Redfall also recalls some Left4Dead-ish games…
in that it doesn’t have checkpoints. If you die (or you take a break to, say, watch Renfield), you come back to life inside the last safe house you visited, or in the firehouse that serves as your main base. Which can be irritating if, for instance, you die while trying to unlock a safehouse on the other side of town, and now have to make that trek all over again.
As for playing Redfall solo, it works in large part because, unlike other co-op games, its difficulty is clearly not balanced for multiple players. Unlike playing The Division 2 solo, in which taking on a level 5 enemy when you’re level 5 feels more like taking on a level 7 enemy when you’re level 3, no one here feels overpowered.
It also helps that Redfall has options when it comes to difficulty, and that the hard one makes this hard while the easy one…okay, it doesn’t make this easy, but certainly easier than when you play on normal. And yes, I checked.
That said, Redfall does get tough when a group of bloodsuckers gang up on you, or you take on one of the vampire gods. Though, to be honest, that has as much to do with how your health packs don’t heal you much, and require you to hold a button for a few seconds to use them, seconds you could be using to defend yourself, as it does with how tough the vampires can be.
Redfall also gets points (from me, anyway) for having some convenient mechanics I hope other game developers will incorporate. For starters, you don’t have to stop to pick up ammo off the ground; it happens automatically. Though you do have to hold a button to grab some, and other things, if they’re in a box or the trunk of a car.
Managing your inventory is also easier…
since you can scrap any guns you don’t need on the fly, while all the loot you find is automatically converted into currency. Which means you never have to run back to a safehouse or the main base just to unload all the junk in your trunk.
All of which works together to make Redfall a rather engaging shooter. The gun fights are frantic, especially given how the vampires move and need to be finished off, while the picturesque New England setting makes for some interesting battlefields, especially when near a now drained river.
As much fun as I may have had playing Redfall on my own, though, it does have some aspects that are irritating, whether you play alone or with friends. For starters, you can’t carry very much ammo until you upgrade that aspect of your character, and you don’t get to do that nearly often enough. Unlike some games where you seem to level up after every mission or two, Redfall is rather stingy with the upgrade points.
There’s also a weirdness about the whole staking vampires thing. As I mentioned, the only way to finish them off — save for setting them on fire — is to ram a stake through their hearts. But while the game makes a point of never giving you a lot of stakes, which would seem to add a bit of challenge, it quickly undermines this choice by immediately and frequently giving you guns that have built-in stakes. Literally, every shotgun and assault rifle has one. Which means you don’t really have to worry if you have any stakes on you or not. (Though I’m not complaining; I’d hate to die just because I forgot to bring a stake to a gunfight.)
There are also some technical glitches.
Weird ones, too. Like when I opened a bathroom door and came face-to-face with a vampire, except he wasn’t really there because when I shot him six times with my shotgun, nothing happened. The vampires in Redfall are strong, but they’re not that strong.
Then there’s the unfortunate glitch in the captions system, which sometimes tells you what someone is saying when actually you’re too far away to hear them. Which means you’re sometimes alerted to an enemy’s presence long before you should be.
Oh, and don’t get me started about how the vampires are not hurt by sunlight, but the UV lights outside every safehouse turns them into ash statues.
Redfall was also, as I’ve said many times, made for co-op, and thus has the glaring and pointless issue that all co-op games have when you play them solo: an inability to pause. It’s like the good people at Arkane Austin never order pizza. Or get calls from their momma.
But the biggest issue with Redfall, at least when you play it on your own, is that it does get a bit redundant after a while. Sure, I had a ton of fun with it over a long weekend, but after three or four days of hunting Dracula’s distant relatives, I found my interest waning. It’s why this isn’t worth $70. Or even $60. $30…maybe. And free? Absolutely. (Thanks, Xbox GamePass).
as someone who didn’t expect much — either about playing it solo or playing it at all — Redfall ended up being a rather pleasant surprise. For the four days I played it, I found myself nicely challenged as I wandered the picturesque streets of a small New England town, shooting traitorous dickweeds and the people they’ve sold out to. Redfall may not be much, or worth much, but it was a fun way to spend a long weekend on my own.