The following game software was reviewed on an Xbox Series X.
Were it not for gaming magazines of yore, I would have never picked up on the Oddworld games, and in particular, Oddworld: Stranger’s Wrath. Released exclusively on the original Xbox way back in 2005, Stranger’s Wrath was a fantastic attempt at incorporating first-person combat with a third-person character action-adventure slash platformer. A mouthful that one, but it’s true—and yet it stayed fairly niche in the grand scheme of things. This HD port, developed and published by Oddworld Inhabitants, has actually made the rounds across several other consoles, but modern Xbox consoles had no way to play this game until very recently.
Oddworld: Stranger’s Wrath HD follows the bounty hunter dubbed ‘Stranger’ as he bags high-valued bounties across the Oddworld to save up enough ‘moolah’ to quote on quote, “survive”. Being a one-man army, naturally, it’s difficult to go up against multiple enemies with good accuracy and strong reflexes. But all works out as you use your environment to hide from enemies and bag them, dead or alive, with the help of actual living ‘live ammunition’. As in, biological organisms fired from your crossbow at baddies. It’s even cooler than it sounds.
As you can imagine, the gameplay loop is taking up bounties and turning them into local law enforcement. Preferably alive, as that nets you more monies and gets you closer to your outrageously high medical bill. Players can hoof it and knock out enemies with melee attacks, but that will not work against bosses, and you’re only making things harder if you don’t engage in combat from the first person. See, this game lets you switch between third and first-person for most areas of the game, and the latter is required if you want to use the ammo you’ve been picking up across levels.
These ammo types range from alerting enemies with annoying chipmunk-thingies to snagging them with webs and blowing ’em to bits! I should note that collecting ammo at times can be a bit annoying because of their hitboxes, but the game gives unlimited ammo of a specific type that lets you not worry about aiming your shot on the tiny critters.
Although the first-person mode seems complementary, you’ll actually find yourself running through the game a lot in said mode. Your move set stays virtually identical in this mode, and the keen eye view is necessary as the levels become more and more complex. The challenge of this game is finding out the best steps to advancing to the target ‘boss’ bounty and the later stages have a lot of paths to let you undermine traps and enemies or give you a nice vantage point to blow things up. But again, going guns blazing isn’t always the best move—as keeping enemies and bosses alive is crucial to saving up moolah for Stranger’s operation. Oh, and bosses have funny things to say when you lock them up.
The world of Oddworld is as crass and humourous as can be, and the aesthetics coupled with the writing and world design are still visually pleasing in the original Xbox sort of way. The colour palette might always seem moody, but it fits the backdrop of a world that’s just very out-of-shape and the game knows when to change up its colour usage. And it all looks better at higher resolutions and framerates, which this port happily includes. It’s a bit of a shame, then, that the full-motion video cutscenes are still the same old video files from the original XBox release. With the tools available now, I’m sure there are ways to remaster these video files that are cost-effective. As it stands, they’re the only blemish on this port that I’ve experienced, besides a random crash.
Oddworld: Stranger’s Wrath is just as good today as it was 17 years ago. In an era of gaming where first-person cameras in third-person games were used as a crutch for early camerawork, Stranger’s Wrath uses it to its advantage to build a solid action-adventure game that I can easily recommend to anyone.
|Reviewed on||Xbox Series X|
|Available on||Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, Playstation 4|5, PC|
|Release Date||11th February 2022|
|Publisher||Oddworld Inhabitants, Inc.|
Oddworld: Stranger's Wrath HD$19.99
- Great blend of third and first-person character gameplay.
- Good level design that encourages different approach styles.
- Oddworld writing, world building, and design build a setting that matches the gameplay very well.
- Full motion video cutscenes are too low-resolution for 4k television sets.