Electronic Theatre In-depth Review: Oddworld: Stranger’s Wrath HD

A long time coming, Oddworld: Stranger’s Wrath HD will finally arrive on PlayStation 3 tomorrow. Downloadable via PlayStation Network, Oddworld: Stranger’s Wrath HD is acting as a PlayStation 3 exclusive in a curious turnaround after the original release was offered as an Xbox exclusive back […]
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Electronic Theatre ImageA long time coming, Oddworld: Stranger’s Wrath HD will finally arrive on PlayStation 3 tomorrow. Downloadable via PlayStation Network, Oddworld: Stranger’s Wrath HD is acting as a PlayStation 3 exclusive in a curious turnaround after the original release was offered as an Xbox exclusive back in 2005. But with Microsoft Studios putting up unnecessary roadblocks, that’s the way it’s staying for the foreseeable future.

The premise of Oddworld: Stranger’s Wrath HD is fairly simple: playing as Stranger, a bounty hunter, playing must hunt down wanted criminals and bring them into custody. As the player progresses through the videogame the story unfolds with a notorious demon tormentingElectronic Theatre Image a small town, and by this point the player is primed and ready for the action. Prior to this the player is given a number of different outlaws to hunt, providing ample training in the combination of platform, light puzzling and first-person shooter (FPS) gameplay.

After movement in the third-person camera, the first lesson learnt is to ‘bounty’ enemies. Unlike typical FPS videogames, in Oddworld: Stranger’s Wrath HD you must try to avoid kill enemies in order to obtain the greater rewards. Instead, you simply knock them unconscious and then ‘bounty’ them by holding the square button in close proximity for a moment. It seems an odd design decision at first, but it’s one that is so deeply ingrained into the gameplay that you’ll quickly begin to build tactical decisions around it, realising it’s simply one of the many mechanics that make Oddworld: Stranger’s Wrath HD unique; in this case, ‘odd’ is often a good thing.

Other interesting aspects of the gameplay consist of the health recharge and ammo types. Players can recharge their health meter by finding a quiet spot and holding the triangle button, however this ability is restricted by a stamina meter, preventing the playing from simply using the option to provide infinite health. Checkpoints are fairly regularly however, so not too much time is spent re-treading familiar ground after death.

Billed as one of the most unique aspects of Oddworld: Stranger’s Wrath upon its Xbox release, players use ‘live ammo’ when assaulting enemies with their crossbow in the first-person perspective. Players must purchase ammo prior to beginning missions or hunt it in the environment. There’s a decent variety of different ammo types Electronic Theatre Imagethat can be dual wielded, with the L1 and R1 triggers playing host to the ammo types equipped in the left and right slots respectively, offering players plenty of opportunity to improvise in combat. While using the chippunk ammo presents the opportunity to distract enemies, the bolamites will tie enemies up for a few moments, preventing movement and retaliation. The fuzzle ammo acts as a proximity mine and the sniper wasps are, as might be assumed, sniper ammo. These are just a small selection of the nine ammo types available in-game, but even here it’s easy to see just how the combination of different ammo types can be used to get the advantage in any given combat scenario.

One of the ammo types, the infinitely supplied zapfly, plays a role in combat, hunting other ammo and in the occasional puzzle element of Oddworld: Stranger’s Wrath HD. Never more than a light mental challenge, typically revolving around switches, the puzzle element runs hand-in-hand with the platform gameplay. Switching to the third-person camera obviously provides the player with a better view of the distance and movement challenges – in reality, most of Oddworld: Stranger’s Wrath HD will be played in third-person – and most of the platform gameplay is designed with a commendable degree of skill. There are occasional camera issues when playing in third-person: the camera will often decide that the best angle is not being shownElectronic Theatre Image as you begin your run-up for a jump, often only moments after you yourself have realigned it for the best view of the action. However, this minor irritation doesn’t occur enough to put a dampener on the experience as a whole.

Oddworld: Stranger’s Wrath HD is a good looking videogame, though it’s obviously a redesigned version of a previous generation release. No matter how much glitz is added to Oddworld: Stranger’s Wrath HD it’s still fundamentally a six year old videogame, and as such, having been built for inferior hardware, it’s clear that there are limitations on the design in place that simply wouldn’t exist in an FPS videogame made for current-generation systems. The cut-scenes are immaculate, but the in-game animation is jarring by comparison. The environments are limited in scale by modern standards and the background textures are often somewhat drab. There are occasional problems with the sound cutting out for a moment, especially when passing checkpoints or with a lot of activity on-screen, and oddly while paused also. It’s a strange arrangement of modernisation for a Electronic Theatre Imagetechnically limited videogame, and while fans of the original will love the visual overhaul, those expecting a brand new PlayStation 3 aesthetic may be left wanting.

Despite this peculiar technical accomplishment, Oddworld: Stranger’s Wrath HD is an undeniably rewarding experience. Retaining the typical Oddworld presentation and sense of humour – the genre of videogame may have changed, but the thematic hasn’t – players will quickly find themselves embroiled in a world that’s halfway to the heroics of Star Wars and halfway to the oddities of Aqua Teen Hunger Force. It’s a compelling mix of gameplay mechanics that stands out from the crowd, and is most definitely worth revisiting on high-definition systems. As long as Microsoft Studios are dragging their heels on an Xbox 360 release, In Oddworld: Stranger’s Wrath HD PlayStation 3 gamers have yet another exclusive worth shouting about.

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