Redeemer has the same relentless, cheesy, cathartic energy as a Steven Segal flick from the ’80s. Unfortunately, it plays more like one of those bootlegged Chinese knockoffs in the Village Pantry bargain bin.
Don’t get me wrong: just like hosting a terrible movie night, there is a time and place for something like Redeemer. I just recommend finding a co-op buddy with a sense of humor and a case of beer, because this one is definitely at its best when it isn’t taken seriously at all.
Instead of wasting my time with too much flowery plot exposition, Redeemer opens with brief hand-drawn animated scenes and offers some sprinkled-on details about our revenge-thirsty protagonist, Vasily, and the experimental arms corporation that formerly employed him. Apparently Vasily isn’t too fond of the idea of being turned into a cybernetic killing machine, so he abandons his job to live among monks in the mountains. When the evil corporation comes knockin’, Vasily responds by vowing to destroy every single one of them. This seemed a little counter-intuitive to his initial refusal to be a killing machine, but what do I know?
Amusingly, every break in the action adds to the cheese ball vibe of Redeemer, albeit unintentionally. Each scene is very poorly voiced over, and I can’t shake the impression that the devs really wanted Vasily to seem like a cross between Kratos and Bruce Wayne. Instead, he just reminds me time and time again of Segal drunkenly fighting off thugs in his underpants. It’s utterly senseless, but I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t still entertaining. I know I sound like I’m tearing into it, but I’ll refer back to the bad movie night: sometimes it’s fun to enjoy silly things, and Redeemer is a very silly game.
The exact same sentiment applies to Redeemer‘s brand of top-down brawler gameplay. The game design marries elements of classic coin-op beat-em-ups similar to Golden Axe with top-down action games like Smash TV and Hotline Miami. I never struggled with the basic controls. Vasily can execute some simple combos, perform reversals, insta-kill weakened enemies, and evade danger by rolling away. The excessively violent melee finishers are one of the main draws of the game, and they feel sufficiently rewarding after pummeling through mob after mob.
I particularly enjoyed utilizing objects and death traps scattered throughout the various environments. I could throw chairs to “kite” distant enemies, explode barrels filled with toxic gas, and rip fire extinguishers off the wall to throw like tear gas canisters. The death traps allowed me to maim my foes with objects ranging from electrified canisters and incinerators to table saws and giant fan blades. It gets grisly. It’s hard to deny that, in its best moments, Redeemer is pretty entertaining and cathartic.
Unfortunately, Redeemer just isn’t very deep or captivating beyond its senseless bouts of violence. The combat isn’t exactly complicated, and sometimes the animations would be so easy to forecast that I effortlessly counter-punched and insta-killed my way through crowds of enemies. Vasily’s skills can be upgraded over the course of the game by finding scrolls hidden in the environment, giving me plenty of new attacks and combos.
My only issue with finding the scrolls is that I’m rarely compelled to spend time exploring for any other reason. Additionally, there is no other way to earn experience points or power up your combat abilities. No matter how many goons I tear in half with shotgun blasts, the only way I’m able to upgrade my shotgun skill is to find one of the weapon upgrade scrolls. This makes very little sense to me. If I don’t take the time to seek out scrolls, Vasily doesn’t get any better at combat, and the difficulty curve picks up pretty quick.
After roughly nine or ten stages of increasingly relentless combat, Redeemer starts to throw much larger groups at me, including more waves, more of the “big” or “brute” enemies, and fewer tools to dispatch them with. Ammo is pretty scarce, meaning I could be totally boned if I waste all the nearby ammo on groups of weak enemies before a big one lumbers out from the shadows.
The melee weapons are helpful but can break pretty quickly, especially when fighting off multiple foes at once. This is a huge setback when you’re cornered by more than two or three baddies, especially because Vasily can only recover health by killing. This means that if I slaughter all the cannon fodder weaklings surrounding a tougher foe, I will nearly always end up crawling away in critical health. Dying doesn’t force me to retry the stage from the beginning, which I accepted as a silver lining.
Sadly, retrying stages is inevitable because this “Enhanced Edition” is still somehow utterly plagued with bugs. I was forced to restart a stage on a dozen occasions for a few different reasons. More than once the game completely froze up; a few times the action got heated and the frame rate crashed, but two instances were simply from resuming the game from the pause screen.
Sudden crashes were especially common when I tried out the co-op mode with my roommate. We often couldn’t pause the action or access the upgrade screen to use our scrolls without an uncomfortably long pause in the game, which led to two more crashes. Regardless, even playing alone with less of a strain on the frame rate, I fell through the floor or wall of two different stages. One instance I was cornered by a group of enemies and clipped through the wall; the other, I was simply riding an elevator to the next area of the stage. I realized quickly that I had no way to return to the play area or even kill myself, and retrying the entire stage was my only choice.
Even the trophies and achievements are glitched. Three of the stage-specific challenges simply wouldn’t unlock, even after repeated attempts with all the requirements fulfilled on my end. I enjoyed trying to complete each level’s unique challenge, but I lost interest after half a dozen fruitless efforts.
Redeemer would actually be serviceable as a ruthlessly violent brawler, but the final nail in its coffin is its price tag. Simply put, $30 is too much to ask for this “Enhanced Edition,” especially considering that it really doesn’t add much content to the original package. The devs added the upgrade scrolls – which is great, because it’s the only depth Redeemer has to offer – but it’s hard to boast much about the bare-bones Arena Mode, especially after I already spent hours killing the same baddies in the story mode.
Apparently the graphics and music were also enhanced a bit, but Redeemer was neither visually appealing nor sonically impactful enough to begin with. The stages are all pretty murky, despite having enough variation to keep the surroundings from getting too stale. I already mentioned the voice acting, which deserves some kind of award for its unintentional comedy. The background music is the standard “action game rock/metal” fare, but it’s hard to hear the tunes over all the generic gunshots and bludgeoning sounds.
Redeemer is far from the worst brawler I’ve played, and I even had some fun with it. When the co-op mode wasn’t locking up, it was a blast. If I needed something simple to play for five or ten minutes, I enjoyed tackling a stage or two in story mode. Unfortunately, I just didn’t find much about the game that stands out from the genre. I couldn’t justify or recommend spending $30 on Redeemer when there are so many far superior indie titles available – for half the price, to boot.