By now, you would’ve seen several reviews for Arkane Austin’s Redfall (check out ours here). The co-op looter shooter is now available on Xbox Series X/S and PC after reportedly over five years in development (if LinkedIn profiles are anything to go by). A quick peek at its Metacritic reveals a Metascore of 64 on PC out of 38 reviews, while the Xbox version has a 59 Metascore based on 29 reviews.
Steam hasn’t been too kind either – it’s sitting a “Mostly Negative” rating based on 816 user reviews, with only 30 percent being positive.
In a way, some people would have predicted Redfall not living up to Arkane Studios’ legacy. The overall gameplay looked incredibly formulaic, and the heavy focus on co-op was odd. Like Ninja Theory with Bleeding Edge, which died quickly on release, Redfall felt like something outside the developer’s single-player wheelhouse. Still, the team seemed enthusiastic enough about bringing the world to life.
However, as the months rolled on, the concerns piled up. Always online, even when playing solo. Campaign progression only applies to the host and no one else (though levels and materials still carry over). Throw in 30 FPS only on Xbox Series X/S with a 60 FPS mode coming later while reviews went live roughly an hour before launch, and skepticism was high.
Cut to the game’s release, with complaints of pop-in, control issues, and motion sickness on consoles to go with the poor textures. It’s also full of bugs like broken AI, disappearing enemies, disappearing guns, the Start menu becoming locked, a glitching interface, and more. Performance on PC is hit or miss – some have reported the game to run smoothly due to the day one patch, but plenty of Steam reviews with strong configurations claim otherwise.
Barring fixes for the technical issues and glitches, Redfall isn’t a good game. The world is incredibly barren and lifeless, and while explained in the lore, it still doesn’t make for a compelling setting to explore. Then there are the playable characters who have poorly written dialogue if you haven’t had enough of that this year. The shooting could be fun if the Xbox Series X/S controls were fixed. However, it looks like significant work is needed to get this to an even somewhat enjoyable state across all platforms.
If all of that weren’t enough, there’s no co-op matchmaking. The always-online, co-op-centric title, which doesn’t let you change characters in the middle of your story playthrough, also won’t find other people to play with you. Maybe this is because the Xbox LFG exists, but how Steam players are supposed to use that is a mystery.
Also, a PSA for those who somehow made it to the end and maybe want to go back later for more torture: Don’t beat the final boss. Doing so will reportedly finish the story and prevent you from returning to complete any pending side quests, hunt for collectibles or enjoy your fully kitted-out vampire hunter. There’s reportedly no post-game or way to continue, and you must start from the beginning. Truly something that many looter shooters can lay claim to in this day and age. $70 game, by the way.
What in the Hell happened to Redfall? How did it turn into what some are calling Arkane’s Fallout 76/Anthem? I believe it’s a consequence of multiple issues disastrously coming to a head.
First is the overall design. While Arkane Austin worked with Lyon and other teams on Dishonored, its most impressive singular effort is Prey. The reboot of Human Head Studios’ first-person shooter series received significant acclaim for its immersive sim aspects, art style and moral choices. Prey: Mooncrash was also noteworthy for its rogue-lite campaign and how it intersected the stories of various characters in interesting ways.
After Prey launched, Arkane began incubation on Redfall, at least according to a developer’s LinkedIn profile. It probably wanted to delve more into co-op gameplay while adding elements of previous games for a bit more zing. Perhaps planned to be a live service title – this would explain the always-online requirement. Maybe an in-game store was meant to be implemented before the failures of several big live-service titles like Marvel’s Avengers and Anthem caused it to pivot, not unlike what many believe happened to Gotham Knights.
It wouldn’t be odd if the overall premise and gameplay of Redfall saw numerous changes in its lifespan. Maybe Arkane Austin wanted a persistent, always-online world not unlike The Division 2, where players could meet with others in social hubs and seamlessly team up. Engine limitations may have prevented this from happening, though.
When Microsoft acquired ZeniMax Studios in 2021, it reportedly mandated development only on Xbox Series X/S and PC and cancelled a potential PS5 version (which it denies). Whether aware of Redfall’s deeper problems at the time, it seemingly maintained a hands-off approach, which it does with many of its studios. We’ll get to that.
Either way, Redfall’s concept was probably solidified before that – it was announced at the Xbox and Bethesda Showcase at E3 2021. But I wouldn’t be surprised if the team struggled to create a persistent open world to support four players and maintain the Arkane-level of detail. After all, Dishonored is known for its single-player gameplay and decently sized, self-contained environments.
Even the shooting aspects weren’t as played up, unlike Deathloop (which was developed by Arkane Lyon). You could point to Prey, but its implementation of gunplay was decidedly more System Shock than Far Cry. Add in some engine limitations and the increasing challenges of developing for modern-day hardware, especially as games become more complex, and you have a recipe for disaster. Trying to get all of this running at a consistent frame rate is challenging enough, to say nothing of eliminating bugs.
The prevalence of bugs isn’t even something that QA testers can be blamed for. The teams likely reported these bugs months in advance, and they were left alone, either judged as non-priority, fixable post-launch or both. You could blame the creatives in charge, but it all goes back to Microsoft. For some reason, the publisher decided that Redfall had to launch in May. Even if it’s as hands-off as claimed, there’s no way it didn’t know about the poor state of the game.
Furthermore, even if it doesn’t interfere with the workings of other studios, it should have taken a call years ago to cancel Redfall if it wasn’t working out. Instead, it decided to slap a $70 price and include it in Game Pass, quickly becoming a dumping ground for terrible co-op titles like Rainbow Six Extraction and so on. Maybe it adds value to the service in the short term or helps attract some subscribers. It certainly didn’t result in Redfall being a good game.
Why didn’t Microsoft delay the game again? There could be multiple reasons, like judging that little else was possible in its current state. Better to launch now and make some of its money back. It probably wanted to avoid a late May release due to titles like The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom or Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League (before it was delayed to 2024). June may have also been less than ideal since it would focus on the “future” of Xbox, like Starfield and Forza Motorsport.
Marketing budget may also play some role. Delaying Redfall may have meant extending its marketing for longer while budgeting for more polish and bug fixes. Remember – it already suffered a hefty delay from last year to May 2023. Given the layoffs at Microsoft, it probably felt better to cut its losses and worry about fixing it up later if enough people purchased it.
After all, for every failure like Anthem and Marvel’s Avengers, there is a Sea of Thieves. Maybe Microsoft feels it can fix this in due time. Maybe it’s hoping all this anger over the game’s poor launch blows over.
However, above all else, Redfall is the latest nail in the argument that the publisher has any real plan for its first-party line-up. When the company announced its first round of acquisitions during the Xbox One era, way back at E3 2018, there was much fanfare. Cue even more fanfare when other companies like inXile, and Double Fine Productions joined. Yet, the output of exclusives remained stagnant.
The purchase of ZeniMax Studios in 2021 should have helped, but two of the biggest releases – Deathloop and Ghostwire: Tokyo – were decent (and didn’t necessarily result in crazy sales). They were also exclusive to PS5 for a year due to a prior deal with Sony, which didn’t help Microsoft’s case. Neither did the delays to Starfield, but then again, given the state it was reportedly in, that was for the best. Hi-Fi Rush was well-received, at least. Who knew things would go downhill so fast?
Playground Games has been more or less carrying the Xbox brand with the Forza Horizon series. Aside from that, where is Fable? Where is Perfect Dark? Has Rare figured out what Everwild is, much less started developing an actual game around it? Has Undead Labs stopped suffering from toxic work culture or figured out its design decision for State of Decay 3 to produce more than a CG trailer?
Where is inXile’s next big game? How did Halo Infinite’s supposed 10-year journey end in 343 Industries suffering layoffs, the departure of Chris Staten and a reported reduced focus on new campaign content? Is Conception Studios ever releasing its new game? Don’t even get me started on titles like Avalanche’s Contraband. Xbox Game Studios is publishing and not developing the latter, yet it feels like it’s disappeared into the ether. I’m probably missing some games, which is even more insane.
To clarify: I’m not saying Microsoft should release all these games immediately or that it shouldn’t give its studios the freedom to develop what they want. However, the lack of oversight and hands-off approach has proven more concerning. Its output over the years should speak for itself, but if the issues surrounding Halo Infinite, the numerous delays and the current state of Redfall are any indication, a lot needs to change at the management level.
As noted earlier, this release could just be to get it out of the way and move on to the real good stuff. In June, Bethesda will unveil new Starfield gameplay. Probably confirm 2000 planets and the ability to pet your starship. New trailers will probably debut for Senua’s Saga: Hellblade 2 and Forza Motorsport, while some new games are announced, and new additions to Game Pass confirmed. There will be hype as Starfield garners tons of pre-orders before launch, regardless of how good or worrying the gameplay looks.
In the meantime, Redfall may or may not improve. It’ll probably be revisited by players later or remain a troubling footnote in Arkane Studios’ history – a black sheep that feels out of place and is better off unmentioned. But hey, the studio could turn it around and make it one of the best games ever five years down the line for those willing to wait.
It’s also possible that Microsoft lays off several people at Arkane, just like it did earlier this year with The Coalition, 343 Industries and Bethesda. But don’t worry – once it seals that acquisition of Activision Blizzard, then the exclusives will start rolling in. You’ll see.
To quote a far better video game: “The flow of time is always cruel. Its speed seems different for each person, but no one can change it. A thing that does not change with time is a memory of younger days.” Classics like Dishonored and Prey feel like distant memories. The fact that Arkane’s short and long-term future ties into something like this makes you think. Not with anger, bewilderment or exasperation but sheer resignation at the current state of Xbox.
Note: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, GamingBolt as an organization.
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