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Oddworld Stranger’s Wrath Review

The first Oddworld game showed up on the Playstation in 1997, and there have been three more games since then, not including the various handheld versions.  The most recent Oddworld was Stranger’s Wrath from 2005, which was only available on the XBox.  That’s XBox 1 for you young’uns.  The first two Oddworld games were ported over to PC, but 2001’s Munch’s Oddysee, and Stranger, were only available on the XBox, and Stranger was never even patched to run on the 360.  That’s why fans of cult games are so happy that all four Oddworld games have arrived on PC in one digital pack called The OddBoxx.

PC gamers might be apprehensive about buying a five-year-old console game, but Stranger’s Wrath was one of the best-reviewed XBox games that no one played.  It was the cutting edge of that last generation of XBox games, and holds up quite well in terms of gameplay, which is a mixture of first and third person, with a pinch of stealth as well.

Although that gameplay is great, what made Stranger’s Wrath so enjoyable was the setting, characters and story.  It’s set on another world, which is populated by all sorts of weird aliens things, along with anthropomorphic animals.  Stranger, the protagonist is a cat-like creature, who is also a cowboy based strongly on Clint Eastwood’s Man With No Name.  He lives in a part of Oddworld which is a lot like America’s Wild West, and there’s plenty of western talk.  In fact Stranger gives hints to the Player in western slang “I gots ta git up on that here ledge”. 

The story for the first half of the game is that Stranger is wrangling outlaws as a bounty hunter in order to pay for a mysterious operation he needs.  There’s an absolutely brilliant plot twist about that operation around halfway through the game, so I won’t go into it too much, but suffice it to say that this is a darn tootin’ yarn.

Stranger meets plenty of interesting folk in his travels, including a town of redneck Chicken men, who unsurprisingly turn out to be a bunch of cowards.  There are plenty of amusing outlaws for Stranger to fight, like prison rapist “Blisters Booty” (Get it) along with some goofy creatures called Grubs. Voicework is excellent all around for these characters, even the ambient chatter you’ll hear running around.  The story takes a serious turn about halfway through the game, and these serious moment are handled just as well as the weird and funny aspects of the game.

As for the gameplay; Stranger can run on all fours like a cat, and often engages in platformer jumping sequences to show off his feral agility.  He can also stand on his hindquarters like a human to fight in hand-to-hand combat, or switch to a First Person view which lets Stranger use a crossbow to shoot “Live ammo” at bad guys.

The term “Live Ammo” is a little pun, because Stranger literally shoots live alien critters at his enemies.  Because he’s a bounty hunter, he needs to bring his enemies in alive as often as possible, so most of his Live Ammo is used to create traps, or incapacitate enemies.  He can shoot spiders that entwine enemies in webs, or launch a skunk to make groups of enemies vomit.  There’s also an obnoxious chipmunk thing that lures enemies over to silence it.  It’s quite amusing when you switch to First Person mode, because your ammo is staring at you from the back of your crossbow; all the critters have animations as they wait to be launched, and a few even have dialog.

This sort of incentive to use non-lethal violence makes Stranger’s Wrath something more creative and cerebral than the typical shooter.  Stranger does have the option to blast away until he kills his target, but it’s generally easier, more profitable and highly rewarding to create clever traps.  There’s also a stealth element, so player are encouraged to pick enemies off one at a time, rather than just charging in.There are plenty of old reviews to explain how great this game was back on the Xbox, so let’s address some of the issues about the PC port.  First of all, it’s been modified to run at higher resolutions than the XBox could support, so it looks just fine on your new monitor.  It doesn’t run in widescreen, though.  The game’s console heritage is most apparent in terms of user interface.  You can't select menu items with the mouse, or scroll through ammo types.  For all of those actions, you need to use the directional keys, which are a clear substitute for the XBox D-Pad.  In fact on the ammo selection menu, there is still a picture of a D-Pad. 

These little problems should not dissuade any gamers from buying Stranger’s Wrath; a patch which promises enhanced textures and better UI has already been announced.  But don’t wait for the patch, Stranger’s solid gameplay, brilliant story, and whimsical-yet-serious setting make this a worthy purchase despite any issues with being a console port.

Check back with us next week for our review of the PC edition of Munch’s Oddysee.



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