The Oddworld games have always had an audience, even if it is a small one. The quirky characters and genuine humor have entertained fans since the original game debuted on the original PlayStation. Of course, it has been a while since we last heard from the series, and in fact, the last time was this very game in its original Xbox release. Oddworld: Stranger’s Wrath is a hybrid first-person shooter/third-person action game that combines unique elements, along with the trademarked Oddworld stylings, to create one interesting adventure. The real question is how well it has held up over the years.
You assume the role of Stranger, a bounty hunter that is tasked with hunting down the criminals of Oddworld. Each one earns you more money that will eventually be used to pay for a life-saving surgery. This is probably one of the most well kept twists in gaming, mostly due to the majority of gamers having never played it. If you haven’t had it spoiled yet, you are in for a treat.
As I mentioned, the game combines both first-person shooting and third-person action to create a unique dynamic. You can switch between perspectives almost any time by clicking in the right stick. Both are competent, but neither one feels just right. The third-person action feels floaty at times, with some questionable jumping mechanics. Additionally, the shooting can feel looser than I prefer. Neither is game breaking, and after about 20-30 minutes, you will adjust to the feeling the controls. Thankfully, the game sticks to its core mechanics and never requires you to master either style to the point that the controls get in the way.
Another really unique aspect of Stranger’s Wrath is the live ammunition system. Instead of traditional bullets, you pick up creatures that all harness an exclusive trait. For example, Wasps are like sniper bullets, while Bolamites use their webbing to tie up foes. Each one can be used in conjunction with others to take enemies alive or simply incapacitate them. Collecting ammo starts to become a chore after a while, but the unique system allows for you to play the game in any fashion you see fit.
For a game that introduces so much individuality in so many areas, it is a shame that the main missions suffer from repetition far too often. While the plot is by far the most interesting aspect, it drags at times because more and more bounties are tossed your way that seem completely irrelevant and were only included to pad game time. The missions themselves are also drab, featuring the same recipe for each one, causing overkill to set in too soon. Still, if you stick with it, you won’t be disappointed. The twist is worth the investment, and while the mechanics wear out their welcome, the game is still fun to play in controlled bursts.
Once you get around to the game-changing third-act, though, things begin to take shape. A lot of the issues from the earlier areas of the game dissipate, and the HD upgrade starts to really shine. These last areas really take advantage of the improved visuals and performance, as well as rounding out the adventure nicely. I know I sound like I am dancing around the subject, but it really is worth experiencing without knowing what you are coming into. Love it or hate it, the last leg of this game is truly one of the most unexpected switches gaming has ever seen.
Speaking of the improvements Just Add Water team has added, this game looks great. Sure, it looked fantastic back in the glory days of Xbox, but this new upgrade keeps it looking much like you remember, while also giving it legs to stand on next to today’s titles. Sure, it won’t pass as a brand new game, but the unique environments and characters really help it stand out in a sea of large-chinned heroes and war shooters. All of the assets have been touched up, and everything looks great in full HD. If you never played the game, this is easily a visual treat for a downloadable title, and if you have, prepare to be impressed at the update.
Oddworld: Stranger’s Wrath is one of the most unique and overlooked titles of the last generation. If you enjoy the Oddworld franchise, or simply are hankering for a new experience, I cannot recommend the game enough. Sure, the bounty missions wear out their welcome and the mechanics don’t shine on either spectrum, but you will be hard-pressed not to enjoy what is offered here. Getting a second chance is not always common for niche titles like this, so I highly recommend we all give it a shot. You won’t be disappointed.
Review copy of the game provided by publisher.