The noble arcade-style beat ’em up has seen better days. Even in the best recent examples of the genre, the limited gameplay structure holds them back from greatness. Simple to a fault, the best you can get from a modern brawler is flashy moves and some mindless entertainment. For the most part, REDEEMER: ENHANCED EDITION delivers on that goal. An updated version of a 2017 PC release, Redeemer has finally hit all three consoles and it hits hard. You’ll see plenty of broken bones and bloody messes in your hours with this campaign, and it might leave you with a bump on the head. At least, that’s the most logical explanation for why you won’t remember playing Redeemer moments after finishing it.
You play as Vasily, a former military man striving to find peace at a monastery and repent for his past misdeeds. Sadly for Vasily, this is an action game. Your past catches up to you, burning your new home to the ground and taking several of your new friends as hostages. It’s time to put away the robes, pick up a sledgehammer, and fight through hordes of soldiers, mutants, and cyborgs on your way to your former boss. While Redeemer has a pretty standard throughline if you’ve ever grabbed an action movie from the Wal-Mart value bin, it all fits with the over the top action on display.
Redeemer: Enhanced Edition Review | Fists of fury
If there’s one thing Redeemer gets right, it’s finding new and exciting ways to rip the life out of an endless parade of mooks. Literally in some cases, as one typical execution has you grabbing a mans throat and separating it from his torso. Another pops a body into the air before cleaving it in two with a decisive chop from your bare fist. Weapons also come into play, each one sporting unique kill animations. Wielding a knife will give you stealthy throat slashes. A sledgehammer will pound enemies into the pavement. You can even rip guns from certain appointments and brandish them as clubs in certain situations. In the grand tradition of Mortal Kombat and its ilk, these grisly deaths are the real thing that keeps you going through this arcade action.
Thankfully, Redeemer‘s arcade action delivers, even when you remove the over-the-top gore from the equation. The fighting is at its best in large groups, punches flowing between multiple enemies as you deftly keep everyone at bay. It’s sort of like a top-down execution of Arkham Asylum‘s combat, although with much more jank in the presentation. You get bigger enemies in the late-game that are much less fun to fight, mostly because they absorb hit after hit. A lot of scenarios involve a particularly rotund breed of baddie that spit chemicals in your direction. These slow down your movements and allow a swarm of other foes to get their shots in. It’s here where you’ll want to pull out the game’s firearms and take out foes from a distance.
Redeemer: Enhanced Edition Review | Riding shotgun
Ranged weapons are serviceable but mostly unremarkable here, although they get much better with upgrades. You’ll start out picking up pistols with three bullets left, and you can’t grab ammo from other guns for some reason. You can store one firearm and one melee implement, and they last until you pick up another or they run out of ammo/stamina. Of course, your fists and feet are also lethal weapons, so it’s sometimes better to just go in and show off your martial arts. Whatever you use is what will get progress towards upgrades (à la Skyrim). Either way, you’ll have most of the upgrades by the end of the game.
If you played Redeemer on PC and don’t remember an upgrade system, there’s a reason. Character progression is one of the major changes to the Enhanced Edition, and it’s an odd shift. Rather than introducing a huge number of new moves or abilities to collect in this campaign, the developers saw fit to strip many of Vasily’s standard moves away and give them back to you one at a time. There are some new additions (like lightning fists and flaming kicks) near the end of the upgrade tree, but you’ll mostly be relearning moves you had by default in the original release. Going back to the PC version again after beating it on Xbox, the difference in the first level is night and day. Furthermore, the more fully-featured version of the character is a better starting point. The progression in the Xbox version was never the reason you’ll want to keep playing, so locking basic gameplay behind that system is just bizarre.
Redeemer: Enhanced Edition Review | Unruly upgrades
Purchasing upgrades will probably be your first hint that Redeemer‘s $30 asking price on consoles might be a stretch. The presentation of all the menus is bare-bones, with default fonts and an arcane system for assigning upgrade points that eluded me for a good chunk of my playthrough. This also stretches into the comic-style cutscenes, which features subtitles that occasionally suggest alternate lines rather than reflect the voice acting. It’s probably down to English not being the first language of the developers, and it honestly adds a bit to the cheesy action movie presentation, but it does stick out at this price range.
Playing on the normal difficulty, Redeemer strikes a good balance that poses a challenge without getting frustrating. If anything, it can be a bit easy on that default setting, but you probably shouldn’t be looking for that much resistance from a game that might fall apart at any moment. I died a few times, especially during the more challenging boss fights, but you’ll get a little further each time. Plus, dying doesn’t stop you from accumulate upgrade points, so you’re always working towards restoring your most deadly moves.
Redeemer: Enhanced Edition Review | Puzzling variety
The limited puzzle sections are the only opposition to otherwise moderately enjoyable sessions of throwing goons into spiked walls. It’s easy to see why someone would want to break up the monotony of beating people up but having to slowly navigate electric floors and flamethrowers to preserve your health just isn’t fun, especially since the only way to regain health is to execute enemies, which are generally not present during these puzzles. If you happen to hit one at low health, you’ll repeat it over and over as you try to time out the seemingly randomized elements while staying alive. It’s maddening and just doesn’t fit in with the rest of the game.
Playing on an Xbox One X, the game doesn’t seem to run all that different from 2017’s PC release. There’s still some pretty nasty slowdown in the most hectic battle scenes, which just shouldn’t be happening in a console game. There was also at least one scenario where I rolled through a barrier and into the floor. My character wandered underneath the level and eventually found a black void to explore for an eternity (or until I restarted from the last checkpoint). This wonky glitches shouldn’t happen in any game, much less in an “enhanced edition.”
Nothing from the weird upgrade change to the technical glitches stops Redeemer from being enjoyable. It’s a solid brawler that hits hard and delivers a fun action movie good time for a few hours. However, that admittedly standard gameplay doesn’t make up for all the problems, and nothing from this equation makes it worth a $30 asking price. If you have a PC, you might just want to dig out the $15 original and enjoy Vasily’s full arsenal of deadly movies for the entire campaign. Otherwise, much like the movies that inspired it, seek out Redeemer: Enhanced Edition only if you find it in the bargain bin.
GameRevolution reviewed Redeemer: Enhanced Edition on Xbox One X with a code provided by the publisher.