Stephen King’s Salem’s Lot Opens with chapter upon chapter in which the characters describe their roles and the town of Maine they live in. King spends a lot of time drawing on the history and culture of the people, before it becomes clear that a vampire has come to make their home their new pasture. It’s an approach taken in a lot of monster stories: give the audience a reason to care about a bunch of people before they fall prey to blood-sucking ghouls.
red fallArkane, the latest from Austin, reverses this setup, introducing players to the titular, fictional Massachusetts island after the vampires have already extracted most of the life from the place. The result – about halfway through the story (our impressions are based on roughly 10 hours in a single excursion) – is a game that struggles to warrant interest in the fate of its fallen city, and one that requires fresh blood to be found. has a hard time following overly familiar trends in the apocalypse genre.
As one of four characters, all of whom come with supernaturally tinged backstories and special abilities, the player sets out to investigate the nature of the vampire invasion, surviving a group of fellow humans, and hopefully escape the island. The beginning is not a very inspiring thing. red fall The player begins with establishing a secure base of operations – in this case, at a fire station – and helping a group of survivors settle into their new home. A strict priest, a gentlemanly doctor, and an oiled-up gun salesman, each with their own storefront and attendant swarm of other shallow NPCs. None of the members of this cast are particularly memorable, and it’s hard to drum up interest in their fates, mortal or not.
The town of Redfall itself makes a strong impression. It has a downtown core lined with centuries-old colonial architecture and outdoor tourist attractions including a lighthouse and museum marking its history as a whaling center. Because there are few backdrops to a horror story than mid-autumn, the town sits beneath gorgeous orange-, yellow- and red-leafed trees; Many of its storefronts are decorated with pumpkins.
These places, along with other locations—a dried-up, fish-strewn lake bed or a shadowy, abandoned hospital, to name a couple more—are distinguished by splashes of bold red ’80s paperback font on menus and in the area. Create a stylish sense of enhanced danger. names. As is known for creating a strong sense of place in its games through elaborate set dressing, as expected of a studio Arkane, the interiors of these locations are filled with everyday objects and scraps of discarded writing. . These details inform the nature of the characters who once lived there, hinting at the dark secrets behind the vampires’ takeover.
However, the atmosphere dissipates when enemies don’t reveal themselves as terrifying otherworldly creatures, brutal private military operatives, or vicious human cultists that the game claims them to be, rather numb-skull shooting gallery targets. A highly trained soldier responds to the first volley of gunfire by running headlong into the corner of a movie theater, just waiting to be pecked in the head with a rifle shot. A creature of the night launches a monstrous attack by swimming in a straight line towards the player, teleporting away from the hail of bullets to back up a bit and try the same strategy once more. While enemies occasionally display a bit more creativity—vampires occasionally zigzag around the screen to dodge gunshots, and some humans set up automatic gun turrets—they are largely brain-dead, only present a real threat when they swarm the player and obscure one’s vision.
It’s worth noting that targets float enough on the Xbox Series X that the best battlefield strategy is usually to strafe them from side to side with a shotgun when they make their way into the crosshairs. Explode the cultists and vampires. Switching to a Windows PC helped with this sluggish pace – and the general clumsiness of the camera – but the gunplay is still unremarkable. This is a problem, considering how much shooting has to be done red fallHordes of worshipers, soldiers and vampires in any mission.
Playing as Layla Alison, a university student with telekinesis, is a delightful wrinkle to standard shooter design. But his special powers suit doesn’t do much to mix up combat that relies on mowing down waves of goons with whatever the highest damage number listed in the gun’s description is. Layla can pop a large purple psychic umbrella that acts as a shield, and she can also summon her ghostly vampire ex-boyfriend to float over enemies. But these powers, as well as his ability to summon a flamboyant midcentury elevator cage that shoots him or other players into the air, rarely lend themselves to flat, vague gunplay textures.
a narrative that emerges Redfall’An excellent sense of place can help overcome its lackluster battleiness. So far, the story hasn’t provided much motivation to advance through mission after mission of good exploration and dull gunplay. The incidental writing—found in places like flashback scenes captured in old notes or spectral dioramas—is developed enough to imbue the broad strokes of the plot with a zest and human drama it otherwise lacks.
If this tone takes center stage in the back half of the story, coupled with plot developments that add some momentum to the proceedings, it might be easy to overlook the game’s weaker aspects and pass it off as a compelling narrative work. can be appreciated. At this point, though, the city of Redfall is sucked too dry of livability for players to be invested in whether or not its vampires win.
red fall Will be released on May 2 on Windows PC and Xbox Series X. The game was reviewed on Xbox and PC using a pre-release download code provided by Bethesda Softworks. Vox Media is an affiliated partnership. These do not affect editorial content, although Vox Media may earn commissions for products purchased through affiliate links. You can find Additional information about Polygon’s ethics policy here,