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Oddworld: Stranger's Wrath

Developer: Oddworld | Publisher: Electronic Arts
Players: 1 Player Game | Release Date: 01/25/05 | Genre: Action

Early on when the Xbox was first launched, one of the few games worth picking up was Oddworld: Munch's Oddysee. Now, in what may very well be the Xbox's last year, the team at Oddworld Inhabitants has once again thrown us into the quirky and lovable Oddworld universe. The newest game in the series features a new protagonist known simply as Stranger.

If you're a long-time fan of the series, you'll be glad to know that the signature humor has survived in tact. Stranger's Wrath is full of funny creatures, unusual weapons, and dialog that will keep you laughing throughout the adventure. You play the role of an ice-cold bounty hunter who takes in outlaws, dead or alive, in order to scratch out a living. When the game begins Stranger is hunting fugitives in order to earn enough money for a special surgery. However, as things progress he soon finds himself smack in the middle of an all out war!

If there's one thing a war guarantees it's plenty o' shooting and you can bet that the enemy is armed to the teeth. Luckily, Stranger has a special crossbow mounted on his forearm that is capable of firing two types of ammunition simultaneously. We're not talking bullets though; Stranger must collect his own live ammunition. Yes, live as in living, breathing creatures. There are several different creatures that can be used as ammo such as the boombats which will latch onto a surface and explode, vicious fuzzles that somewhat resemble the creatures in the Critters films, and chippunks which are basically very annoying chipmunks that don't know when to shut up. There are several other types of live ammunition as well and each serves a very distinct purpose. In fact, knowing when and how to use your ammunition is one of the key elements to survival.

The concept of live ammunition is just one of the reasons why Stranger's Wrath presents such a fresh gameplay experience. The Oddworld games have historically included unique gameplay elements that give the games an edge over the competition; few games offer the slick play control and sheer variety that Oddworld games do. Other features that help set this particular game apart from the crowd include the various points of view. You can use the 3rd person perspective to gain a wider view of the action and peek around corners. Also, in 3rd person view you can use a spinning attack, head butt, or charge to take out enemies. Then again, perhaps you'd rather jump into 1st person mode and use Stranger's crossbow to �take down them outlaws.� No matter which view point you're playing from, once you've knocked an outlaw unconscious or killed him, you'll want to use Stranger's vacuum-like trap to suck the enemy up so you can trade him in for a few coins at the local Bounty Store. You must be in 3rd person mode to suck up an enemy, and take note that enemies are worth more alive than dead so it's not always a good idea to go for broke when confronting them. Another interesting element in the game is that there are no health power ups available. Instead Stranger has a stamina bar and if you've taken some damage you can replenish your life by pressing the Y button. Doing so will deplete the stamina gauge, so you can't spam it all you want.

The game uses the bounty system to play out in a fairly straight forward manner, at least in the beginning. You'll earn your money by traveling to towns and visiting the Bounty Store. At these shops you can check out the latest in outlaw activity and sign up for various missions. Once you've captured all the outlaws in a certain area, you'll move on to the next town. From time to time, you may want to ask the locals for information regarding your current target. The little fellas aren't usually too useful, but once in awhile they can point you in the right direction if you're confused as to what you should be doing. Alternatively, you can press the X button and Stranger will make a comment about his current objective should you have forgotten. And what of the money you make from these missions? Well, each town has a general store that sells all sorts of goodies for Stranger. You can buy ammunition if you don't feel like hunting it, or you can use the black market shop and get yourself some real upgrades such as more stamina, sniper darts (in the form of wasps) and steel knuckles.

To compliment the fantastic gameplay, the team at Oddworld Inhabitants did a terrific job in designing the world and texturing it. Stranger's Wrath is a beautiful game, especially in the wooded environments with trees and rivers. The character models, while somewhat generic are still well done and well animated. Stranger's model is the most impressive of the bunch and stands out as one of the few unique designs in the game. The visuals are matched nicely by great audio effects and music. The music in the game adds to the Western feel, and the sound effects bring the world to life, especially the chippunk ammunition. These little guys sit there and chatter about a myriad of things and when fired attract the enemies' attention. The voice over work is very well done and the writing itself is something to be admired. The jokes in the game are genuinely funny and pull you into the world that much further. The best part is that the audio only gets better as you progress and meet up with a race of beings called Grubbs. They provide some of the funniest dialog in the game.

Stranger's Wrath shines in just about every respect. The great visuals, hilarious audio, and most importantly the fun and addicting gameplay all come together nicely to make this game worth every penny of the money you'll pay for it. The only area the game has any problems in is the camera system which occasionally makes things difficult as the camera becomes stuck behind an object in the world and blocks your view of the action. Though this did occur several times, it did not detract greatly from the experience and overall I still had a blast with this game.

This title most definitely has my recommendation if you're looking for an exciting and unique new game. The gameplay is top-notch, the world is creative and the problems are few and far between. Strap on your boots, lower your hat and head off into the sunset towards your nearest retailer and pick up one of the best surprises the Xbox has to offer.

By Ryan Schaefer - 03/17/05
ESRB Details: Blood and Gore, Strong Language, Violence
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Screenshots for Oddworld: Stranger's Wrath

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