In Defense of Redfall’s Blood Graffiti

Shown at the Xbox and Bethesda Showcase, Arkane’s upcoming immersive sim Redfall shows a knowing eye for environmental storytelling.

I’m very excited for Redfall, because of course I am. It’s the next immersive sim — ok, multiplayer FPS, they have to actually sell the thing — from Arkane, purveyors of some of my favorite games of all time, like Prey and the Dishonored series. But the goofy bit of the trailer with decidedly “Dumb Video Game Grafitti” hasn’t left my brain.

The Dishonored and Prey titles have fantastic environmental storytelling, often using architecture and overall word design elements alongside diegetic signs and iconography, overall color choices, background elements, and props (I will submit that no game in history has used props better than Prey: allowing players to become innocuous items in the environment, and/or hiding lethal enemies in the same stuff) in order to make the spaces come alive.

prey gloo gun

Arkane is good at this, so why would they write “the blood” over a dead army guy and put that prominently in the trailer?

Well, since the whole tone of this game is tongue in cheek, it’s geared towards players who like this kind of dorky stuff. I think it’s fair to guess that this is kind of a joke, or a nod at the very phenomenon. It’s a blood graffiti lampshade! It’s a bit!

Let’s look at the rest of the trailer for evidence. There’s a cartoonish, almost superhero-adjacent style to the whole affair, with plenty of neon and bright hues. Our narrator, Layla, who is later introduced as “the telekinetic threat with student debt” (and our own Natalie Flores wrote an excellent editorial about what a wise choice she was to highlight) has a knowing air to her introduction. Early on, she even mentions a “bustling, historic downtown,” while the shot shows a desolate street with a rundown car parked in a leaf pile. It’s not unlike the opening shot of (famously terrible graffiti-using) A Quiet Place. The cultists “trying to become vampires,” have stupid butterfly grafitti (and a huge, ugly-looking butterfly statue!), and that’s just straight out of I am Legend, another cornball-ass movie (albeit much better than A Quiet Place). 

Layla mentions that if she had to be stuck on “an island full of vampires, I’m glad it’s with y’all.” It’s an iteration of the “hey, the apocalypse isn’t so bad with friends,” idea, which also supports the goofy tone. Overall, blood graffiti is simply a great stylistic choice for this kind of pulpy, wink-and-nod approach.

The trailer did more than show off doofy blood graffiti and establish tone, it also showcased the underlining idea that the game works well as a single or multiplayer experience. Having Layla investigate a vampire-infested (and blooded up!) church by herself at first, with a little assistance from a squadmate later on — and then showing a much more chaotic battle on a huge fairground field — goes a long way to show the immersive combat elements in closed quarters and open spaces. 

I still need to play Deathloop (one day, soon!), and then I’ll be very ready for Redfall when it arrives next year. I’ll be waiting patiently, and on the looking for more blood graffiti until then.