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Something to sink your teeth into

A dark history

As a non-American, when Massachusetts gets mentioned, for some reason I always think of two things – Boston and the Celtics, and Salem and the hunt for witches. The latter was definitely a dark period in the history of Massachusetts. But in early May, another dark period will begin in another town in Massachusetts with the release of Redfall. We at Hooked Gamers were lucky enough to be invited to a hands-on preview session recently and were able to sink out teeth into a small section of the single player mode of the game developed by the team at Arkane Austin.

Set on the island of Redfall in Massachusetts, players take on the role of one of four playable characters as they attempt to save the town that is under siege by a legion of vampires who have blocked out the sun and cut the citizens off from the outside world.

After choosing our playable character, our preview mission had us travelling from one of the game's safehouses (the Firehouse) to a mansion to the south of the island occupied by Doctor Addison, the man behind the appearance of the vampire apocalypse in Redfall. The four playable characters are quite diverse in appearance and abilities and will each offer some variation in gameplay. I tried out two of the characters – Jacob Boyer and Remi de la Rosa during our allotted time and found that I needed slightly different strategies when getting from one location to the next.

Diverse characters

Jacob Boyer is the sharpshooter of the quartet and quite handy with a sniper rifle. His two main special powers involve a stealthy approach. He can send out a raven as a way to provide reconnaissance of nearby enemies. He can also cloak himself for a short period of time enabling him to sneak around behind enemy lines. Each character also has an Ultimate power, and in the case of Jacob, is called the Heartstopper – which places him in stealth mode and then allows Jacob to pinpoint nearby enemies. It is quite a powerful attack but can only be used sparingly.

Remi de la Rosa reminded me a bit of FL4K from Borderlands 3, the character with an animal sidekick. In the case of Remi, her sidekick is a robot named Bribon that she engineered herself. One of Remi’s abilities allows her to send out Bribon as a decoy allowing her to freely take down enemies that are not focussed on killing her. Her other main skill involves a C4 charge. Remi can plant (or throw) the charge wherever she wants and then detonate from afar. This was great for throwing in the middle of a group of cultists.

The other two characters are Devinder Crously and Layla Ellison. Devinder's inventions are his special powers. One is a javelin that can electrocute those nearby when planted in the ground, whilst his other invention is a portable version of the Star Trek transporter, allowing him to immediately jump to a different location, often to a higher ledge out of harm's way. Layla has telekinetic abilities, the first being an umbrella shield whilst her other skill is the use of a telekinetic elevator that allows her to move vertically with ease. Her ultimate ability is quite a unique one, in that it conjures up an ex-boyfriend of hers and he seeks out and helps to kill nearby enemies.

Each of these characters has their own tech tree and upon leveling up, players can improve one of the many skills on offer. The left side of the tech tree seems to focus on improving the special abilities of the character. The right side, however, is a more generic offering that is the same for each character with boosts to the amount of ammo a character can carry, or increases in defences and healing.

A nice juicy stake

The characters have weapons that combine well with their abilities such as Jacob's sniper rifle, but through the course of the missions, players can loot any other weapon that is dropped by an enemy. So, if you feel like you want to use a sniper rifle with Remi, that is absolutely fine. The only caveat I noticed from the preview session was that one of the weapons should be fitted with a stake as these will need to be used in order to kill the vampires.

There are numerous foes in the game that we came across in our mission playthrough. Hollow Man Cultists are more prevalent and act as the pawns in the game. These cultists can simply be defeated with a couple of well-placed shots but are often in groups. Vampires, on the other hand, will take a bit more beating and will need to be speared through the heart with a wooden stake. We saw several different variations during our trip to the mansion including an Angler - who casts out a rope that pulls player in for a melee attack, a Shroud – who fills a small area with a dark shroud, and a Watcher who sits atop a lookout and will quickly raise an alarm if you’re spotted. There are also environmental dangers such as tripwires and automatic turrets that can become your undoing.

Luckily, the environments can be used to your advantage as well. Shooting at electrical boxes will electrify nearby enemies and shooting oil barrels, gas cylinders or even cars will cause large explosions.

Being that the game is set within a town that has had the sun covered, Redfall does provide for a darker setting, with a hazy spooky feel as you wander the partially deserted town. There were sections of the landscape that immediately had me thinking of Fallout 76 – partially because of the deserted nature of the streets and the rocky, grass covered mountains. But then after traversing some more of the island, the similarities ended. A simple UI displays all the important information including the direction you're headed, you current weapon, the amount of ammunition available and the special abilities and their cooldowns.

This game sucks…blood

Although we only had the chance to preview Redfall in single player mode, there seems to be enough scope to make multiplayer co-op enjoyable. Of course, that could depend on how the scaling works as extra players enter the game. The setting looks gorgeous, the gameplay was smooth, and variation of the playable characters means that there will be multiple ways in which to come out victorious. The eerie background music sets the tone nicely, whilst conversations between cultists and vampires gives players audio cues that they are near. The small section of the game that was available during our preview session was enough to see the game's potential and I am definitely looking forward to sinking my teeth into more of it.

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