Review: Oddworld: Stranger’s Wrath HD (PSN)
Title: Oddworld: Stranger’s Wrath HD
Format: PlayStation Network Download (1.5 GB)
Release Date: December 21, 2011 (EU), December 27, 2011 (NA)
Publisher: Oddworld Inhabitants
Developer: Just Add Water Ltd
Original MSRP: £9.99/€12.99/$14.99
ESRB Rating: T
Oddworld: Stranger’s Wrath HD is also available on PlayStation Vita.
The PlayStation Network version was used for this review.
Even though the original was a critical darling, it was launched incredibly late in the life of the original Xbox and really didn’t get much retail exposure. Fortunately, for fans of the Oddworld universe and especially fans of the original Stranger’s Wrath, Just Add Water and Oddworld Inhabitants have brought this game to the PlayStation 3 as a downloadable title. But instead of merely porting the game, a lot of time and effort was put-in to remastering every aspect of the game, even going as far as re-recording a couple of the voiced characters. Read on to see how well of a job they’ve done.
The audio review for this game is available on Episode 247 of the podcast.
To this day, Stranger’s Wrath is one of the more unique games available in terms of gameplay. It’s not an FPS, it’s not a pure 3rd-person action title, but rather a blend of both styles that can be changed on-the-fly by the player according to what works best in each situation. In 3rd-person, you can run faster, melee combat is more effective, it’s easier to perform platforming duties, and you can capture your bounties in the vacuum, or whatever that thing is. In 1st-person, in mostly plays like a typical FPS, except that you really don’t have guns or grenades, well, you kinda do. You see, the Stranger doesn’t like guns, so instead he’s armed with an arm-mounted crossbow, and the ammo has to be captured. In other words, your ammo is actually different creatures that all have different effects. The way that the weapons balance is setup definitely requires the player to be very mindful of how to approach a situation, which usually means that I’ll die a couple of times, since my mind is always on “Blow everything up” mode. Each type of “ammo” serves a very specific purpose, so for example, you could place some Fuzzles (little brown balls of fur with a huge array of razor-sharp teeth) near a door, then back-off and fire a Chippunk near them. The Chippunk attracts enemies by being incredibly annoying, so when they come to shut him up, the Fuzzles attack while you wait in the wings. That’s just one example of how to use your weapons effectively, and is something that brings such a unique experience to the gamer.
Overall, you could say that Stranger’s Wrath is a semi-open world experience. The general idea is that you, known only as “The Stranger” need to make enough “moolah” to get a life-saving operation for yourself, and you do this by hunting bounties on contract. There are different towns throughout the story, each one acting as a hub for a few bounties at a time. There is definitely room for exploration, but nothing like a GTA or Just Cause. Missions revolve mainly around bounties, which you accept at the Bounty Store in each town. There’s also a General Store available to buy ammo at, and sometimes they may have upgrades or special items as well.
That’s as far as I’m going to go on the gameplay side of things though, as there a few twists and turns that actually change things up, and there’s no way that I’m spoiling that piece of the game. What I will say though, is that the gameplay is very refreshing, as it never gets stale or repetitive. It’s an elegant design that had to have taken a long time to build, and I just hope that someone else will be able to capture some of this magic in the future.
This is a Since this is a remake, it really begs a comparison to the original, and all I can say is “Wow!” Take a look at a YouTube video from the Xbox version. Go ahead, I’ll wait…
OK, Back? Yeah, everything’s been updated, from the textures to the more complex character models, and oh yeah, that silky-smooth 60 frames per second, Just Add Water definitely spent a lot of time on this one. It’s obviously not Uncharted, but it’s no slouch when compared to current titles either. The new effects such as foliage and full HDR lighting really make this HD remake shine. Also, not a visual thing, but the updated control scheme is AWESOME! Color is impressive as is the detail in textures. I’m also impressed with the up-rezzed cinematics, as they don’t take you out of the game like in the God of War cinematics. On top of that, they even plan on releasing a patch in the future to add full 3D support, which intrigues the hell out of me.
The entire game is essentially a Spaghetti Western, and the visual style reinforces the style. Buildings in town all have swinging doors, the main mode of transport are wagons, and the dialogue is spot-on with some familiar movies in the genre as well.
The audio has been completely remastered, and everything you hear is brought to you at a higher bit-rate than in the original. Additionally, because all of the voice work in the original was done by “the guys in the office,” which includes the female voices, a couple of the tracks were completely re-recorded, and in my opinion, are much better. On top of that, everything is mastered in full DTS surround, and I must say, every channel is used liberally. If you use a set of gaming headphones, obviously you’ll need to disable DTS, and in that case, the Dolby Digital mix is still exceptional. The music fits the genre perfectly, and reacts to the situations. Dialogue is fun, cheesy, and well done. It brings a smile to my face, especially because I’m a huge fan of the movies that have influenced the style of this game.
This game is single player only.
Obviously, anyone that listens to the podcast knows that we’ve been tracking this game since before it was even announced. I never finished the game when it was in its original form, and now I’m happy about that. Playing through the HD remake has been a treat, and being able to discover the second half of it in its best form has been great. Also, the design really draws from an older style, which is a refreshing change of pace that instills some nostalgia at the same time. This is a long game, and part of that is the insane boss battles that you’ll encounter throughout the game, each requiring the player to really think instead of blasting-away as soon as you enter the area. I had a couple of battles take upwards of 15 minutes even. I tried to make a comparison when I reviewed this on the podcast, and like then, I still can’t think of any one game that it’s similar to. But it’s not unique just to be unique, as the design of Stranger’s Wrath is truly and singularly unique, refreshing, challenging, and enjoyable. Congrats also need to go to Just Add Water for a truly beautiful HD makeover. Oddworld: Stranger’s Wrath HD belongs on the same shelf as other HD remakes such as the Sly Cooper and Ico/Shadow of the Colossus collections.