MANILA, Philippines — Zombies have long been the enemies of choice for many video games, eclipsing a whole host of other iconic ghouls and creatures.

But developer Arkane Studios Austin (dishonored, prey) will be shaking up the monster mix this year as they and publisher Bethesda Softworks prepare to release Redfall, an open-world co-op first-person shooter where you must shoot down fast-moving, bloodthirsty vampires.

The game, which launches on May 2, is huge for Microsoft as it’s the first triple-A Xbox and PC offered exclusively by Bethesda since the company took over from Bethesda parent company Zenimax in March 2021 Media took over, and maybe since Elder Scrolls III (and the lesser known ones Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth) was released exclusively for the original Xbox. redfall follows Bethesda’s first game this year, which, while not a triple-A, is critically adored Hi-Fi Rush.

It will also be a First Day Drop on Microsoft’s PC Game Pass in the Philippines, the company’s gaming subscription service priced at P119 per month, which the company says is one of the lowest plans for the service anywhere in the world.

Surely Microsoft considers Redfall as a game that would attract more PC Game Pass subscribers as it competes with other platforms like PlayStation 5 and Steam. Speaking to Rappler, the company said the service has been successful in the country and has built a solid subscriber base since its launch in April 2022, although they haven’t disclosed numbers. They stressed that the service aims to make games, including triple-A titles, more affordable to access – especially at a time when a single current-gen console game could cost at least 3,500 pesos.

redfall comes just over a year after the service launched. How is it shaping up? Microsoft recently took a number of Southeast Asian journalists to Bethesda’s Asia Pacific headquarters in Sydney, Australia to watch the game for 90 minutes.

Liberation Campaign
The cultists were pretty regular guys before they fell down a YouTube rabbit hole filled with pro-vampire propaganda. Probably. Image by Microsoft/Bethesda

Unlike the funky, time-wasting adventures in death loop by Arkane Lyon, another Arkane team, the premise of Arkane Austin redfall basically pursues a simpler goal for our heroes: vampires have taken over the fictional island town of Redfall in Massachusetts, USA; Defeat said vampires and free the island from vampire gods.

And to do that, you’ll need to reclaim a small region at a time by clearing safehouses in the area, from which you can respawn and resupply should you die at a nearby mission location.

Without setting up the safehouses, death will be a painful experience as you have to go back much longer in the mission for another shot. In my playthrough the hardest parts so far are managing your ammo as ammo seems to be in short supply and finding a way to deal with the special vampires which amounts to trial and error.

Aside from following the main mission, another challenge for players is to clear so-called vampire nests, which will throw waves of vampires at you as you try to find and destroy the nest’s giant vampire heart. Once you do, it’s an insane rush to find a way out before the nest collapses.

Complete enough missions in an area and you can eventually fight a vampire underboss. Defeat enough underbosses and you’ll eventually face one of the four vampire gods.

The premise looks simpler than the more experimental structure and narrative of death loop, which in a way made it easier for me to get into the game. You’re a freedom fighter in a liberation campaign against literally bloodthirsty oppressors in an open world, which means it’s up to you which areas you try to liberate first.

Finish him

My favorite gameplay dynamic is that you have to finish off vampire enemies by driving a stake through them once you’ve reduced their health to zero. They’ll be stunned for maybe 10 or 15 seconds, and if you can’t finish them off, they’ll be back in battle form with full health. I only faced about 3 of them at a time but you can see how this dynamic would make for some exciting moments when dealing with larger groups.

This creates a sense of action as you try to complete them. Dealing with a few other enemies at the same time can make it difficult to take down a vampire successfully. There’s also an option to take them out from a distance with some sort of flare gun that burns them up.

One slightly annoying thing is that you have to manually switch to your stake gun when you take it down. It might be more seamless if there was a contextual button for those moments that let you automatically stake attack without having to switch weapons first.

Jacob’s raven can serve as a scout, marking enemies and making them more visible to the player with a red outline. Image by Microsoft/Bethesda

There are also human enemies, divided into two factions: cultists who support the vampires and a faction of paramilitary soldiers. These factions sometimes fight each other, which you can take advantage of.

Landing headshots at the human enemies is satisfying, with a big red damage number popping up when you do so.

Technically, I experienced a few crashes during my playthrough, but the other guys had a smooth time. They noted before our session that we were playing an early preview build, so there might be some technical glitches.

Throughout the game there is also a meter that fills up as you kill vampires and a message saying that the vampire gods are watching you (perhaps when you reach a certain level in the meter). Fill it up and the gods will send after you a special vampire named The Rook, a huge beast. However, I wasn’t able to fill up the meter, so I didn’t get to see it. Kind of reminds me of Resident Evil’s Tyrant.

Small town feeling
The whole vampire situation was just a cover-up for the true criminal master plan: stealing everyone’s TV. Image by Microsoft/Bethesda

The game’s setting is suburban America—quaint homes and all, and the usual community buildings. It’s a more intimate, personal setting that makes you feel like you’re saving a community worth saving. You’ll encounter survivors throughout the game who offer side quests – small town requests, except don’t, because hey, it’s vampires all the way down.

The studio emphasized that they really wanted a lived-in look for the community, and that goes for rooms, rooms and buildings. Arkane games have always had a strong personality, so it would be interesting to see how that translates to an environment they’ve described as the greatest they’ve ever made.

How death loop Part of the fun, however, is solving and piecing together the mystery of what the heck is going on (or in this case, how the vampires came to be and how they were able to block the sun) through missions and other objects like shots and Notes scattered throughout the game.

Meet your ghostbusters

Redfall has four heroes – a sniper who turns invisible, a paranormal investigator with a teleportation device, a combat engineer with a robot sidekick who can distract enemies, and a university student with a huge student debt who also happens to have the special ability to make something magical Elevators appear that can take you and your teammates to higher places.

We only got to play one – Layla, the college student – but judging by her they have great personalities… which means there are witty jokes here and there. They’re like the Ghostbusters, except it’s vampires that destroy them. And there’s this slightly odd flavor with the characters that I noticed death loop too, and somehow it makes them feel a little bit more real. It always makes me laugh a little that promotional materials for the Harp game talk about Layla being high in student debt, like that’s extremely important to the whole save-the-neighborhood-from-vampire shenanigans.

A magic umbrella would certainly come in handy during the rainy season. Image by Microsoft/Bethesda

At least two of the skills I saw reminded me of skills in Apex Legends – a game I refer to endlessly, for better or for worse: Layla’s elevator ability and Devinder the investigator’s teleportation.

There is a co-op mode where up to 3 other players can join the host (we didn’t get to try it though) and help them with missions. The great thing is that all other players can spread to any corner of the map without locking onto each other. Basically, they can fool around and mostly do whatever they want, then regroup when they want to complete a mission together.

What we look forward to

I would have liked to have tried more weapons and also the other characters and their abilities to see if they did something cool and fresh. I want to see how dangerous the tower is and try a vampire nest run myself. The designs of the vampire gods also look gnarly, and story-wise, I was intrigued by how this whole vampire apocalypse started. We’re used to seeing zombie mayhem begin, but not often vampires. There’s some iconic stuff and some science stuff, and it’ll be great to unpack as we dive into the quest to take back Redfall.

It’s great to see this as a PC Game Pass release as well, as it bodes well for building a solid player base for multiplayer. The more people can play it, the greater the chances of building a vibrant community – the lifeblood of multiplayer shooters. It’s particularly interesting to see how Filipino players would take it considering we’re big Bravewhich is one of the top games to be played on PC Game Pass according to Microsoft.

We’ll see how it all falls into place on May 2nd when the game comes out, and we’re keeping an eye out for how arcane signature storytelling, lovable characters and interesting villains with open-world elements, squad shooter action and one, so far satisfying stake mechanics. I’ve been craving a fairly unique shooter with multiplayer modes (I’ve exhausted myself with apexand couldn’t get in Brave or Previous 4 blood), so this one is sure to make a big impression on my radar. – Rappler.com

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