Oddworld: Stranger's Wrath HD Review (PS3)

It’s always tough reviewing older games that get a remake. There have been plenty of downloadable rereleases this year, though Stranger’s Wrath HD is an entirely different and more wholesome remake effort than many this year, such as SEGA’s rereleases of Dreamcast classics like Sonic Adventure and Crazy Taxi.

Originally arriving as an original Xbox exclusive, Stranger’s Wrath casts you as a bounty hunter who looks like he’s out of a weird and wonderful version of the Wild West. He’s sick with some unnamed affliction and in dire need of an operation – and the cash to pay for it. Thus begins the adventure, with The Stranger heading out and accepting bounties and taking out marks in order to earn that cash.

Oddworld looks lush and incredible in HD

Throughout the game the Stranger seems to try to live up to that nickname, remaining quiet and letting the narrative be driven by other characters. He’s calm and collected, sometimes appearing a little harsh too - a gritty but also oddly endearing looking character who has no qualms in executing others in order to afford his operation.

Those who played the original Stranger’s Wrath will frequently talk about its twist – and it is one worth talking about. A decent way into the game the neck of the narrative is suddenly and unforgivingly snapped by its creators, driving the game in a completely different direction that makes the story better and changes the way the game is played significantly for its last hours.

The Stranger is one of the most interesting things about the game, and his wrath and motivations change and twist in interesting ways throughout the story that you wouldn’t expect from a game that on its surface looks like a cool mascot-style game that bears passing similarities to games like Jak and Daxter.

He’s a wonderfully realised protagonist with animations and design that ooze character and coolness – a truly outstanding inhabitant of a world that is already impressively original and strange. It’s often a real pleasure to watch him take down some of the gigantic chickens who you’re tasked with killing.

Stranger’s Wrath is in general a result of the time in which it was built, featuring an interesting mix of third person platforming and adventure action inspired by the 3D Adventure boom that began with titles like Super Mario 64 and Crash Bandicoot and shooting inspired by the shooter genre’s blow-up which had truly began on consoles in that same era.

Expect to see stuff borrowed, then – the radar is similar to a ton of shooters, while there’s a shield and health system that resembles the original Halo in place. It’s not all derivative – the Stranger uses ammunition for his weapons in the form of actual living creatures who’ll complain about their use in this manner.

A great deal of the strategy in Stranger’s Wrath is built around grabbing the right kind of ammunition for the Stranger to use. Since they’re living creates ammo must literally be hunted and grabbed in the wild before you had out to use them. It’s free-form, with the game never telling you outright what weapons you should take to a particular boss or bounty, wonderfully leaving that experimentation entirely to you.

You fire living creatures. Yep

Whilst there’s going to be plenty of other obstacles between the Stranger and his bounties, by far the most important aspect of any battle pre-preparation is hunting and taking with you the right kind of ammunition. The creatures that can be used as ammo aren’t just different types of lethal killing forces – they can incapacitate and stun, and some weapons and ammo will do less damage but do it quickly while others do a lot of damage in one big charged-up shot.

A varied rogue’s gallery of boss characters prop up the bounty list, each offering wholly original boss-battles with unique mechanics that encourage original ammo choices. The boss battles form exciting set-pieces to cap off all your exploration, fighting and hunting to get to that point, and the boss characters themselves have a great deal of personality much like the protagonist who hunts them.

The game has a great sense of humour – far too rare in video games – and Oddworld’s crazy world is perfect for plenty of self aware humour. A good deal of humour comes from that talking ammunition and the creatures that inhabit Oddworld, but the world as a whole, like the Stranger, is one of the best-crafted things about this game.

That world is a beautifully realised one with locations as weird and wonderful as you’d expect from a game called Oddworld. There was clearly a lot of love in the creation of this place, and although they feel a little empty now – a relic of the era in which this game was produced and the hardware it was for – they’re pretty to look at and interesting to explore.

What about the actual HD part? Just Add Water has done a ton of work on the game rather than just emulating existing code, pushing the game to run at a solid 60 frames a second with high resolution textures and all-new lush-sounding audio.

Every single model in the game has been upgraded also, pushing higher polygon counts that avoids the one major pitfall of remakes like this – high resolution textures on low-fidelity character models. The environments don’t appear to have been upgraded to quite the same level, but also still look great.

The game varies from cities to wide-open environments – and they’re all pretty

Places where the original Xbox release of the game would chug and struggle shine in this newly improved engine on the PS3, and that only helps to make a great game even better. Just Add Water has basically taken a game that was great but held back by flaws and removed a number of the key flaws entirely.

Some flaws still exist including some poor camera control problems reminiscent of the era when this was originally created, but in general this is a really impressive HD remake of an underrated, under played classic that deserves the attention – and something that other HD remakes could definitely stand to learn a thing or two from.

Best Game Moment: The twist, and the way the game changes gears immediately afterwards.

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By SirRoderick (SI Elite) on Jan 04, 2012
Well that looks nothing like the old games I used to play of him. Those were hard-as-balls!....well at least for kid-me.
By jenniferloop (SI Newbie) on Jan 07, 2012
[ADMIN DELETE: Please do not post links to illegal game downloads]