- I went hands-on with Redfall, playing a solo mission twice to discover how much of a difference your character choice will make.
- Redfall launches with four characters, each with wildly differing abilities and upgrade paths, making each paythrough different.
- Redfall arrives on May 2 for Xbox Series X|S and Windows PC, and will be part of Xbox Game Pass and PC Game Pass on day one.
Arkane has always been a studio that puts player choice at the heart of its ideas. Dishonored gives you huge choice about how to approach your hapless targets. Deathloop, created by Arkane Austin’s sister studio in Lyon, lets you tackle its story in a close-to-infinite number of ways. Prey offers you tools to uncover the mystery hidden at its core, but doesn’t stand in the way of you using them however you’d like. It stands to reason that Arkane Austin’s newest project, Redfall, would live by the same code. But the way it’s approaching that player choice is strikingly new – your approach to taking back a vampire-strewn Massachusetts island will be defined as much by the character you choose to play, as it is your actual interactions.
Redfall’s cast of four playable heroes is the largest an Arkane game has offered. After playing through a 90-minute demo twice, using two different solo characters, it becomes abundantly clear what the team is aiming for here – Redfall is a game that opens up in very different directions based on who you play as – in mechanics, in combat, in exploration, and even in the way it tells its story.
The story mission I was presented with was fairly simple. Get to a mansion on the edge of town, enter a scientist’s lab, and discover his connection to the vampire plague that’s seen you trapped on the island. Getting to that mansion is the tougher part. I chose to make a beeline through the heart of Redfall, passing through Vampire Nests and violent cultist territory, and eventually into the mansion grounds – patrolled, as you’d expect, by a large number of enemies. Much of your route is urban by design, meaning tightly packed streets, high walls, and not a huge amount of room in which to manoeuvre.
Each character comes with a range of upgradable skills and, as I discovered, they make an enormous difference to that journey. I played this same mission with two characters – Devinder Crousley and Remi de la Rosa – and found that the way played was affected entirely by that choice. Here’s how those playthroughs went:
Playing With Remi
An elite Navy rescue team member, Remi is the prototypical action star of the bunch. Having spent her life on combat frontlines, she’s equipped to take on Redfall’s many monstrosities with brute force. But she’s also an engineer, and has brought along a robot buddy, Bribón to help her do so with more finesse than simply “stake anything that moves”.
As you might expect, Remi’s toolkit is designed to let her take down groups of enemies from close range (and she has passive upgrade that allow her to increase close range damage, pushing you further down that path), and to keep her alive while she does so. Her most aggressive ability is a sticky C4 charge that can be detonated remotely, letting you damage multiple enemies at once, or set traps as you guide enemies you grief into its path. To help you with the latter, Remi can also use Bribón (who is a separate AI character, with its own healthbar and attacks) to set off a siren, letting you alert multiple enemies and draw them to you.
Combining these two abilities became key to how I got through Redfall’s streets smoothly. After spotting enemies, I’d throw down a C4 charge and set off Bribón’s siren – a group would charge the robot, while I snuck around cover and flanked them. Having upgraded my siren ability to let me do more damage to enemies that had been attracted by it, I’d then finish off the group with a shotgun, using its attached stake to take down any vampires I put into a vulnerable state.
Playing with Remi as a solo character turns Redfall into an action-packed experience, asking you to balance risk and reward constantly.
If things got too hairy, I could turn to Remi’s ultimate ability, Mobilize, creating a rally point that healed me while I was inside its radius. In these moments, I played like a classic tank, absorbing lots of damage while dealing even more of my own. Most vampires can’t be killed with bullets alone, so in battle with multiple monsters, I’d switch out my shotgun-and-stake for a weapon that fired a UV beam – useless against human enemies, but able to turn vampires to stone in short order, letting me shatter them with a simple melee attack.
I cleared vampire nests (psychical spaces that offer big rewards in return for taking on their challenges) and unlocked a safehouse, which offers safe harbour, a new fast travel point, and extra missions. But attracting so much attention on the streets also increased the attention of the island’s Vampire Gods. As I approached the mansion, a lightning storm erupted around me, and saw the appearance of the Rook – a brutal, melee-focused mini-boss sent to kill me for doing so much damage along the way. It’s a lovely, emergent touch, and an extra trial designed to test you after you’ve begun to master combat.
With the experience I earned from taking down the Rook, I also upgraded my C4 charge to let me ‘boom jump’, taking no area of effect damage and eliminating fall damage, but I used this mainly as another means to get behind enemies while they were distracted – and once I entered the mansion grounds, I combined my abilities to clear out as many enemies as possible in its gardens because of how much aggression I could absorb, before entering its winding corridors with a stake launcher (able to one-shot most vampires) to take down any stragglers.
As you can tell, playing with Remi as a solo character turns Redfall into an action-packed experience, asking you to balance risk and reward constantly. But playing as Devinder offered a very different vibe while engaging with the same mission.
Playing With Devinder
Think of Devinder as, essentially, all four Ghostbusters rolled into one – he has the scientific expertise of Spengler, the wonder of Stantz, the cool demeanour of Zeddemore, and the wit of Venkman. A filmmaker and author with an audience interested in the paranormal, his kit revolves around inventions he’s created to find and document supernatural entities – but he’s now had to upgrade it to kill them off as well.
Devinder’s kit is very different to Remi’s. His Arc Javelin is a mid-range attack that acts as a combined stake and area-of-effect attack, sending electricity out to incapacitate enemies (and vampires can be outright killed by being hit by its lightning). His ultimate, Blacklight, is a super-powered UV beam weapon, which can transform an entire area of vampires into stone near-instantly – very useful for getting out of a tight spot.
And this is the interesting thing about playing as Devinder – the final piece of his toolset is as much about avoiding attention as it is dealing with it. The Translocator is Redfall’s closest analogue to Dishonored’s Blink, a throwable device that lets you instantly transport to where it lands. As a result, instead of getting into action on the streets, I spent most of my journey getting onto rooftops, quietly taking out Watchers (a Vampire form that act like roving security cameras) with my Javelin, and sneaking past larger groups.
Think of Devinder as, essentially, all four Ghostbusters rolled into one.
Like with Remi, I took out a Vampire Nest on my way – but instead of running in guns blazing, I carefully scaled a church roof, entering a belltower and creeping into the encounter instead of taking down the guards around it. And without attracting so much ire, I also didn’t have to take on the Rook, who would have been a sterner challenge with a set of weapons built more for long-range combat.
Even the more manicured mansion grounds played out differently with Devinder. Instead of entering through the front gates, I used my translocator to sneak into the back garden, bypassing deadly areas of Blood Mist that had forced Remi to use the front door. It felt like playing the same game made by a different set of developers, with different interests in how to challenge you, adding a puzzle layer on top of its meaty gunplay.
But perhaps my favorite part of playing with Devinder wasn’t mechanical at all – it was how he told the story along the way. As a para-scientist, Devinder’s interactions with all of this weren’t defined by anger, fear, or triumph as much as they were by fascination. Every new type of vampire I met was greeted by Devinder talking about their physiology or behavior, ending with him giving them a name – a Watcher, a Shroud, and so on (clearly, Devinder is the member of the group creating the vampire taxonomy that the rest of the team use). It’s a lovely choice, making playing with Devinder as much of a documentary about the vampire plague as it is an action story.
Mixing it Up
Of course, the two other characters, Layla and Jacob, would have changed this experience for themselves. And this is just in solo play – every character also comes with abilities designed for co-op play (which also increases the number of enemies you need to fight as you go). Remi can upgrade Bribón to heal the whole team is they stay close by, while Devinder can up allies’ damage through ‘Color Commentary’. I’m just as fascinated to see how these disparate toolsets work when combined as I am to try them all solo.
Even at this early stage, this spin on Arkane’s traditional openness to player expression is intoxicating, enlivening both solo and co-op play. I’m very excited to try out those other characters and delve deeper into how Redfall will let us experiment with its tools.
Redfall Bite Back Edition