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Redfall hands-on preview: Can Arkane keep up its winning streak?

We've recently loaded up on wooden stakes and adorned ourselves with garlic necklaces to take back the town of Redfall.

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With both the Dishonored games, Prey, and Deathloop, Arkane have made a very solid track record for themselves. But the problem with a great track record is that it then in turn creates great expectations. People know what they're getting into when they load up an Arkane title, and so the pressure is on for Redfall - the studio's latest game - to meet and exceed those high expectations.

Recently, we got the chance to travel down to Zenimax's London headquarters, meet some of the team working on the game, and check out 90 minutes of unimpeded Redfall gameplay. There was a main story objective to be getting on with during this time, but there was no need to complete it, and we were left to roam around the open world Arkane had created as we saw fit.


Before diving into the game, we were given a quick heads-up from game designer Harvey Smith, who let us know that despite a lot of the marketing on Redfall pointing towards it being an experience best played co-operatively, Arkane had put a lot of effort into ensuring the single-player experience was a great one, too.

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Personally, I was never one to doubt that Arkane could make Redfall an experience that could be played well while alone. After Dishonored, Prey, and Deathloop, the studio has very much proven single-player is what it does best. Again, it has made that clear in Redfall.

I can only speak for the single-player experience of Redfall, but in the 90 minutes I got (in which I did as much as I possibly could), that experience is exactly what you'd expect from an Arkane title. The level design remains immaculate, even with the sprawling space of Redfall's open world. You can figure out almost any way to approach your enemies and objectives, with a great sense of verticality as you can gain great vantage points to snipe vampires or simply just stealth past them.


There's also plenty to do in Redfall's open world. Running around the map, I found myself stumbling upon random side missions that have you help out surviving townsfolk or find out more about the mystery behind what turned a lot of the local population into vampires. Speaking of the night stalkers, there are also many ways in which you can fight their influence over Redfall. From entering a vampire nest, which will take you to alternate dimensions full of superpowered versions of the blood suckers, to securing new safe houses that act as fast travel points and places to refill your supplies, there are a multitude of options for you to bite back against the main foes of the game. Vampire nests especially seem to have a lot of potential, as they offer up their own mini-missions, essentially.

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From both the level design and the things you can do in the map, it's clear Redfall believes variety is indeed the spice of life. The same can be said for the characters, who each all have their own intricately woven backstories and skill trees that you'll flesh out as you play. Unlike other character shooters such as Borderlands, you're not limited to one main skill in Redfall, and each survivor has a number of ways in which they can navigate the map and kill enemies. Jacob, the character we went with, could seek out foes with his magical bird, cloak himself to make sneaking and escapes a lot easier, and bring out his Heartstopper sniper rifle to deal a lot of damage.


There is a lot to Redfall. Before we sat down to play, Harvey Smith described the game as "trying to drink from a firehose," and while I certainly saw the connection when I was first running around the map, it does feel like you can get to grips with Redfall fairly easily, especially if you've delved into an Arkane game before. In fact, Redfall can feel a little too much like just another Arkane game, especially when playing it solo. But, therein lies the question of whether that is enough for the studio to really wow audiences once more.

Despite its great level design, character options, and decent amount of stuff to do, there is a slight sense that Redfall isn't living up to its potential. Perhaps it's because there was no chance of seeing the co-op experience, something that seems pretty key. Solo play is a something Arkane haven't dumped to one side in Redfall, and that is important, but without having a chance to roam around the town with a few allies, it does feel as though there hasn't been a full taste of the experience. Moreover, while the story segment we did get to peep at did a decent job at creating a good amount of intrigue, it also felt a tad awkwardly placed, and didn't make the playable character feel directly connected to the plot in the way that Arkane's other games do.


Combat as well, felt far too simplistic. I don't claim to be the best of gamers by any means, and yet I still found myself absolutely shredding the enemies in Redfall. Even the Rook - the superpowered vampire that appears when you kill enough special vamps or raise the attention of their gods - was eventually brought low by nothing more than bullet fire and a stake in the heart. Rather than vampires really feeling like they're dangerous enough to take over the town, I found myself wondering how the community hadn't just bitten back overnight. Though, this could just be pedantic criticism, as it could be the case the difficulty was altered for the preview event, or that solo play is significantly easier.

Besides mentioning some minor performance issues, there isn't much to say about Redfall. From the looks of it, it is another strong Arkane game, but whether it is the weight of expectations created by the studio's past successes, or the hype being built up over multiple delays, there appears to be that special something missing from Redfall that'll make it a must-play on release.

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