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Preview: Oddworld: Stranger’s Wrath HD (PSN)

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Posted by: Robert Workman

In 2005, a peculiar title joined the library for the now-defunct Xbox platform, not only introducing a splendid action/adventure game, but also changing the face of the Oddworld Inhabitants titles as we knew them.  Oddworld: Stranger’s Wrath introduced was a bold new direction for Lorne Lanning and his crew, a remarkable game mixing innovative first-person shooting action with third-person platforming goodness.

Oddworld: Stranger’s Wrath HD (PSN)

Unfortunately, the game was poorly marketed by its publisher, Electronic Arts, and didn’t sell very well, despite the high marks from game critics.  Shortly thereafter, Oddworld Inhabitants shuffled out of the game business, and Stranger’s Wrath became just another forgotten relic, despite its appeal.  Luckily, like most good games nowadays (among them Beyond Good and Evil HD and Crysis), it’s getting a second chance to make a good first impression, as Just Add Water is putting the finishing touches on a new high-definition version of Stranger’s Wrath, set to debut on the PlayStation Network on December 27.

In the game, players take control of the Stranger, a deep-talking, Clint Eastwood-style kind of cowboy who knocks out his prey using special live ammunition for his gun, then sucking them up with some sort of interactive vacuum.  He’s trying to put together money for unknown reasons, and soon finds a larger purpose when he stumbles into a town of Grubbs, who are tormented by outlaws and an unforeseen demon.  Over the course of the game, you’ll learn more about the nature of these bad guys, as well as a little something about the Stranger himself.  It’s that kind of compelling storytelling that makes Stranger’s Wrath stand apart from other games of its era.

As we stated, this game seamlessly blends two types of gameplay into one experience.  The first-person shooting consists of looking down the sights of your twin-barrel gun, swapping out different types of ammunition (like a thudslug or a chippunk) depending on what purpose you have in mind for it.  Some are great for knockout purposes, while others have more destructive powers.  Boombats, for instance, have the properties of rockets – good for blowing stuff up in a hurry.

Over the course of the game, you’ll run across numerous enemies that aren’t afraid to shoot back at you, so you’ll need to act quickly with your ammunition, and then suck them up with your vacuum.  They’re worth more dead or alive, but some enemies are better off that way, depending on your toughness.  The more cash you earn, the more options you have for upgrading your weapons, including expanding your ammunition range and crossbow, or using new items like knuckle dusters (perfect for melee attacks) or using a pair of binoculars to check on things in the distance.

Though Stranger’s Wrath is strictly a single player affair, it’s a game well worth tackling, especially now, as you have various rewards that can be unlocked over the course of the game.  These include extra pieces of concept art (straight from the desks of Just Add Water), unlockable movies that you can view over and over, and 30+ trophies, including a Platinum one – something you don’t see that often in downloadable games.

Oddworld: Stranger’s Wrath HD (PSN)

The real star of the show here, besides the sharp gameplay, is the presentation.  Just Add Water has gone through painstaking efforts to make this game look outstanding, and, from what you can see in the screenshots, it really shows.  Characters and levels look better than ever before, with higher polygon counts and high resolution textures.  The environments are stunning, whether you’re running through a dusty Western town or fighting your way through a lush forest.  Also, the audio is backed by terrific voicework, great Sergio Leone-style music, and cool sound effects.  Chances are you won’t see or hear a better downloadable game for PSN this year.

Oddworld: Stranger’s Wrath was a great game for its time, but a lot of folks missed it.  This time around, players will be able to experience it the best way possible, with redone textures and audio, splendid gameplay, and lots of unlockable goodies.  Best of all, the price won’t set you too far back in the silver dollar department, as the game will only run you $14.99.

Be sure to check back for the full review later this month, pardner!

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