Everyone knows a haunted house story or two that sends a shiver up their spine, but what about a haunted town? Welcome to Ashcroft, a city that redefines the term “cursed” on a continual basis. Populated by ghosts, werewolves, vampires and other supernatural beings, Ashcroft poses a significant threat to human safety. Fortunately, a group of Hunters, people with abilities to combat these dangers, has confined the hazards within the city walls twice. However, as most game players know, you can’t keep evil down for long, and another episode appears to be brewing. Welcome back to the continual struggle for the fate of Ashcroft in Hunter: The Reckoning: Redeemer.
Redeemer actually provides the history of this damned town during the intro of the game. In its 176-year history, Ashcroft has literally been built on plenty of blood, pain and suffering, all of which acts like a magnet to everything that goes bump in the night. The latest chapter in the city’s twisted history involves a massive turf war between werewolves living in the forest outside of the town’s walls and a company called Genefex. Producing a number of products that are sold worldwide, Genefex has been losing a number of shipments to the lycanthropes, which has called the attention of the team of Hunters who’ve cleansed Ashcroft of evil twice before. Of course, the team returns with the intention of preventing the town from ever becoming tainted again.
Players choose from one of five characters, the original four-person team (Avenger, Defender, Martyr or Judge) plus the newcomer, Kaylie. A survivor of a vicious possessed Teddy Bear incident that murdered her parents when she was a child (if you’ve played the first game you know exactly what I mean), Kaylie’s traumatic experience has resulted in her becoming a special class of Hunter known as a Redeemer. Just like the previous titles, all five characters are gifted enough to detect supernatural beings and fight them with three different kinds of skills: They can target monsters from a distance with ranged attacks from firearms, close in for melee attacks with bladed weapons, or engage a number of special powers known as Edges.
Either offensive or defensive in nature, Edges can provide a strong equalizer against the hordes of creatures that swarm the streets. Ranging from simple zombies to ghosts that take possession of bystanders to werewolves, the task of clearing the city block by infested block seems rather daunting. This is especially true when monsters get a head start on attacking the few remaining innocent humans in town. Thankfully, scattered around each level are a number of weapons that each hunter can use to dispatch these creatures including flamethrowers and chainguns. Often used to cut a swath through a crowd of beasts to cover a citizen’s escape, these arms can also be used to inflict significant damage on bosses and other hard to deal with creatures.
Redeemer is presented much slicker than the other titles in the Hunter series. Large character models that boast many more polygons than their predecessors make up each fiends or Hunter in the game, meaning that you’ll see some pretty disgusting monsters crawling their way towards you. This detail extends to the backgrounds, meaning that the woods, neighborhoods and other stages feel much more realistic at first glance. Explosions and fire, when handled by the game engine, are appropriately animated as well, and cutscenes are beautiful. All that being said, Redeemer still suffers from issues that have plagued the entire Hunter series, including major clipping issues, camera angles that are simply abysmal, and random moments of slowdown. What’s worse, many attack animations stop and start in a jerky, almost freeze frame manner that interrupts the flow from one maneuver to the next. It’s truly tragic when the bouncing of Kaylie’s breasts are animated better than the movements during combat.
Sound is completely hit and miss within Redeemer as well. While the voice actors for the game have always presented a great delivery of their lines, these seem to only be presented during cutscenes and cinematics. Otherwise, you may pick up a random line here and there while you explore Ashcroft. Sound effects truly haven’t improved since the first game in the series, and seem to have actually regressed a little, especially when it comes to firearms. Many of the guns sound far too similar, as do some of the other sound effects for killing monsters. Finally, the music is far too sparse to be effective in this game, coming up for certain battles and remaining non-existent for others.
While Redeemer introduces a new character class to the Hunter series, it also manages to do a ton of things completely wrong with its gameplay, many of which can be compared to the recent sequel, Wayward. First of all, Redeemer is a very short game. Average players really should have no problem getting through this title in half a day at the least, if that. This might not be too bad if the gameplay was somewhat different or more original than the other two titles in the series. However, Wayward, the second game in the series, actually introduced more role-playing elements into the game and was substantially longer than Redeemer actually is. The next big problem is that the battle system has regressed, with fewer supplemental weapons, a restoration of the unlimited ammo system and lame bonuses. The inclusion of paralysis, holy, flame and poison bullets really does very little overall to the status of a creature, and is more of a pain to switch to and use in battle. This is boosted with a lack of direction to help with especially large levels, and an overriding similarity between levels that doesn’t provide enough originality, even if you unlock the three secret characters within the game. In fact, you’d probably be able to play the entire thing, unlocking all the secrets the game has and still have time to get a glass of milk before you go to sleep for the next day.
Inevitably, Redeemer’s gameplay comes across as completely stale, which is a pity because this is most likely the last console game in the World of Darkness (White Wolf is stopping the series next year). Considering Wayward was a strong game that radically expanded the Hunter series, you’d expect Redeemer to propel the series forward with even more features from the pen and paper game. Unfortunately, a ton of technical issues, stale gameplay and an incredibly short duration makes this a weak ending to the series.