Vasily the warrior monk hates everyone. If he’s not punching people through walls, blending them with giant metal fans or splitting them in two with a buzz saw, then he’s hacking them apart with an assortment of blades, bludgeons and limbs. You can help Vasily out on his mission of vengeance by taking control of his bloody actions in this top-down shoot ’em up/beat ’em up hybrid. Just make sure you’ve got a strong stomach for when the giblets start gibbing.
Redeemer: Enhanced Edition takes the violence and environmental kills of Volition’s ‘The Punisher’, fuses them to the top-down shoot ’em up elements of the forgotten Amiga classic ‘Chaos Engine’ and then bolts what’s left to a scrolling beat ’em up. Taking control of Vasily, you guide him through sixteen levels, brutalising your foes on the way. You can take them apart with your shaolin skills, grab a shotgun and start blasting or just kebab them on a nearby spike. The choice really is yours, just so long as your choice involves creative killing.
The combat is straight-up fun. Fast and pacey, the bite-sized levels rarely outstay their welcome. There’s a heft and weight to Vasily’s attacks; punch a mutant and you’ll launch them like a missile into a nearby wall where they’ll thud against it. The five gun types you’ll find are all deliciously chunky, including shotguns that send your soldier foes flipping through the air with cathartic glee. There’s even hints of strategy to the violent proceedings, as certain enemy types are resistant to one or more attack type, forcing you to vary up your style and preventing the action from becoming too repetitive.
Visually Redeemer never manages to escape the big muscles, grey landscapes and brown sheen that Unreal Engine was once so synonymous with. Having said that, it has no reason to. If ever a game needed muscles and metal then it’s Redeemer. The developers have done a decent job ensuring you never lose sight of your protagonist, even in the midst of a massive brawl. Though on occasion, thanks to the top-down perspective, random bits of scenery can briefly obscure your view, occasionally causing issues in your attempts to counter an enemies attacks.
Not that you’ll really need to worry, as there’s an extremely generous window to counter an attack and enemies glow bright red before striking you. In fact, much to my surprise, Redeemer is an absolute breeze. I waltzed through the game on its normal difficulty and barely broke a sweat. Even the survival arena mode barely resulted in Vasily popping on his sandals. This is big, dumb entertainment after all, too much difficulty would simply get in the way of lobbing a cyborg into an acid lake.
The highlight of Redeemer is undoubtedly its new local co-op mode. Have a buddy grab a controller and they’ll be able to drop in at any point in the game. There is a light – and poorly explained – levelling up system, but your partner immediately benefits from all of the abilities that you’ve unlocked in single player. The new abilities are decent too, including flaming kicks, laser sights and disarming skills that add to the gameplay and stave off repetitive combat syndrome. However, in typical form for co-op adventures don’t expect your partner’s character – a monk – to be referenced in any of the in-game cut scenes. At one moment in the game Vasily was tranquilised and captured by the baddies, though hilariously they just ignored the other monk. He was left awkwardly standing around as the drama unfolded around him before suddenly joining Vasily in prison in the next chapter.
So far so good then; I’d have no issue at all with recommending this big, dumb, fun, co-op action fest. That is until we take into account the litany of bugs and glitches that plague Redeemer, even over a month after the Enhanced Edition’s release. Despite the latest updates game crashed my console twice during my playthrough, on each occasion forcing the current mission to be restarted. Then there’s the time my co-op partner was left trapped off screen by an in-game cut scene. There was also the occasion I fell into some acid that didn’t kill Vasily, but instead trapped him in an infinite black void. Maybe that’s where the Houdini-esque disappearing enemies go to? Who knows.
At one point the game suffered from short term memory loss and randomly forgot that I’d completed several missions on a previous session and made me play them again. Finally the frame rate drops that largely occur during co-op can be occasionally appalling, characters twitching like marionettes and jerking more than a teenager on vacation.
And on top of all this, the AI is dumber than a lobotomised brick. Enemies run into walls repeatedly in an impotent attempt to reach you or sometimes just stand there vacantly as you beat them to a pulp. There’s a stealth element to the game where you can attack unaware enemies from behind and dispatch them in one blow, but the AI behaviour is so erratic that stealth becomes ridiculous. Sometimes enemies will spot you for no reason at all, on other occasions they’ll happily ignore you murdering all their friends and then politely wait for you to snap their necks.
Considering that this is the ‘Enhanced Edition’, I’d hate to think what the standard edition of Redeemer was like.