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Xbox Review - 'Oddworld: Stranger's Wrath'

by John Curtis on Jan. 26, 2005 @ 12:29 a.m. PST

Oddworld just got Stranger! In this new chapter in the award-winning Oddworld series, players step into the role of the Stranger, a mysterious bounty hunter who tracks down outlaws for moolah. Using a special weapons system that gives a whole new meaning to "live" ammo, players will encounter massive environments, devious opponents and hostile challenges along the way.

Genre: Action/Adventure
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Developer: Oddworld Inhabitants
Release Date: January 25, 2005

Buy 'ODDWORLD: Stranger's Wrath': Xbox

A play on words. When seeing the letters FPS (First Person Shooter) I imagine you and I are the same in the fact that the game title Oddworld failed to enter your mind. However my fragile mind has been warped just as yours will be if you too pick up a copy of this wonderful game. Oddworld Stranger’ Wrath is the newest title to grace the long-running Oddworld dynasty; published by Electronic Arts and developed by Oddworld Inhabitants’ this game is everything you would expect to see from two great companies. Fantastic game-play, luscious environments, clever controls, and fresh ideas are sure to make this game a hit.

In Oddworld Stranger’s Wrath you take on the role of a bounty hunter mixed with one part Clint Eastwood, a dash of Oddworld Inhabitants’ strange humor, and the body of some ugly strange looking creature rightfully named Stranger. There is not much, if any background story for Stranger and the odd world he inhabits, however this does not seem to steal away from the fun the game has to offer. The games’ setting is straight out of the Wild West all-be-it more technologically advanced, from an odd kind of perspective that is; complete with deserts, wagons, tumbleweeds, and outlaws.

You start the game in a bit of a training mode where you have a chance to get to know and use most of the weapons you will find throughout the actual game. After this quick run through and capturing a local outlaw Stranger finds himself in a small western styled town jail and is told to visit the Bounty Store for his reward. Inside the bounty store is where you choose what outlaw you want to go round up via wanted posters and also cash in on the outlaws you have brought to justice. After visiting the Bounty Shop you can visit the General Store to see if there are any new upgrades available for ammo, weapons, or armor for sale. Townships consist of a bounty shop, general store, and also serve, as gateways to the different areas where you will find the outlaws you must capture to progress in the game. Chicken-like people that say the craziest things when you talk to them populate townships, they will have you rolling on the floor laughing until you pee yourself. Even the names of the characters found throughout Oddworld Stranger’s Wrath are rather comical.

A plot to help Stranger accumulate mass amounts of moolah, $20,000.00 to be exact, surrounds the actual goal of the game. The moolah is needed to pay for some sort of medical operation that Stranger needs. In order for Stranger to accomplish this goal he is going to have to catch a lot of outlaws and this is done President Bush style “Dead or Alive”. Stranger comes equipped with his own unique weapon of choice, a crossbow that fires what gives new meaning to the word “live” ammunition.

The ammunition for the crossbow is actually live critters that you have to hunt for yourself throughout your adventures. There are several different critters to catch all with a unique ability when fired at or near an enemy; chipmunk like critters which are used to lure enemies closer to you, spider like critters surround the enemy with a web for easy capture, and skunk like critters which make enemies vomit uncontrollably are just a few of the critters you will find in Oddworld Stranger’s Wrath. Two critters can be equipped to the crossbow at a time and are fired by pressing the corresponding L or R triggers.

Hunting critters adds a new element to game-play in this game as you no longer walk over an enemy’s dead corpse and automatically have their ammo added to your arsenal. To hunt critters you need to equip your main ammo for your crossbow which is a mechanical critter packed with an electric pulse which you have an unlimited supply of, find the critters hopping about on the ground or flying in the air, shoot them and then pick them up. You are limited to how many critters you can carry per critter type so be sure not to waste your really good ammo until you need it. There are nine types of live ammo in all, with each one held in their own ammo pouch. These pouches can only hold so many critters at one time, though pouches purchased at the store can not only allow you to carry greater amounts of them but also to “breed” them to constantly have a flow of ammo to work with.

Capturing outlaws can be accomplished two different ways dead or alive, however capturing them alive will get you more moolah from the bounty store. To do this you have to incapacitate your enemy until they have three yellow stars circling around their head from melee attacking or from something else like shooting them with a spider-web from your crossbow. Once incapacitated approach the enemy and hold the X button until the enemy gets sucked up into your outlaw vacuum, this leaves you very vulnerable though, so sometimes its smarter to just flat out kill them dead. After killing an enemy his body still has to be collected and is done the same way as if you were capturing the enemy still breathing, however it only takes a fraction of the time. Normal henchmen outlaws yield $25-30 each alive to $5-10 if they are dead. The real moolah is from capturing the stage boss outlaw whom you are actually out to hunt, these guys are not Spring chickens’ though and aren’t going to let you take them alive or dead easily.

Oddworld Stranger’s Wrath can be played in either first or third person perspectives, however there are certain things you can only do in one or the other. First person movement is pretty slow (roughly 15mph) and is mostly used for firing your crossbow or for using your binoculars to zoom in on an area to scan for enemies. Third person is used for melee attacking and is the only way you can make stranger run to cross a large area quickly (at roughly 55mph). Melee attacks are performed by pulling the left trigger to execute a spinning haymaker while the right trigger allows you to execute a strong head butt attack. While running at top speed in third person mode you can ram into enemies at full speed to send them flying, whether it be through an object or off a cliff. Items can be purchased later in the game that both upgrades and altogether changes the melee attacks. Over all this is a well-balanced system and switching between the two modes becomes second nature, and is very easy to get accustomed to.

Like any Oddworld game this one comes packed with its own version of puzzles for helping take out your enemies. Interactive environments make this a cinch. Whether you choose to blow up enemies who are to dumb to notice the 50 gallon drum of fuel they are standing by or shooting a nearby switch to a crane that is holding a large boulder over an enemy’s head causing them to become a pancake, the choice is yours. There are lots of destructible objects like wooden crates and barrels throughout the levels too, which are easily distinguished by their color. Some crates have critter emblems painted on the side of them that contain ammo for your crossbow, while some unmarked crates or barrels have moolah stashed in them.

Graphically this has got to be one of the best looking games I have seen since the release of Ninja Gaiden several months ago. Stages are vast and very open with a view distance up to a half mile, not your average game where you are limited on where you can go and are confined to small spaces. Backgrounds are detailed and are not blurred or covered with a fog. There are a high number of polygons used to model objects and everything is textured nicely. Lighting, reflections, and explosions throughout the game are very well done also. Character design and animation are gorgeous and at times I found myself wondering if something was CG or in game rendering. Framerate is smooth and there is never a problem with bump mapping popping in or out of the screen.

Overall I am very impressed with this game and all it has to offer. I only have a few complaints about it; camera movement and first person x and y speeds were a bit slow for my liking. Both of these issues could have been altered with some simple settings under the options menu, however they were not included. This will not bar me from finishing the game and possibly playing it again in the future though as these are just minute problems for such a great title. Even if you are not a fan of other Oddworld titles I highly recommend that you pick this one up, as differs greatly from the previous titles and just may change your mind.

Score: 9.2/10

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