reviews\ Dec 28, 2011 at 9:00 am

Oddworld Stranger’s Wrath HD Review


In today’s video game industry, it’s not a strange coincidence that some truly great games are overlooked by more popular commercial favorites.  Case in point – Rayman Origins, a charming game in its own right, sold 50,000 units, where other games like Dead Island and Modern Warfare 3 easily cleared over a million.  That’s just a recent example.  Some true gems have been buried because of their lack of an ad campaign or publisher hype.  There’s no bigger example of this than Oddworld Stranger’s Wrath.

Oddworld Stranger's Wrath

Released in 2005 for Xbox, Wrath truly defined the creative aspect of Lorne Lanning and his Oddworld Inhabitants team, combining fun first-person shooting mechanics with solid third-person platforming, along with a terrific storyline and an unmatched presentation.  (It also helps that the game didn’t involve a dork  like Abe – and yes, he’s a dork.)  Unfortunately, Electronic Arts did very little to hype the game, and it was buried under a mountain of more popular hits.  It never got the respect it deserved.  Maybe that’ll change now that Just Add Water has given the game a high-definition gloss over and re-released it today on PlayStation Network as Oddworld Stranger’s Wrath HD.

The game is primarily the same as it was in 2005, in terms of structure.  You play a stranger who hunts his prey using special living ammunition, critters that serve unique purposes depending how they’re used, as well as a vacuum that sucks up the culprits, saving you the trouble of tying them up.  The game has you chasing after several criminals, but soon enough, you stumble upon a bigger plot – one that will introduce the stranger to something he didn’t see coming.  (There’s a huge plot twist here that’s considered one of the best ever done in a video game, and it’s still intact, just in case you haven’t discovered it yet.)

While the first-person shooting isn’t as concise as, say, Modern Warfare 3, there’s no question that it works really well in Wrath.  Choosing which ammunition is best for each situation is a neat touch, and having to hunt down the critters for your arsenal adds an extra challenge to the overall proceedings.  The third-person platforming is very good as well, even if your combat skills are limited to running attacks, a spinning fist and what appears to be a pretty slow head butt.  Regardless, you can still do some damage to the smaller varmints shooting at you.  However, when it comes to bosses, you’ll need to combine both skills together to effectively bring them down and collect your bounty.

There are times that the game gets ridiculous with its difficulty.  The first few hours are a cakewalk, but once the second half truly kicks in, you’ll face bosses that are tougher than you could’ve imagined.  What’s more, the finale involves a split-second escape and requires the kind of timing normally reserved for, say, Houdini.  But it’s still a game well worth playing, mainly because the Oddworld Inhabitants magic remains intact, both in first-person and third-person perspectives.

Just Add Water has done a phenomenal job with the game’s visuals.  The game runs at a fairly speedy rate, and there’s hardly a moment when the details diminish, whether you’re running around a trouble-laden village or setting traps in the forest.  Furthermore, the smaller touches with characters, from the way your ammunition futters on your crossbow to characters that react upon your arrival, are appealing.

The audio hasn’t changed much, but the music will be cool for fans of Sergio Leone Westerns, or perhaps even Red Dead Redemption, with guitar twangs and plenty of toe-tapping upbeat songs.  The sound effects could be better in some cases, but still aren’t bad.  And the voicework is top notch, particularly the Stranger, who sounds like a more gusto-filled version of Clint Eastwood.  Y’know, before he got all grumpy in Gran Torino.

Oddworld Stranger's Wrath

Oddworld Stranger’s Wrath HD is lacking in replayability, just like the original.  Once you finish the game, the only thing left to do is try it again to get all the bounties you missed, or mixing up attacks on previously defeated enemies.  There's no co-op or multiplayer here.  There's not even leaderboards.  However, the original content is here in all its glory, and Just Add Water will be adding both Move and 3D support over the next few months, free of charge. 

Though the game does have its rough spots – and probably won’t see the light of day on Xbox Live anytime soon, if at all – Oddworld Stranger’s Wrath HD is still an undeniable classic that shouldn’t be missed this time around.  It’s got sensational gameplay combined with a razor-sharp presentation and the kind of story that really involves you, rather than sitting as a bony structure for meaty gameplay segments.  This is as amazing as downloadable gaming gets – but what else would you have expected from Lorne Lanning and his crew? 


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