For the bulk of my time with Redeemer: Enhanced Edition I was grappling not with the super mutants the game throws at you like lambs to the slaughter but with the looming question – why am I playing this?
It sounds harsh, and in some ways it absolutely is, but it wasn’t a struggle I was having in a glib fashion. On the one hand, Redeemer: Enhanced Edition is the kind of over the top action schlock I’ve got no shame about admitting to adore in my entertainment.
But on the other hand…it’s not.
All of the trappings of an extremely silly good time are here (the retired soldier called back to action, an endless supply of guns, fountains of blood) but the sum of these parts is a disappointingly dull slog through a boilerplate narrative and underdeveloped mechanics.
Redeemer: Enhanced Edition Review
As you might have guessed from the title, Redeemer: Enhanced Edition is an enhanced edition of the 2017 game Redeemer. The game is the self-described first “big project” from Russian developers Sobaka Studio, with this latest edition sporting a new co-op mode and skill tree levelling system.
These pair nicely with the arena mode which pits players against waves of enemies to make for a decent enough case for replayability.
Redeemer: Enhanced Edition sees you fill the shoes of special ops macho-man Vasily who has abandoned his life of murder for a peaceful retirement at a secluded monastery. But like the sands through the hourglass so too do these types of men get pulled back into action and soon Vasily finds himself embroiled in a violent crusade to stop his former employees from…you get the gist.
There is an old friend turned enemy, cyborg enhancements and ghoulish monsters thrown in for good measure but it all feels desperately perfunctory.
Schlocky revenge tales don’t need to be tongue-in-cheek to succeed, but Redeemer: Enhanced Edition plays its story beats with unearned seriousness. It has all the cheesiness of a Grindhouse flick but delivered with the sincerity of the God of War reboot.
A Not So Particular Set Of Skills
Ostensibly Redeemer: Enhanced Edition sits somewhere between a beat-em-up and a twin-stick shooter, played in a top-down perspective. It’s a sincere attempt at a patchwork pastiche of other titles (Hotline Arkham: Reaper of Souls edition is where your head should be at) which falls just short of achieving the kind of flow it so clearly is trying to engineer.
Vasily begins the game with little more than his fists and feet for weapons before gradually introducing a small arsenal of firearms and melee weapons for good measure. Each of these skills can be upgraded the fake indoor plant equivalent of a skill tree.
Specific items in the game world and repeated use of skills will net you upgrades for damage output, ammo capacity and the like but the choices feel more for show than anything. Your Vasily and my Vasily will be almost identical by the halfway point in the game.
Punches and kicks land with an effective thud but Vasily controls like a busted tank at the best of times and this sluggish movement crashes right up against the flow of melee combat. It gives the hand to hand combat a messy ‘stop-start’ tempo, never letting you settle into the groove of smashing skulls with fire bursting kicks.
Which is, in my humble opinion, a genuine shame.
Miss Miss, Bang Bang
Vasily’s use of guns, on the other hand, approaches John Wick levels of ridiculous fun.
Redeemer: Enhanced Edition only gives each gun a limited clip and no ability to reload, meaning that each time you unload the last round, Vasily tosses the gun aside in a way that makes even my lizard brain tingle. Much like your melee attacks, guns impact enemies in a gratifying burst of ultra-violence.
Although aiming is a little finicky without the laser sight upgrade, once you’re fully equipped there is nothing else as fun in the game as blasting away goons.
No matter which method of killing your Vasily leans toward you’ll soon find yourself up against an enemy far worse than super soldiers or mutants – tedium. Redeemer: Enhanced Edition trips headfirst into a quantity-over-quality issue, throwing endless waves of bullet sponge enemies at you after the first big story beat.
Save for a handful of environment objects which can trigger specific animations, killing these foes becomes a rote, eye-glazing cycle.
It’s an inherent limitation of such simple mechanics, which other games sidestep with creative level design or precision controls. Two luxuries Redeemer: Enhanced Edition does not have to disguise its flaws with.
There is a fumbled attempt at an ill-conceived stealth mechanic but the level design and enemy placement density render this quick-kill mechanic relatively useless.
Redeemer: Enhanced Edition’s clumsy nature infects even the art direction. Graphically speaking the game occasionally wows with an impressive lighting engine that makes fires in particular glow with menacing heat.
Beyond the gleam, however, you’ll find almost nothing of note about the way Redeemer: Enhanced Edition looks; character models, level design and even the cutscene art and UI design are all lifeless facsimiles of a grungy, military-rock aesthetic.
It’s not bad, as such; if I were pressed on the issue I would dare to say that Redeemer: Enhanced Edition doesn’t really do any of the big things poorly. But it is staggeringly uninteresting and resists engagement at almost every turn.
The combat often keeps you at arm’s length with its clunky controls, the narrative drags you through the passionless motions and even the world itself is little more than a cheap action film set.
Which is the biggest thorn in Redeemer: Enhanced Edition‘s paw – it’s not a bad game, but it’s not a good one either. The sparks of unbridled, violent joy from the gunplay and the rare moments of melee combat that flow serve as the only truly redeemable qualities here.
Even those, however, wane under an overly long, uninspired campaign that runs out of good ideas within the first act of the narrative.
Redeemer: Enhanced Edition is almost the game it wants to be, the game we all want it to be, but even this improved port can’t change the fact that it simply isn’t.
Redeemer: Enhanced Edition was reviewed on PS4 using a digital code provided by the publisher.
Game Title: Redeemer: Enhanced Edition
Game Description: Sobaka Studio's action brawler Redeemer comes to consoles with a few upgrades in Redeemer: Enhance Edition.