There were a few games from my past as a geeky gamer that stood out above the rest as stellar representatives of their respective genres. They were all from the 90’s. The first one was Streets of Rage (and its sequel Streets of Rage 2). Streets of Rage was a 2-D, side-scrolling, beat ‘em up title which built upon the successes of earlier games such as Final Fight, and the granddaddy of them all, Double Dragon. It offered more options for movement, more attacks, more weapons—heck just more of everything than its predecessors.
Another genre-defining game was the original Diablo. Diablo was similar to Streets of Rage in that your digital avatars took on legions of enemies all at once, but that’s where the similarities ended. Diablo was a 3-D, action RPG, and had systems in place that were more detailed, such as inventory management; spells; and the like. It also placed more emphasis on tactical awareness, i.e. when encountering hordes of enemies you had to make quick decisions about which ones to attack first, since there were usually mid-level enemies mixed in with the lower-tier blobs of adversaries.
I’d often wondered what would happen if a game developer came along and designed a game which combined many of the features of both of these classic genres. Fortunately, straight out of Russia comes a game that gives us at least a glimpse of what such a divine combination could look like.
Sobaka Studio’s Redeemer is a 3-D, beat ‘em up, ode to the classic combat games of yore. It tells the tale of a former assassin named Vasily who turned his back on his grisly occupation and retreated to a monastery to become a monk. I’m assuming he made this choice in order to attempt to atone for his past wicked ways.
Vasily ends up spending quite a bit of time at the monastery—20 years in fact, and his hair gradually turned grey. But that doesn’t mean that he’s become any sort of doddering old weakling. In fact, Vasily has been keeping in very good shape and is as strong and lethal as ever.
One day, a large group of armed commandos storm the monastery and wipe out most of Vasily’s brother monks. Those whom they don’t kill outright they kidnap and make off with. Who these enemies are and what they’re after becomes more apparent once Vasily jumps into action. And by action, I mean seriously gratuitous, torrents of blood-type action. This is one older guy who does not mess around at all with the young-un’s.
Redeemer begins with a solid tutorial that isn’t too hand-holdy. The controls themselves are quite easy to pick-up, while also being highly intuitive. You’ve got a button each for punching, kicking, dash-rolling, and picking things up. Speaking of “things,” Vasily can pick up different kinds of items such as barrels and crates, and fling them at enemies. He can also pick weapons up off of the ground from downed (read: Dead) opponents, such as knives and guns, and use them against the various further foes he comes across in his bloody travels.
Although not quite on the level of Diablo’s weapon management level, melee weapons such as knives and bludgeons can (and will) eventually degrade the more you use them. Likewise, ranged weapons such as pistols and submachineguns all run out of ammo at certain points, at which time they’re effectively useless since Vasily can’t (for some odd reason) reload them.
These factors can make Redeemer’s gameplay a fairly hectic affair, although In a good way. There were many times when I’d run into a group of goons, attempt to quickly deduce which ones were stronger than the others, maneuver my wily assassin-monk Vasily around the lower-ranked mob, take out the better guys utilizing my limited weapons, and then dispatch the rest with my fists, kicks, and brutal grappling moves.
The action can get so frenetic that sometimes it felt as though I was playing a hyper-speed version of a good Hong Kong bullet ballet or Kung-Fu flick. And let’s not forget Vasily’s finishing moves. At certain points, Vasily can get so worked up and frantic in his pugilistic beat downs that you can trigger timed assassination moves. Now these may sound great on paper, and indeed many of them are guiltily and gleefully gruesome to behold, but some of them are just a little off. For instance, there would be times when I’d smash some poor fool’s head into an object and have the blood splatter in a totally different place.
Redeemer’s visuals are certainly up to the task. The art style is not quite anime but still has almost Asian sensibilities. Although they are more on the minimalistic side they still have a wide color palate, as well as enough detail where it counts. The models and textures are very well done and not overly garish, which is in contrast to the wanton bloodshed that unfolds, which may seem like you’re watching a Hollywood slasher flick. In fact, the game’s violence is so over the top and cartoonish that it elicited more guffaws from people watching me play it, than any sort of holier than thou chastisements.
Redeemer is an example of a game that pulls no punches (quite literally) and spares us gamers any sort of the politically correct baloney that has been infiltrating the gaming industry like a virus as of late. Its developers took a risk and (in my opinion) it paid off, giving us a more adult-oriented love letter to old school combat games where both action and fun were paramount.
Redeemer features pretty good graphics that make its savage combat theme come alive. However, you want to have a pretty beefy gaming PC or gaming laptop in order to play it at a decent framerate. So, you may just want to invest in a decent gaming rig:
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