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Oddworld Stranger’s Wrath Review

Developer:Oddworld Inhabitants Publisher:EA
Release Date:January 25, 2005 Also On:None

I found myself in a bit of a predicament when it came time to review Stranger’s Wrath. Having never played an Oddworld game before and never really enjoying platformer/puzzle games I thought that not only was I in for a culture shock of sorts but my point-of-view was going to be out of place for this type of game. Luckily for me though, Stranger’s Wrath does not require previous knowledge of the Oddworld universe nor is it a platformer/puzzle game like its predecessors.

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As I said, Stranger’s breaks from the mold and changes the usual Oddworld gameplay completely. Instead of sneaking and jumping around as Abe or Munch, you get to blow stuff up as Stranger. At first, the gameplay seems like a fifty-fifty mix of platforming and shooting but soon develops into nothing short of a great shooter. By the end of the game the platforming is nil, the firefights are massive and fun is had by all.

Stranger’s story may be a bit cliché but functions perfectly and never takes away from the experience. In the beginning of the game it is learned that Stranger must earn 20,000 dollars to pay for his operation, and the only option available to him is to collect bounties. The story changes dramatically about two-thirds into the game and ensures a story good enough to warrant playing through the entire game.

Attacking and collecting bounties is set up in a clever way. After an enemy is knocked out or killed (they share the same health system as Stranger), he can be captured and brought to the bounty store to collect the reward. If the bounty is brought into the bounty store alive, it’s worth more. Say, 25 dollars for a live bounty, 5 for a dead one. Bosses are worth more, of course, but are much more difficult to bring in alive but the payoff is infinitely better.

The implementation of the camera system may seem unusual to some but is quite easy to get used to. Switching from first-person to third, or vice-versa, is controlled by ‘clicking’ the right analog stick. For the most part, every part of the game can be played either way but it’s very clear after even a little bit of playing what each camera system was intended for. Third-person is used primarily for traversing the environment and the minor platforming bits spread throughout the game, while first-person is used for the majority of the fighting.

Stranger’s health system has two different aspects. A standard health meter and a stamina bar. Taking damage will obviously lower your health meter and falling from high distances or using some of Stranger’s moves will lower your stamina. One of the moves is removing any damage by shaking yourself free of all the bullets, arrows or anything else that may have caused damage. It’s a clever system that adds a little more strategy to the game.

The visuals in Stranger’s are great; it is extremely easy to buy into the universe and let yourself escape into it. About halfway through the game, when I was growing tired of looking at spaghetti western themed towns, the visuals take a sudden turn. Instead of looking at brilliantly detailed drab, dirty towns and lightly shrubbed deserts, the game displays brilliantly detailed forests, slimy sewers and factories with huge heavy machinery; Oddworld Inhabitants really gave their usual all in offering diversity with Stranger’s.

The sound, while good, isn’t quite up to par with the visuals. The environmental effects and music are great, as is Stranger’s voice acting. The rest of the player’s voices leave a lot to be desired. Although not bad, they’re extremely repetitive and almost all sound the same.

Oddworld Stranger’s Wrath is going to be one of the biggest sleeper hits of 2005. Coming in after the huge holiday season and before the big releases of the spring should help out sales a bit, but not enough to make it a well-known title. Superb action, great length, gorgeous visuals and a lot of originality make this title a clear winner.

Graphics: 9
Sound: 7
Gameplay: 8.5
Creativity: 7
Replay Value/Game Length: 9
Final: 8.3
Written by Chris Review Guide