GamingHunter: The Reckoning - Redeemer

My wife and I beat the Hunter: The Reckoning -Wayward on the PS2 a year ago, so we decided the next logical step was to buy Hunter: The Reckoning - Redeemer (can that title get any longer?) for the Xbox.

The Hunter series is noteworthy because it's based on a World of Darkness pen-and-paper role-playing game. The World of Darkness was dominated by the first game in the line, vampires. Then werewolves. Then wraiths. Then changelings. Finally, someone got fed up with playing monsters and made a game dedicated to blowing them all up. Thus we have Hunter: The Reckoning, where soccer moms and school teachers suddenly discover they have super powers and can pierce the Veil, the illusion that cloaks the monsters who live among us. Good stuff.

Now, you might expect that our heroes would all be rather mundane looking, boring people. But in a sacrifice to the laws of videogames (and thus, the laws of What Teenage Boys Like), all those Hunters were sexed up quite a bit. We have the big scary biker guy (Spencer "Deuce" Wyatt), the black ex-cop (Samantha Alexander), the wise priest guy with a wicked sword (Father Esteban Cortez) and the rich kid raver chick (Kassandra Cheyung). Wayward had something of a 70s funkadelic feel to it.

Redeemer adds a new character, and she screams, "Somebody knows their demographic!" Dressed in a tight leather bustier, pigtails, and wielding a huge sword, Kaylie Winter achieves two amazing feats: she can actually swing a sword bigger than her entire body and she never falls out of her outfit. Not for lack of trying, mind you. Also, perhaps in a nod to being a bit more politically correct, Samantha no longer has an afro.

Although the World of Darkness role-playing game supposedly doesn't have classes, it has something similar: creeds. These creeds determine the characters starting abilities and access to Edges, the powers that Hunters wield against the forces of darkness. These range from confusing enemies to healing allies to blowing bad guys up real good. It didn't take long to start thinking of Father Esteban as a cleric (oh the irony!), since he gets the healing Edge.

The developers tweaked the game significantly since Wayward. Specifically, we stopped playing Wayward because we got stuck at one of the bosses-an evil witch. With her gun-toting harpies, she mowed us down over and over. What we didn't realize was that there are actually a limited number of lives. You just have a lot of them, so it takes a lot of deaths before you run out-long enough that we figured we had unlimited restarts. When we finally reached the boss fight, we had long since saved several games with that limited number of lives. It was never spelled out explicitly in the game documentation and, for reasons I will never understand, it's not spelled out in Redeemer either. But it doesn't matter, because on Medium difficulty we never ran out of lives.

The game play is basically the same. You shoot stuff, you hack stuff, and you take its stuff. Wayward had the hysterical side effect of putting items in garbage cans, thus turning Hunters into the worlds most powerful dumpster divers. No trash receptacle is safe! Conversely, Redeemer restricts items to corpses and even gives certain adversaries items that make sense.

The plot is difficult to follow, mostly because it draws on preconceived notions from the World of Darkness that most gamers are probably not familiar with. Werewolves, in this universe, are good guys fighting the forces of corrupt civilization. In Redeemer, werewolves that appear to be enemies are actually allies, opposed by Gentex, an evil super corporation. This might sound familiar, because it's obviously Pentex, the evil super corporation from Werewolf: The Apocalypse (now Werewolf: The Forsaken). I'm not sure why the name was changed.

Anyway, it just so happens that a Hunter runs the corporation. So the corporation can't be that bad, right? Without giving too much away, let's just say that another role-playing game, one of the last to be released before the current World of Darkness "reboot" has a lot to do with this game. That will only serve to confuse people, I'm sure.

By far the best part of Redeemer d is that it's one of the rare four player games for the Xbox. The controls are customized for blasting away at opponents, including a very cool strafing maneuver. It's all about killing zombies, vampires, and other weird things.

And that's not a bad thing. Redeemer makes no pretense about what it is: a straight up shoot-em-up for four. If you can stand the everything-but-the-kitchen-sink premise and don't mind your Hunters showing a little leg, Redeemer is for you.