Was it really only this time last year that Redfall launched? Actually? It seems so much longer in game industry terms. So many huge titles have come and gone in the interim, so many genre-defining monsters (any excuse to big up Baldur’s Gate 3, honestly), and the particular style of looting and shooting that Arkane settled on for its 2023 vampire adventure has, if anything, fallen even further out of favour than it already had done 12 months ago. It all seems so long ago.

Yes, we already spoke plenty back at Redfall's turbulent launch about how a boat had been well and truly missed here, this is a looter shooter that arrived to that particular party as the last of the revellers stumbled out the door - and it had the temerity to show up rocking a fixed 30FPS to boot. The horror. However, any concerns we may have rightly had, anything we were a little worried about pre-launch, took a back seat because, well, Arkane. This is a developer with serious cred (and a back catalog that happens to contain two of this writer's all-time top ten games).

Of course, in the end, our concerns were more than justified, the game arrived in a fairly unimpressive state. We don't need to regurgitate everything, but as much as it was playable, it was truly very bland, surprisingly buggy and really quite hard to justify spending a great deal of time invested in. Not great for something you hope your players will cotton onto for the long-term. In our 6/10 review back at the time we said;

“...this game finds itself in a balancing act which isn’t always successful, as it tries to give you Arkane's world-building, story beats and fleshed out characterisations, whilst also ensuring that there’s no major downtime or slowing of the pace as up to four players dive into combat against an array of vampiric and human foes.”

Redfall One Year On: Xbox's Vampire Misfire Still Lacks Bite 1

One year on from delivering this opinion, we’ve returned to Redfall for its first anniversary. We’ve made our way off that big mad ship that’s been frozen in place so artistically during the game's opening, taken in the oh-so-Stranger Thing vibes as we shuffled forward, getting our bearings under a blood red sky and hoovering up any and all lore we could find as we prepped for our first vampire encounter.

It’s exciting, this stuff, just as it was in May of 2023, and before long we are absolutely down to wreck some undead all over again. Arkane are masters of exacting detail, of slick style and atmosphere, they nail it every time. And in Redfall you’re initially sucked in by this superbly stylish and rather unsettling start. Surely we were wrong about this one, we consider as we arrive at the fire station hub and prep to dig into the main meat of the campaign once more, and even if we weren’t, it’s been a full year at this point, it’s all been sorted by now, surely?

Well. Bask in that first twenty excellent minutes or so, soak in that incredible atmosphere as the sky is eclipsed and the shrieks of an unknown adversary ring out in the distance, because this is the best that Redfall gets. Nothing about that has changed. After a string of updates, including last October’s big 2.0 offering, the fact remains that at its core we’re dealing with an experience that just doesn’t have a real hook, no matter the updates or the improvements. It’s a failed attempt at a melding of styles, a balancing act as we mentioned, that just isn’t ever going to work out.

Redfall One Year On: Xbox's Vampire Misfire Still Lacks Bite 2

As soon as the vampires arrive on the scene, at the very first sign of action, the problems become very apparent. If we were coming at this game completely fresh, with no foreknowledge whatsoever, we’d immediately pick up on the bugs – yes, there are still bugs – that occur straight away, in the very first shootout. Enemies clip through vehicles as they attempt to dodge your bullets, we witness an attacker float up and through the roof of a trailer as he dies, and the AI of the thugs you take on in your very first encounter lays bare just how little has been meaningfully enhanced or improved. If this first impression is still so off, perhaps things are worse than we had imagined.

Back in October of last year we did get enemy density updates - this was a very empty town at launch - we got 60FPS, and (apparently) AI improvements. We got more controller options to tool around with, stealth takedowns to give you more options in combat, and bug fixes that have absolutely 100% made for a smoother play experience. All good. But the fact remains that this is an experience that leaves a lot to be desired.

As it turns out we don’t even need to shoot for a full playthrough to re-evaluate Redfall circa 2024. As we dig into that very first combat encounter, we’re met with enemies who stand still in the face of opposing fire, who don’t attempt to use cover and seem almost entirely unaware as we change position to get the upper hand. They are dullard bullet sponges, the worst kind of enemy, replete with numbers popping off as you pump them full of lead. Vampires remain frustrating rather than thrilling too, part bullet sponge, part very repetitive QTE, and the handful of variants you’ll square off against do little to stop things sucking so hard. Yes, that was a pun and we are sorry.

Redfall One Year On: Xbox's Vampire Misfire Still Lacks Bite 3

So, combat hasn’t been improved where it counts. Nothing has been made more challenging or clever. It runs better, yes it does, but the game is essentially the same. Now, this is all quite negative, but add in Arkane’s classy world-building and at least you’ve still got an environment that seems worth exploring, right? Well, no. This is a very good-looking town, the kind of place that grabs our attention at first, but even that aspect of proceedings unravels fairly fast. The lore here, all these little notes that give us so much pleasure in the likes of Dishonored and Prey, just aren’t up to the same level that we’ve come to expect. There’s nothing secret or surprising, very little new or exciting to glean from time spent poring over people’s memoirs. No private mental puzzles to involve yourself with. And so we leave it.

Of course, this stuff just can't function in the same way here that it does in a bespoke single player adventure where you're directed from behind the scenes. Redfall is a town designed to be rampaged around in ad nauseum in nonsensical patterns with a bunch of loud friends in tow, it's about shooting, looting, rinsing and repeating. And so that Arkane magic that, against our better judgment, we're still holding out hope for, is just never going to transpire. It's not that kind of game, and the kind of game it is...well...it's not a very grand example of that either.

In the end, improving the framerate and ironing out a few bugs is the least your loyal players should expect, and a very quick scan of the game’s own Reddit forum sums up our own feelings. Not enough has been done - or even can be done at this stage - to the bones of this one, to the run-of-the-mill skill trees and the lousy loot, to the crappy enemy AI and empty-ass setting. Yes, it still feels empty...even with the added bodycount.

Redfall One Year On: Xbox's Vampire Misfire Still Lacks Bite 4

Arkane is such a great studio that if it were to announce Redfall 2 we’d likely be all over it (gamers to our very cores, we never learn), but we’re gonna have to chalk this one down as an irredeemable loss after this revisitation. There's just nothing to be done. If we were to re-score, unfortunately, and after the improvements that have been made, we may well actually move down the scale rather than up, it just seems that much worse now that we've had time to really stand back and look at it.

There are some rumblings online that changes and updates have been happening behind the scenes, that a big update could be imminent. But isn't it too little too late at this stage?

Persistent fans are keen to say it's a much better experience, that it's now a fine game and well worth your time, but we beg to differ. This is bare minimum stuff after a disastrous launch. This is a product that's still missing some of its paid DLC offerings, bonus heroes and so on, an unfinished product, you might say.

We were sold this vampire-hunting adventure a long time ago and it hasn't changed in any meaningful way as of right now. It hasn't had a new lease of life or been transformed to rave reviews, no juicy campaign add-ons or meaningful expansions. It feels very much as though Redfall has been cleaned up as best it can be, given a few tweaks here and there and left to die. Which is fine. Just tell us so we can mourn and move on.

Now, let’s see a big fancy anniversary update drop and render every word of this article redundant. Our bodies are ready. Sod's law, innit.

Are you still playing Redfall? Do you feel it's improved meaningfully or is still a disappointment? Make sure to sound off in the comments!