Review: When this Stranger offers you candy you better take it!
If there is one thing I currently hate about the state of the game industry, it's all these copycat games out there. That's why I'm glad to see the long awaited return of the Oddworld series. These games are famous for being both weird and innovative, and Stranger's Wrath is no exception. Not only is there nothing else like it, but Stranger's Wrath is also one of the best action games I've played in a long time.
This Oddworld game doesn't star Abe or Munch like in earlier incarnations; instead you control a beast/human type creature simply known as the Stranger in a dangerous Wild West setting. The Stranger makes his living hunting down ruthless outlaws and taking them in dead or alive. Although the Stranger is one tough dude, he needs to make all this money as a bounty hunter to cure his mysterious, life threatening illness.
When Stranger's Wrath begins it starts like your typical 3D platformer. The Stranger can jump and use melee attacks no problem, so gamers can easily get into the game play here. What separates the game from your average action title though is that you can switch to a First Person view, in which you'll be able to use a very unique double barrel crossbow that fires live creatures as ammunition. Some of the little critters you can gather can be used to either distract enemies, stun them so they are easier to capture, or some can even be used as powerful bombs. Jumping from the Third Person to First Person is a little tricky at first since you can only do certain moves in each perspective, but it becomes second nature after a few minutes of play.
Another great thing about this new Oddworld game is that it feels like a much more mature title now. The Stranger loves to spit and do some trash talking, plus it is possible to do in his enemies by fiendish traps like rotating shedders for example. It can be more fun just to go out and kill every criminal in the way, but you also won't make as much loot (especially on the bosses). Dead or alive: the choice is up to you.
This edgy cowboy look is highlighted by some well-animated characters and very detailed environments, with excellent use of light and shadow. It's hard not to get interested in the weird cast of the game because they all appear to be so life-like. There were a few examples of ugly visuals, like some of the tall grass looks pretty jagged up close, and the whole Wild West theme may not be for everybody, but these are very minor complaints regarding one fine looking game.
I was disappointed that there wasn't a lot of background music during a lot of the game, but that only means Stranger's Wrath focuses more on the professional sound effects and great voice acting instead. The dialogue is well written and the Stranger has a lot of entertaining one-liners. Some of your live ammo will even mouth off to you.
As great as the game play is there are a few problems I could see that hold it back a bit. First off the game can appear to be quite challenging at times since the Stranger only takes a few hits to get killed, but it isn't as hard as it sounds. The game has plenty of automatic Save points during the adventure, and add on top of that the Stranger's quick healing capabilities. Because of this some expert players may find the game play a bit too easy. Secondly, it would have been nice to have a multi-player mode as well since the game play features First Person action, this is a genre known for intense party games after all.
Despite a few issues here and there, this game is one of the best action platformers you can find on the system. The game is that good! OK, if this game was so great how come it didn't get more attention you may ask? There is this conspiracy theory going around that giant publisher EA Games didn't hype the game too well since the developer - Oddworld Inhabitants - wasn't able to produce a PlayStation 2 version to go with the Xbox game here. It also didn't help matters when other big video games like Resident Evil 4, God of War, and Gran Turismo 4 stole the spotlight early in 2005.