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Platform

Xbox

 

Genre

Action / Adventure

 

Publisher

Electronic Arts

 

Developer

Oddworld Inhabitants

 

ESRB

T (Teen)

 

Released

February 2005

 

 

- Amazing story typical of Oddworld Inhabitants games
- Spectacular graphics and cut-scenes
- Bullying townsfolk not only is fun, results in getting some extra money

 

 

- Camera gets helter-skelter at times
- Boss battles can be won with patterned strategy
- Too hard to defeat Bosses without killing them
- Switching from first-person to third-person perspective not a seamless transition under fire

 

 

Review: Oddworld - Munch's Oddysee (XB)

Review: Blinx 2 - Masters of Time and Space (XB)

Review: Max Payne 2 - The Fall of Max Payne (XB)

 

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Oddworld: Stranger's Wrath

Score: 9.5 / 10

 

stranger's wrath review       stranger's wrath review  

 

The Oddworld games have always been known for their great storylines, great graphics, and generally strange cast of eclectic monster-looking-but-not-quite-a-monster characters. Well, their newest game just got stranger. Or rather, it just got Stranger.

The Xbox-exclusive Oddworld: Stranger’s Wrath (OSW) is the best effort from a developer known already for good games. And OSW is much better than the previous Oddworld universe Xbox-exclusive title, Munch’s Oddysee, by bringing an absolutely amazing story, just as amazing graphics, and a Sergio Leone spaghetti Western flair to both its lead character and setting. OSW is a great action-adventure game that both fans and non-fans of Oddworld Inhabitants work will thoroughly enjoy.

What helps OSW stand out is the story in tandem with the great graphics. Most of us who’ve played games for a while have encountered seen-it-coming-from-a-mile-

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away plot turns and twists. It happens not only in games, but in movies and television too. It’s a moment in games, movie, or a TV program that anybody with an IQ over 75 can see coming. You won’t always be able to “see it coming” in better plots, but it happens enough that we all have noticed it, especially in games.

How many “save the princess” or “save the world” scenarios have we’ve all played though

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in our gaming adventures? Well, OSW doesn’t have a princess to rescue and you won’t save the world, although there’s a tribe of strange, little creatures that need you to help them out a lot.

You play as the Stranger, a mysterious and ornery bounty hunter who has a mighty big secret besides what his real name is. OSW’s setting is right out of a Sergio Leone spaghetti western, and the Stranger reminds you of Clint Eastwood in one of his many western roles. You’re a lone bounty hunter, only out for the next capture that will pay you a handsome reward. You’re out to get 20,000 for an operation you deem necessary to your survival.

There’s only one town “doc” willing to do the operation, but at that steep 20,000 price and possibly risking the revelation of your secret before you undergo the procedure. You find out later what kind of operation it is and why the Stranger needs it in the first place. This is the first “didn’t see that coming” moment in the story.

I won’t ruin it for you, but the ending, once you’ve helped out the tribe and defeated the “really, really bad guy” that reveals another great “didn’t see that coming, either” plot moment, setting up a possibility of a sequel. You just don’t see many stories in games this good. Place the top-flight story in a picture-prefect setting using some of the best visuals in an Xbox game and playing OSW is a wonderful journey that every adventure game strives to be.

Visually, OSW is a spectacular art-quality masterpiece times, particularly during the game’s gorgeous cut-scenes. The game takes full advantage of the Xbox in relation to the system’s visual processing power. The style and look of the “typical” Oddworld Inhabitants characters are magnificently brought to life in OSW. The Stranger is reminiscent of some sort of feral, mountain lion-like creature, while many of the townsfolk are fowl creatures and the tribe appears to be is a bunch of gigantic walking tadpoles. Many of the bosses are fat, slimy creatures and the final boss uses large alien/spider monsters to fight you.

 

stranger's wrath review          stranger's wrath review


If you’ve played an Oddworld Inhabitants game, you’ll know what kind of characters to expect, with the Xbox allowing a huge amount of detail to their appearance. Water is stunningly realistic throughout the entire game too. The cut-scenes rival the best that may have been seen Final Fantasy game or Tecmo-developed title. OSW is one of the best-looking Xbox titles to come along in a while.

Controlling the Stranger is for the most part not problematic, especially considering that the game must be played in both third-person and first-person perspective to succeed. During third-person mode it is relatively problem-free, save for a little bit of camera issues in close quarters. In third-person perspective, the Stranger can run like a large cat creature at high speeds. You can smash into enemies and knock them out and also use a spinning punch and head-butt move to disable enemies. Then, like another Xbox adventure title, Blinx, you then capture dead or alive enemies in a vacuum-like device that you then will give to the bounty shop and cash in on their capture.

First-person perspective comes into play when you need to use your double-barreled crossbow to dispatch enemies. And while it doesn’t come close to the first-person ease of Halo 2, it’s acceptable, although switching on-the-fly from third-person to first-person perspective can be a little clumsy in its actual application. The crossbow has a unique quality all to its own, where “live” ammo takes on new meaning. The ammo for the crossbow is little creatures that live throughout OSW's world. These creatures must be hunted and captured by the Stranger, and once they are, they are available for use to shoot at enemies. Each little creature, with strange names like Boombats, Chippunks, Stunkz, and Fuzzles, has a different ability: Some attract enemies to a spot where you can trap them and defeat them (you can also buy ammo and upgrades at the general stores in the towns). Others are bombs that destroy them. Whatever their ability, using ammo is an integral part of the strategy you’ll need to win the game.

Some of the humor you’ll find in OSW comes from the interaction the Stranger has when he bullies townsfolk. The townsfolk’s oftentimes hilarious (with some PG-rated cussing) responses and reactions come from the intelligent A.I. that OSW possesses, where each creature can provide some new and valuable information that can help you accomplish a goal in hand. Townsfolk also drop money bags that you can retrieve when you roughhouse or hit them, but if you hit too many townsfolk, they run into the nearest building and town sharpshooters take aim at you until you calm down or they tire of the indoors.

OSW has plenty of good, old epic boss battles throughout the game. It will take at least 10 minutes to defeat most bosses. But using a patterned movement strategy can get most bosses defeated. If you follow the same pattern of movements, you can bring down the boss and corral him for capture. Fortunately, even with the patterned strategy, most bosses throw a major challenge at you. Also, while defeating a boss and capturing him alive results in a bigger reward, it’s almost impossible to defeat a boss without killing him. You’ll get to the point that the reward amount won’t matter as much as simply killing the boss and get to the next stage of the game.

This Stranger’s worth getting friendly with. There aren’t many better action-adventure titles available for the Xbox today, and clocking in at around 20 hours of gameplay, you’ll get your money’s value out of Oddworld: Stranger’s Wrath. The visual and storytelling satisfaction in gaming today across any platform doesn’t get much better than OSW.

- Lee Cieniawa
lcieniawa@armchairempire.com

(March 9, 2005)

 

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