Developer: Oddworld Inhabitants/Just Add Water
Publisher: Electronic Arts (EA)
North American Release Date: December 27, 2011
European Release Date: December 21, 2011
Trophies: 1 , 5 , 8 , 23
Have you ever wondered what it would be like to play the role of a bounty hunter in the Wild West chasing down and arresting outlaws and gangs? In Oddworld: Stranger’s Wrath HD, you are placed in the role of the bounty hunter named Stranger who is tasked in hunting down outlaws dead or alive in order to pay for a very expensive and necessary operation. As you progress from town to town, what starts off as a simple bounty-hunting experience turns into an adventure to save an entire culture from extinction by a mysterious figure that is known only as Sekto.
Stranger’s Wrath is a mixture of a first-person shooter with a platformer depending on the position of the camera. When the camera is zoomed in to Stranger’s point of view, you are able to use his critter-firing crossbow to capture outlaws and bounties and bring them back to jail. When you zoom the camera out in order to see the entire world, including Stranger, you can run, jump, and sprint across Mongo Valley in order to get to your next destination.
While Just Add Water (JAW) did an excellent job on their HD remastering of Stranger’s Wrath, the camera of the platforming segment of the game can be both annoying and frustrating. While the camera functions well enough most of the time, when you try to position the camera or turn around in order to see behind Stranger, the camera either moves too slow or doesn’t move at all, forcing you to change the position of the camera yourself, which can be dangerous during some of the boss fights.
The ammo system in Stranger’s Wrath is a nice change of pace. Instead of using bullets, Stranger goes out into the wilderness and captures his live critter ammunition, with each critter having unique and useful abilities that can help Stranger in his mission.
There are many different types of critters that Stranger can use to help him on his quest. For example, there is the Chippunk that distracts and lures one enemy away from his friends, the Bolamite that ties up an outlaw allowing you to easily capture him alive and the Stingbee which functions similarly to a machine gun. All in all, there are a total of nine different types of critters and most of them can be upgraded late in the game to a more deadly or helpful form.
As it turns out, some of the critters have more teeth then you do...
Something that I found interesting is that Stranger can use environmental object to sneak up to or by enemies. He can crouch in a patch of tall grass, inside a house, or behind a large outcropping of rocks. When the radar on your screen says ‘Hidden’, enemies will stop looking for you or ignore you entirely. This will give you the opportunity to either sneak up and take them out or sneak by them in order to avoid the fight entirely.
This also allows for silent captures without alerting an entire group of enemies to your position. If you can lure an enemy with the Chippunk and then use a Bolamite, he will go down without making a sound or drawing attention. However, being hidden will not save you if you try to shoot an outlaw from your position and you miss or he is with some friends. Once you do so, the outlaws will start homing in on your position, forcing you to either find a new place to hide or to take them head on.
Luring enemies away and capturing them one at a time is all well and good, but suppose that Stranger is facing 10 to 15 outlaws at once and is discovered and flees with only a sliver of life remaining. You cannot just go out and fight again, that’ll be suicide. Sneaking and hiding won’t work either since the outlaws already know that you’re here. Well not to worry, Stranger can just shake off the damage, literally. At the cost of some of his stamina, Stranger can stand still and shake off the damage and regain his health. Something that I found quite pleasing is that as Stranger does this, you can actually see the bullets and darts come off his body and land on the ground.
Ok, so you have the ammo and know how to regain health when hurt. It is now time to hunt down some of the outlaws that have all the Clakkerz in a panic. While Stranger may ask politely each time for the outlaw to come quietly, these outlaws aren’t going to just let Stranger come and take them to jail. They are both smart (or stupid) and know how smart and strong Stranger is, so they will not immediately fight him head on. By throwing their henchmen at Stranger, they hope that after Stranger kills enough of them, he will eventually die. So since, the outlaws are basically cowards, Stranger is forced time and time again to think of a way to either frustrate the outlaw enough to come fight him head on or trick him.
The boss battles against the outlaws in Stranger’s Wrath are amazing with a lot of detail put into making each of the fights unique. What I found to be a surprise is that the environment is most of the battles can play a key part in either helping you fight the outlaw or helping the outlaw kill you. The amount of detail put into preventing a boss fight from being just a simple, ‘kill the bounty in front of you,’ situation is fantastic. For example, there is a bounty where she (or he) is operating a crane that can kill Stranger in a single hit that you have to avoid while taking out all of the henchmen. Sure Stranger can stay out of the crane’s range, but he has to cross the crane’s path to reach the elevator to get to the outlaw. JAW tried their best to force the player and Stranger to interact with the environment during battles, and it shows splendidly.
Let’s take a closer look at the fight against X’plosives McGee, a bounty that Stranger faces in New Yolk City (pun, yes). Just getting to X’plosives McGee is a challenge itself since he has apparently hired suicide bombers with the timer attached to an alarm clock. After making your way through his suicidal henchmen, you eventually reach X’plosives McGee who is standing in a reinforced mine cart, meaning he can hurt you but you can’t hurt him.
This does post a problem to Stranger, so what can he do? Wait; are those railroad switches on the tracks? Avoiding the crossfire from the henchmen and turrets, Stranger can shoot the switches and force X’plosives McGee to come down to the ground level and out of his cage. Sure he will be upset, angry and deadly, but the important thing is that he is vulnerable.
This gives a whole new meaning to cage fighting.
The game starts with Stranger running from and trapping an outlaw by the name of Blisterz Booty. After capturing him, Stranger makes his way back to Gizzard Gulch in order to cash in on Blisterz’s bounty and pay a visit to Doc. Once you make it back to town, you are told that Doc is away right now and to see if the Bounty Store has any more outlaws that need to be caught in the meantime. After rounding up the remaining outlaws in Gizzard Gulch, the bounty clerk informs you that Doc just arrived back in town.
The conversation with Doc introduces the player to Stranger's goal: paying for a necessary and costly operation. But to do so requires moolah, and a lot of it, which can only be obtained by turning in bounties. Leaving Gizzard Gulch and making his way to Buzzertown while collecting moolah for his operation, Stranger is introduced to the figure known only as Sekto, who is willing to pay the entire cost of the operation for a living Steef, which are thought to be extinct but Stranger promises to get.
I wouldn't trust anyone who looks like he just outsmarted a phone...
The various bounties in Buzzertown hint at the relationship between the Steefs and the Grubbs with Stranger passing through a temple dedicated to the Steefs. Making your way out of Buzzertown and to New Yolk City (yes, that is the actual name), the plot twists and turns with a shocking development that can alter both the future of Mongo Valley and the fate of the Grubbs.
For the majority of the game, you are given a series of bounties to collect, sometimes with little choice in the order of doing them. This is not necessarily a bad thing since one outlaw may be cutting the power to the town, which prevents Stranger from opening the entrance to another bounty. As Stranger captures more and more outlaws, the player starts to realize that something more is going on here then just a simply bounty hunting mission. You start to come across the remnants of a great civilization that once spanned the entire Mongo Valley before rapidly declining.
For the first half of the game, Stranger’s only goal is to go out and collect bounties on outlaws, usually in a specific order. This is not necessarily a bad thing since one outlaw may be cutting the power to the town, which prevents Stranger from opening the entrance to another bounty. As the game progresses and Stranger captures more outlaws and saves up more moolah, a bigger picture starts to open up into both Stranger’s and Mongo Valley’s history.
JAW did an excellent job remastering Stranger’s Wrath for the PS3. A lot of what Oddworld Inhabitants could not do in the original Xbox version made it into this version which included dynamic reflections in water, increased graphics of all characters and the environment, and new voices.
Of course, remastering is not the same as a full on remake. Therefore there will always be some small problems or issues that people will always look for. The environment is splendid and lush, with many different plants and structures within it to give it a sense of randomness that only nature can provide. Up close to a tree or building though, you can see the age of the game showing via the jagged graphics and curves.
As mentioned earlier, the camera controls in 3rd-person mode is a minor problem that can be detrimental during some fights but is overall not a major issue. There is also a small issue with the frame rate of the game. Very rarely the frame rate will drop significantly for a couple of seconds before picking back up to the normal 60 fps. When I played Stranger’s Wrath, this issue only appeared when moving from one major area to another and never when I was in the middle of an intense fight.
Another problem is the intense difficulty curve of the game. While playing on Easy or Medium difficulties you might not notice the rise in difficulty or have no troubles compensating for it, on Hard it is an entirely different story. Some of the boss fights are so hard that it can be frustrating if you do not know what to do. The difficulty between two consecutive bosses on hard mode can be compared to the difference in jumping over a 5 ft to a 15 ft chasm.
The trophies themselves are not really that hard to get with only a few easy missable trophies to watch out for. Most of the trophies come from simply fighting and capturing the various outlaws and bosses in the game. The three difficulty trophies stack with each other which means that if you wanted to get all three at once you could simply play the game on hard. The only annoying trophy, in my opinion, is the one that requires you to have 20,000 moolah when you leave for Doc’s retreat. The only way you could possibly get this trophy is if you play on easy and not buy any upgrades or armor, which can really take the fun out of the game.
I feel that Oddworld: Stranger’s Wrath HD is an excellent game that is worth more than what it is currently selling for on the PSN. Compared to some of the more recent games that I have bought and played, Stranger’s Wrath has both better gameplay and plot for a lot less. That does not mean it has to be an easy game. Unlike the original game, there are three difficulty settings so that players of different skill, luck, or tenacity can play at the level they feel most comfortable at. I tip my hat to JAW for bringing such a great and classic game to the PS3 for everyone to enjoy.
Gameplay: 8.5/10The gameplay is solid with easy to learn controls and fun boss fights and environments. The wide variety of ammo and ways to fight allow for multiple strategies against both enemies and outlaws with means different players will have different ways of taking down bosses.Singleplayer: 9/10
The game does not just throw you into a 'save the whole world' or 'it's your destiny' plot. Instead, you are given a more down-to-earth goal that is firmly believable.Technical: 8/10
Aside from a few technical problems such as the third-person camera and a steep difficulty curve, there really isn’t anything to complain above. The overall feel of the game mixed with the excellent gameplay and storyline allows one to forget about the actual age of the original game.Overall: 8.5/10