By Justin Clark
It’s been a long time since a beat-’em’-up like Redeemer–something so dedicated to the cause of simple punch-kick-shoot mayhem above all other concerns–has hit the scene. It’s a niche whose modern torchbearers can be too complex and involved to achieve that kind of casual, pick-up-and-play hit of kinetic brutality. On the other hand, some are too busy trying to be cartoonish and above the pseudo-self-seriousness that guides classics like Streets of Rage or Double Dragon.
Redeemer makes a fine attempt at hitting the sweet spot between both philosophies, though, with a perfunctory story about a Russian ex-mercenary named Vasily ditching his old life in favor of living as a monk at a Shaolin temple. The past isn’t done with Vasily, however, and when the bionic-enhanced PMCs come knocking on the temple’s door looking for him, it’s time for him to go back to work.
The story is less First Blood and more late-night Cinemax cult film, but there’s still a tonal bullseye to hit between total mayhem and dour wartime parable, and Redeemer is off by a few inches. The story, told in comic book-style splash pages between levels, is the kind of gritty, grimdark tone worth making fun of, but it’s delivered completely straight-faced before dropping you into scenarios of complete lunacy involving cyborgs and flesh-eating mutants.
It’s not necessarily badly done, but it’s highly incongruous. The aesthetics employed during gameplay lie upon an equally vast spectrum of tone and quality, with some environments and effects–fire, in particular–looking rather beautiful and breathtaking, and others appearing blurry, like a painting that’s been rained on. That range in graphical fidelity can vary from scene to scene, but even at its best, Redeemer can’t hide its often monotonous level design.
Still, the main event is the combat, which has its own balancing issues. For the first hour or so, Redeemer feels like Final Fight by way of Gauntlet: a top-down brawler against a never-ending slew of soldiers, with one button to punch, one to kick, one to block, and one to dodge. For a while, the only real complication is the introduction of a button to interact with the environment to pick up temporary weapons, toss objects at enemies, or (when close enough) insta-kill foes using your surroundings.
This can be fun, albeit mildly uninspired. The game doesn’t offer …read more