Redfall is the latest game from legendary developers Arkane Studios, but how does this co-op game fare in solo mode?
Redfall is an interesting solo experience but I can’t wait to stake vampires in co-op
It’s an irrefutable scientific fact that the co-op slaying of sci-fi bump-in-the-night creatures makes for great gameplay experiences. After all, it worked for the Left 4 Dead, Gears of War, Deep Rock Galactic and Warhammer 40,000: Darktide. Fast-forward to more recent times, and it’s poised to work for Redfall, which has the kind of sci-fi take on vampires that’d make Richard Matheson proud.
The thing is, Bethesda held a recent hands-on preview Redfall session that was strictly a solo affair. While any of those games I rattled off above are absolutely playable alone, the best experiences—certainly my preferred ones—come from co-op. So, how does Redfall play solo?
Pretty well, as it turns out. I spent about an hour and a half playing a gameplay slice that was about 30% into the game. There are four characters to choose from, each with their own distinct powers. There’s sniper Jacob Boyer, verticality-loving Layla Ellison, electricity-spewing Devinder Crousley and explosive-obsessed Remi De La Rosa.
Don’t judge me, but I went with the one I felt I was least likely to play in the final version: Jacob Boyer. While I enjoy sniping in small doses, I didn’t really think he’d be the best choice for dispatching vampires, more so when it became clear that a bunch
The thing is, this is a game made by Arkane Studios. And Arkane games have some very distinct features. The first is an instantly iconic art style. While closer to Prey’s semi-realism than Dishonored’s three-dimensional oil paintings, you’d still pick it as an Arkane game out of an art-style line-up. More importantly, the other key feature of an Arkane game is empowering player creativity through a range of powers and multiple ways to approach situations.
I was quick to ditch Boyer’s primary sniper rifle, but that didn’t get rid of his sniper ultimate, which is upgradable to the point that he’d be instantly banned from any esports tournament. The way I specced it, I was able to automatically snap between enemies and target their weak spots, firing off rounds before the meter ran out. It was deliciously overpowered in a way that made me feel bad for using it.
More useful were his faster-recharging other active skills. Raven sends out a ghostly bird that scans for enemies. The bird flies out in a straight line but, handily, ignores solid objects. Basically, it’s a great way to tag vamps waiting to sink their teeth into you as you explore outside or inside the Redfall island town. The other ability is a more straightforward cloak, which I upgraded to let me sprint while invisible.
Enemies will still hear you, though, which opens up a range of possibilities for playing with your prey or just messing with the janky AI. True to vampire mythos, the bloodsucking critters of Redfall also have everyday humans roaming the streets, both by night when the vamps are out or during the day when the overlords are avoiding a lethal sun tan.
Fighting humans is a much more straightforward shooter affair than battling vampires, so you’ll want at least one comparatively boring bullet-spewer in your arsenal. The more exciting arsenal entries, though, are those clearly built with vampires in mind. I ended up rolling with a Portable UV Beam that temporarily turned vampires into statues after a few seconds of them seeing the light.
While pistols, shotguns and assault rifles were then handy for pulverising their petrified forms with a few well-placed rounds, I found it more fitting to shoot them with a sidearm Flare Gun for an insta-kill on the vamp statues. The best combo, though, was using an upgraded Raven to scout ahead every few seconds as I sprinted through town, then sagely popping cloak to sprint past fights I didn’t want to have.
This meant my preview was spent battling on my terms, and almost every fight I started was instigated by me. It also allowed me to see more of the town than was perhaps intended. Favouring exploration over provocation meant I liberated a couple of Safe Houses, purified some Vampire Nests, ticked off some side missions and had plenty of time to tackle the main mission at the heart of this preview session.
Cloak made it easy to slip past the defences outside the Addison Mansion, while a quick bit of exploration around the back meant I could either lockpick a door to gain entry or scramble up onto the roof to find an open window. I won’t get into specifics of how this mission played out, but it had that Arkane stamp of cleverly presented storytelling spliced with interesting gameplay.
I did get stuck in one part being unable to locate a key that had me looping around the mansion. In fairness, when I did finally find the key, I felt that was more on me than the game. Despite my cheesing tactics in combat, the difficulty felt about right for solo players on normal, given how quickly things can escalate, particularly if the enemies raise an alarm.
The thing is, I don’t really get why you’d play Redfall solo if you didn’t have to. Sure, there’s a case to be made for levelling-up characters (there are a lot of upgrades) and the revelation that campaign progress is tied to the co-op host player does disappoint those looking to jump between vampire-slaying groups. But with a game that has four distinct characters with inherent synergy, my main takeaway from playing Redfall solo was how much I want to play it in co-op.