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With Redfall’s stumbles, the pressure is on for Starfield

Judging by reviews and early impressions, Redfall is a resounding disappointment for Xbox and Bethesda. Hyped as Xbox’s first AAA release in over a year and one of the most significant things to come from Xbox’s 2021 acquisition of ZeniMax Media, Redfall isn’t quite living up to those lofty expectations. While I’m still working through the game myself, I’ve played enough to know that this open-world vampire shooter pales in comparison to Arkane’s previous titles and its co-op shooter peers.

Coming after one of Xbox’s roughest years ever in terms of exclusives and the failure of the Activision Blizzard acquisition, it’s not a good look. It puts an excessive amount of pressure on just one game in Xbox’s lineup: Starfield.

As a AAA game from ZeniMax Media’s premier studio, the successor to The Elder Scrolls and Fallout, and Xbox’s biggest exclusive since Halo Infinite, Starfield needs to unequivocally succeed in most metrics to save Xbox. There are other games like Hi-Fi Rush and Forza Motorsport, but none are as critically vital on as big of a scale as Starfield. Bethesda Game Studios and Xbox can no longer afford to mess up the launch of Starfield.

Redfall’s failure is Xbox’s failure

While Redfall was in development prior to the acquisition of ZeniMax Media, it wasn’t revealed until E3 2021, making it the first new ZeniMax game Xbox has marketed as its own. The game has appeared at most Xbox showcases since its announcement, has constantly been pushed in Xbox’s social media and Game Pass advertising, and was even delayed by a year to improve its quality. As such, Redfall being a stinker hurts Xbox even further, as this is the biggest first-party game to be associated with Microsoft’s developer and publisher purchasing spree so far.

Although ZeniMax Media operates independently under Microsoft, to general audiences, Redfall will hold the same weight as an Xbox Game Studios exclusive like Gears 5. In fact, it’s even a bit more exciting as it could potentially be the start of a brand new exciting live service franchise, something Xbox players have needed since Sea of Thieves. Due to Redfall’s underwhelming nature, though, it doesn’t seem like it will captivate players beyond a cursory Xbox Game Pass subscription download.

Bethesda Softworks

Coming off an April where Minecraft Legends underwhelmed and the Activision Blizzard acquisition got blocked by the U.K., things don’t look great for Microsoft’s gaming efforts right now. Its 2022 was mostly devoid of big exclusive games, and many Xbox exclusives and day one Game Pass titles that were promised to come out before June 2023 haven’t — and likely won’t. The one exception to this seems to be Hi-Fi Rush, which came from the ZeniMax-owned Tango Gameworks and seemed like a viral hit after its surprise launch in January.

Its expertly executed rhythm action gameplay, charming characters, and distinct visual style kicked Xbox’s 2023 off on a great note and seemed like the first true benefit of Microsoft’s ZeniMax acquisition. Still, its financial success has been questioned, and in general, it’s winning on a smaller scale than games like Redfall and Starfield need to. Independently, Redfall may just seem like another flop that the Xbox division of Microsoft will be able to rebound from. And while that might be true, it may also be building pressure to the breaking point for Xbox as a whole.

Starfield can’t fail

Whether its a success or failure, Starfield‘s reception will be shouted from the rooftops. Bethesda Game Studios is a studio that has revolutionized the game industry with multiple titles and was the crown jewel of Microsoft’s ZeniMax acquisition. Starfield will take that developer’s ambition to space, promising a story and game that live up to Bethesda’s level of quality across over a thousand planets.

A space explorer stands in front of a mountain range in Starfield.

It’s an ambitious game, one that’s as hyped as The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom. As such, Starfield is a game people will be watching very closely before and after its release, and all of these factors impacting games like Hi-Fi Rush and Redfall only ratchet up the pressure that the title faces.

If Starfield fails, it could be the most devastating blow to the Xbox brand yet. It’d mean we’d go two years with no standout big-budget Xbox exclusive, despite heaps of money spent on acquisitions, game development, and the creation of next-gen hardware. It’d put the Xbox leadership team’s efforts into doubt as there will have been little payoff from the billions spent on game developer acquisitions since 2018. And Xbox making Redfall and Starfield exclusive, only for them to disappoint, would be a move unforgiving video game fans will never forget.

Xbox is doing great things for the industry with ID@Xbox, Xbox Game Pass, and its willingness to let studios pursue smaller passion projects. That approach may only be sustainable, though, with massive hits to balance them out. Starfield may be the most pivotal game for the future of the Xbox brand since Halo: Combat Evolved, all because of the string of failures that preceded it.

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Tomas Franzese
Tomas Franzese is a Staff Writer at Digital Trends, where he reports on and reviews the latest releases and exciting…
A field-of-view slider headlines Starfield’s latest update
An astronaut explores a planet's surface in Starfield.

Bethesda just released Update 1.7.36 for Starfield, and it officially added a highly requested feature: field-of-view (FOV) sliders.
Even though Starfield is a game that can be entirely played from a first-person perspective, it did not have this feature at release. Fans had to previously resort to mods to add this functionality to the game. Bethesda did promise it'd add FOV sliders to the game shortly after it launched, though, and now this feature has finally arrived. By going into the Accessibility tab of the Settings menu, players can adjust the FOV of both the first and third-person cameras on both console and PC.

This update does bring some other improvements as well, like fixing a progression-blocking issue in the Echoes of the Past quest and improving stability and performance. In particular, Bethesda claimed stability with Intel Arc GPUs will now be better for PC players. For most players, though, the FOV slider is the most important new feature included in this update.
Starfield isn't the only Bethesda game to get a notable update this month. Last week, Redfall finally received a patch that overhauled the game's encounters, tweaked its stealth system, and added a 60 fps Performance Mode. While this Starfield update isn't as large or monumental as that one, it does show Bethesda's commitment to improving Starfield and adding heavily requested features. Hopefully, updates that add things like Nvidia DLSS support, an HDR calibration menu, ultrawide monitor support, and an eat button for food aren't too far off.
Starfield is available now for PC and Xbox Series X/S.

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Major Redfall patch adds 60 fps performance mode, a stealth overhaul, and more
The four hero characters in Redfall dragging a vampire, who's reaching towards the camera with clawed hands.

Xbox exclusive Redfall just got a major patch. The update adds a long-awaited 60 frames per second (fps) mode to the game, as well as a heap of quality of life upgrades and an overhaul to stealth gameplay.
Among lots of other problems, the dame infamously only ran at 30 fps at launch on Xbox Series X and S. While Arkane Studios promised a performance mode patch was in the works prior to release, it didn't arrive until today.

On October 6, Arkane Studios and Bethesda dropped Update 2 for Redfall. The most notable addition is Performance Mode, which lets players prioritize frame rate over resolution to finally get the game to run at 60 fps on consoles. Simply navigate to the Video tab within Redfall's settings menu to activate it. The patch notes for this update claim it brings improved stability on PC, in addition to solutions to memory-based crashes and AMD GPU-related graphics corruption. The update also contains some new gameplay tweaks to hopefully make the experience better.
Redfall will now encourage stealth more, as Arkane added the ability to sneak up on and do stealth takedowns on enemies and made it clearer which weapons are silenced in menus. It also added more options for players to fine-tune aim assets and dead zones while aiming, increased the number of enemies wandering the game's open world, and added unique ping colors for each player in a multiplayer squad. You can check out the full list of patch notes to see the additional tweaks and bug fixes made.
Redfall had a notoriously rocky launch this year, so it was hard for anyone outside of Microsoft to truly know whether or not improvements to the game would actually be delivered. Bethesda's Pete Hines had previously claimed it wouldn't abandon the game, and this update is our first real indication that it's true. While this isn't a Phantom Liberty-level rework for Redfall, it certainly seems like the game is now in the best condition it's been in since launch.
Redfall is available now for PC, Xbox Series X, and Xbox Series S.

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Xbox’s 2023 games feel like the Series X launch lineup we never got
EMBARGO 10/4 12:01 AM PT: A camera angle up close to a Forza Motorsport race.

Even though we’re almost three years into the life span of the Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S, it feels like this console generation is just starting for Microsoft.
It’s no secret that Xbox was slow to start up and then maintain consistency this console generation. For example, 2020 saw the company putting out a weak console launch lineup made up of ports and remasters. While 2021 had a flurry of great games, it was followed by a comparatively barren 2022. And 2023 hasn't been perfect either (due, in large part, to the flop that is Redfall), but outside of that, this year delivered the excellent Hi-Fi Rush, the grandly scaled Starfield, solid ports of two Age of Empires games and Quake II, a new Minecraft title, and a technical showpiece in Forza Motorsport.
Looking at that varied lineup, these games showcase both the potential of the Series X and the power of Xbox as a brand. Prospects for Xbox’s lineup are up heading into 2024 too, so it feels like we’re at the proper start of the Xbox Series X and S console generation ... even if it came a few years too late.
A new beginning 
Looking at the 2020 launch lineup for Xbox Series X/S, it wasn’t exactly emblematic of what the console could do. While there were some nice 4K and 60 frames per second (fps) upgrades for Xbox One games, the only new draws were a console port of Gears Tactics, the multiplayer-supporting Tetris Effect: Connected, a temporary next-gen exclusive version of Yakuza: Like a Dragon, and some smaller indies like The Falconeer and Bright Memory 1.0.

Most of those games were on or came to more platforms afterward and, in general, didn’t provide that strong of an argument for why players should stick around this console generation. But looking at many of the games Xbox has released this year, it finally feels like we have a bundle of good Xbox exclusives that show what the platform was always capable of.
In my review of Forza Motorsport, I note that the game feels like a launch title because it’s an impressive technical showpiece. It runs at 4K and 60 fps in performance mode, which is something not many games this generation have done. The closest comparable games are Astro’s Playroom and Marvel’s Spider-Man Remastered on PlayStation 5, which effectively demonstrated the power of Sony's console early on.
Forza Motorsport was also built as a platform that developer Turn 10 Studios can expand over time. It plans to periodically slot in new single and multiplayer content, including new cars and tracks. A game like that makes a lot of sense early on in a console’s life span in this live-service era. It’s what Microsoft tried to do with Halo Infinite, even if that didn’t pan out as expected due to a one-year delay, and with Killer Instinct on Xbox One.

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