It's been a little more than three years since gamers stepped into the strange universe known as Oddworld. Full of downtrodden Mudokans, mind bending puzzles and plenty of twisted humor, the Oddworld games have consistently held their focus as a solid platforming franchise. So it's definitely noteworthy when the series takes a marked change from its roots, focusing almost entirely on action and first person shooting elements. It's compounded even more when the gameplay takes on a western theme. Saddle up, because we're going out into the Wild West with Oddworld: Stranger's Wrath.
We got our hands on the Pre-order DVD for Stranger's Wrath, and while it didn't reveal any significant plot points or even the overall storyline behind the game, it did feature a number of details behind the enigmatic anti-hero of the title. Taking place in a completely different place in the Oddworld Universe, the Stranger's tale crosses border towns and raider outposts reminiscent of western movies. In fact, the entire game was designed with a Sergio Leone spaghetti western theme in mind, ranging from the widespread gunfights and terrified populace to the nameless protagonist. The Stranger is a bounty hunter, taking contracts from the bounty store in frontier towns for dangerous outlaws and their band of cutthroats. While these wanted posters state the customary "Dead Or Alive" posting, the Stranger actually receives less money for exacting his own style of justice. In fact, the designers went out of their way to emphasize the advantages of capturing opponents rather than shooting them dead.
That's right, I said shooting. Later on in the game, the Stranger will acquire a double barreled crossbow that fires what's being called "live ammo" at targets. What is live ammo, you might ask? Well, the wilderness that the Stranger roams through is populated with all kinds of creatures, rodents and insects. He'll actually need to capture or incapacitate these organisms to add to his ammo stockpiles, which he can then use to assault his opponents – hence the live ammo term. In the wacky nature of previous Oddworld games, these "bioweapons" have very strange and hilarious effects when used in battle. For instance, there are things called Chippunks, small furry rodents that talk a lot of smack to anyone nearby. When I say a lot, I mean a ton. This drives most opponents nuts, forcing them to race to the creature's location in a frenzy to shut the beast up. Of course, this distracts them, often long enough to fire off another weapon, such as spiders that entangle their targets or bats that track and explode near opponents. Once these enemies have been dealt with, the Stranger can mark them with his capture gun, an item that sucks offenders into a power vortex that connects to the Bounty Store. The store then immediately provides payment to the Stranger; in effect creating a win-win situation for the town and our hero.
The Stranger isn't relegated to long-range attacks either. Unlike previous Oddworld inhabitants, he's equipped with a number of punishing hand to hand attacks, including vicious punches and combo attacks that he can use to destroy objects or incapacitate nearby opponents. The Stranger also has a powerful charge that he can unleash on unsuspecting opponents, launching them for a sizable distance when he connects with his shoulders. This is thanks to his incredible speed, which can acrobatically propel the Stranger across large distances, off walls or atop platforms. However, he doesn't always have to take the direct approach to things. The Stranger will be able to stealthily crawl into tall grass or other shadowy areas, remaining unseen from his prey, which allows him the ability to perform stealth captures or kills. Or, if he's not interested in subtlety, he can fling opponents into environmental traps, including Punji sticks, spinning fans or pits.
The animations of the Stranger are extremely fluid, keeping up with the massive bounding and sprinting ability of the Stranger's "feline" grace. Actually, this game really makes previous Oddworld titles look somewhat slow and clunky by comparison. With wide vistas and expansive level designs, you'll often come across massive compounds that you'll need to infiltrate to fulfill your contract. Coupled with the trademark of the Oddworld games, you'll be hard pressed not to laugh as you take out your enemies. Store shelves will have a bounty taken out for them as Oddworld: Stranger's Wrath is released this week. Check back soon for a full review!
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