Date: 03-09-2012 02:00
Author: Josť Manrique

PDC profile: yeah_93

Oddworld: Strangerís Wrath HD is a remaster of the title of the same name released back in 2005. This mixture of Action-Adventure and FPS has ironically a strange premise, but is it worth your time and money? Why donít you find out?

An odd world's tale


Oddworld: Strangerís Wrath follows the tale of the mysterious bounty hunter called Stranger. He captures outlaws in a very strange world that recreates the feeling of western North American environments, and it is populated by anthropomorphic animals, such a birds or lizards. Beginning with an outstanding CG cutscene, the game shows the player through what heíll be doing throughout game: capturing outlaws. Early in the game, after the comprehensible tutorial, itís explained that Stranger needs to find money for a mysterious operation for him to survive; and he needs to do so by claiming bounties placed on outlaws. This is the only exposition to the story the player has for most of the game, and itís a huge letdown that the story doesnít pick up truly until the final third of the game. But it picks with such grace, that, if it werenít such a short section of the game, it would actually redeem the almost ignorant approach of the player to the story for half of the game. The twists introduced in the aforementioned section and in the end of the games, are magnificent and swift, itís been a while since I felt so exhilarated by the story of a game. The story is a bit on the short side, as it took me 8 hours to complete.

A truly strange gameplay
Gameplay is Strangerís Wrath hardest section to explain, because itís a mixture of genres, and the fact that itís so unique makes it better. As Strangerís primary objective is to bounty outlaws, he must travel through the world after he picks which bounty he wants to claim, he can fight in Third person as well as First person. Traverse environments is best performed in 3rd person mode, in which Stranger can run on four legs, and traverse the roads faster. Donít get a wrong impression, getting from point A to point B can be quite linear, as the world is not open and requires players to follow predetermined paths to get to another location. The approach to this part is quite old-school, as there is no map, and the only way a player can know how to get to a location is to ask for directions from local folks, and the signs which are found everywhere.

An element of the game is the stealthy approach to enemies. Stranger can hide in tall grass, so he is virtually invisible from the enemies, while hiding in the grass. However, stealth is a bit broken in the game. In certain situations it is so poor that itís laughable. The enemies see Stranger, and the player defeats some of them and hides for one second, then he shows up again and the enemies say ďWho the hell is there?!Ē. Fights are best approached in First Person mode, where Stranger uses his crossbow with perhaps the weirdest ammo type Iíve seen in a game: Live ammo.

The ammunition Stranger uses is formed by tiny animals the player can pick along the way, each with a different effect. As the crossbow can only hold two types of ammo, the player has to decide which types are the best for the situation. The game lets the player decide whether to loot enemies dead, or capture them alive. Enemies that are alive are worth more, especially the bosses, which have higher bounties if captured alive. This adds to the difficulty of the game because the player has to decide whether to knock down or kill the enemies. The ammo types have different effects: Some lure the enemies; others knock them out, one type acts as a bomb, and the deadly bees act like machine gun bullets. A downside to this it that capturing enemies switches the camera to 3rd person, and during a combat, this situation can be quite a hassle.

The combat in first person is excellent and feels great, as aiming is relatively easy and the mobility is outstanding, however, the combat in 3rd person is never well implemented. Stranger can attack in 3rd person by doing either a spin attack or by doing a headbutt. These attacks are never too helpful and are often risky to perform. If more refined combat mechanics had been implemented, it would have been great, since the attacks in 3rd person seem to be there for just the sake of being there. Another downside of the 3rd person mode is that the camera is clunky and often gets stuck in walls. But every battle is best approached when the environment and enemies have been fully scanned. And this is where a central part of the game appears: the difficulty.

Strangerís Wrath, by nature, is a difficult game, probably the hardest Iíve played in my PS3. In my personal opinion, the tough difficulty makes the game even better. I died a lot and had to repeat sections several times before succeeding. The difficulty forces the player to make tactics until the player can finally win a battle. However, while the high difficulty is great in some sections, some spikes in during Boss battles are extremely over the top. To make matters worse, health in the game can only be regenerated by pressing the triangle button, and Stranger will shake himself to recover life, at the expense of quickly wasting a Stamina bar. The outstanding gameplay and the fact that there were always different approaches for situations, prevented me from throwing my controller in frustration.

The setting is done exceptionally great and the game makes an outstanding use of it. Strangers Wrath makes extensive usage of the traditional Ďwesterní setting for the first portion of it: canyons, dry lands. However as the game progresses, other environments are shown that recreate some settings of the North American geography, such as beautiful forests, or snowy mountains. The western environments are not only ditched later in the game, but the setting almost completely changes from a XIX century western world, to futuristic one, with facilities and ships that have high technology and look a little bit too Sci-Fi. It is enough to have a different impact on the player than the early stages of the game. Towns feel pretty much alive, have shops where Stranger can buy ammo or items to enhance his abilities, or purchase upgrades. Stranger can talk to the townspeople to ask for clues. Sadly, the voice acting is a letdown: every bird has the same voice, every lizard talks the same, and all the enemies have the same voice, itís like hearing the same voice actors for hundreds of times throughout the whole game. Even Stranger talks like a heavily drunk guy. Donít get me wrong, the voice acting isnít bad itself, but itís so repetitive. Characters with the same voice can become quite a nuisance and can be very confusing, especially because subtitles only appear during cutscenes. The music, which only appears during battles, is not bad but itís far from memorable. While there are some good tunes, I felt most of them were truly below average.

Just add water to the presentation!
The remaster of the graphics themselves has been extremely well done. I wasnít able to play the original when it was first released, but Just Add Water seems to have done a good job porting this title. The graphics run very well in this version. With a 720p display, anti aliasing, and running at 60fps, the game looks outstanding for a remaster. Only God of War Collection and The Ico and Shadow of the Colossus Collection manage to look better than this title. While in larger environments or during busier sections, the frame rate tends to lower but nothing too annoying. Some environments are extremely well designed, and while they look from the last generation, are truly sights. The remaster also includes a movie theater to watch the cutscenes of the game, an art gallery, and trophy support. Sadly, the game is on the short side, with little replay value mainly because of the high difficulty.

Conclusion
Oddworld: Strangerís Wrath HD is a unique and challenging game that I donít find easy not to recommend. It may not be for everyone as itís unfortunately held back by lack of exposition to story for most of the game, clunky 3rd person combat, and difficulty spikes. But the uniqueness of the title, boosted by a strong gameplay and a certainly good story with plot twists, added with that old-school charm can certainly draw many gamers to it.

Originally developed by Oddworld Inhabitants and released in 2005, developer Just Add Water remastered the game in High Definition for the PlayStation 3 console. It is available only in the PlayStation Store. I played Stranger's Wrath for 8 hours, which was how long it took me to beat the game, before writing this review.

8/10
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