Redeemer – Review
I love a good bloody beat-em up. There are many titles that fit the bill out there but usually the games tend to be a little shallow in the gameplay department and all about the gore. So when Redeemer hit my desk, I expected it to be splattered with the red stuff but what I didn’t expect was to be drawn into one of the best beat-em-ups I have ever played.
Redeemer tells the tale of Vasilli, a rather buff monk in a mountain monastery with a dodgy past. That past comes back to haunt him and his peaceful life when an invasion of cyborg soldiers begins tearing up the monastery, killing Vasilli’s monk buddies and setting the place on fire. As it turns out, Vasilli’s prior life was one of violence and combat (a shock I know) and he quickly finds himself extracting revenge on those that killed the innocents he had come to live with. It is a simple setup but one that is told with stylish, comic book style cutscenes in between missions and as a result I found myself enjoying Vasilli’s tale of cold-blooded revenge.
At its core, Redeemer is a simple beat-em-up, though with the key difference of a top down perspective. Controls are simple, with a button for kick, punch, dodge, block and one for situation specific interactions. What Redeemer does best, however, is takes these simple controls and creates an engaging combat system that is both easy to use but challenging to master. Kicks are weaker but hit more than one enemy while punches do high damage to one bad guy. The parry system should be familiar to anyone who has played an action game in recent times, with the baddies flashing red when a parry can be performed. Finally, if enough damage has been done or there is an environmental death trap nearby, a fatality can be performed with the context sensitive input. From ripping out an enemy’s throat to pushing them into a table saw, these finishers are both gruesome and satisfying in their brutality. They are not only for the visceral kicks either. To regain health in game I had to kill enemies. There are no health pickups, so the only way to heal is to keep killing and the more violent the death, the more health is restored. I found myself looking for the environmental kills at every opportunity because they were quite often the difference between sweet victory or bitter failure.
It is not all just head kicks and knuckle sandwiches though. There is a variety of death dealing weapons at Vasili’s disposal. Stun batons, Machetes, War Hammers and Fire Axes are just some of the melee weapons that bring pain and suffering to the evil cyborg and mutant forces. There is also a range of firearms too and they are used in an interesting way within the game. When Vasilli uses a gun of any kind the control scheme becomes that of a twin-stick shooter which is a rather elegant way of using distance weaponry in this sort of game. Guns are essential to getting through the game, but they reward less health for kills. This means I found myself only using them when I was faced with overwhelming odds, resorting to my fists when it was only a few enemies.
As far as the game’s difficulty is concerned, Redeemer is brutal. At the normal difficulty level, I found myself constantly pushed to the limit of my abilities with the game. The game punishes mistakes harshly and from about the mid-point of the game mistakes pretty much always lead to death. The enemy AI is simple but varied and quite often I was faced with a wide range of different combatants. This forced me to prioritise targets on the fly, quickly taking out the more immediate threats like gunners while avoiding big hits from the heavier, slower enemies. It is intense and can be rage-inducing but at the same time immensely satisfying when victory is achieved.
This leads to my biggest criticism of the game and that is the checkpoints. I feel that these are a little out of balance and that caused some unwarranted rage. There were instances where I faced waves and waves of enemies for over 20 minutes, only to die at the last wave and have to start all over again. There is also the problem of not being able to save the game mid-level. Some of the levels are an hour long and add to that multiple cases of death and the ability save, even at a checkpoint, would be a blessing. As it is I was forced to leave the game running and paused if I got called away for fear of losing my progress, which isn’t ideal.
One thing that Redeemer certainly has going for it is its scalability. I began playing the game on my high-end PC and it looked great but what surprised me was how well it ran and looked on my mid-range laptop. I have been playing the game on my laptop for the majority of my time with the game and while I had to turn the settings down to medium, it still looks good and runs well. This is a game that should run well on most PC’s out there, which is always great news for those of us that don’t have access to the latest and greatest gaming gear.
Redeemer is a simple game, of that there is no doubt, but it is a simple game that has been done extremely well. The game features tight, visceral and challenging combat, entertaining gunplay and an engaging (if clichéd) story. It is let down a little by a poor save system and some unbalanced checkpoints but that is not enough to detract from what is one of the best beat-em-ups to ever grace my PC. Redeemer is a brutally satisfying brawler that will push players skill limits and rage limits in equal measure, making it a must buy for fans of the genre.