Munch's Odysee was the third game in the Oddworld franchise when it was released alongside the Xbox in 2002. Whilst the game was fairly decent for a launch title, it was a mostly linear affair and didn't really showcase all that much of Oddworld. Oddworld Inhabitants appears to have realised this as well, and started from the beginning with its latest title Stranger's Wrath. Whilst the game is distinctly different from its predecessors, it is a strength rather than a weakness, and Stranger's Wrath feels more complete and reveals more about Oddworld than any of its predecessors ever has.
The game was originally scheduled to be released on the Xbox and then the Playstation 2 later down the track, but Electronic Arts picked up the publishing rights to the game and has kept it a Xbox exclusive. Players assume the role of Stranger, who is a bounty hunter. As a bounty hunter, you seek out bounties and capture them for money; the storyline is slowly revealed as the game goes on, with very little revealed initially.
Whilst the gameplay in the previous few games has been mainly platforming and adventure, this game takes a bit of a diversion from this, and is more of a first person shooter blended with third-person-adventure elements. There are advantages and disadvantages of being in each viewpoint, and it is up to the player to decide which view is best for which scenario. In the third-person view it is possible to see a lot more of your environment, and to run a lot faster. In the first-person view you can shoot using live ammo, but your player goes a lot slower.
The live ammo option is a great addition. Stranger will find animals scattered throughout the open-ended environment; by incapacitating them up you can use them as ammo. It's important to take note of everything in your surroundings, as the live ammo becomes especially important as you progress through the game. There are a total of nine animals that you can use for ammo, which include fuzzles and boombats.
There are a few features not included in the game that could have enhanced the experience just a little more. We would have appreciated an online mode of some kind - the first person viewpoint could have easily translated into a multiplayer mode. It would also have been good to have seen a co-op option, just to add a bit of variety, rather than being forced to play single player.
The game itself is fairly easy to pick up and play. The first part of the game slowly guides players into the art of bounty hunting and all the controls, so it isn't too difficult to pick up on what to do. Gamespeak was a feature of the previous titles, and has been removed here. When you walk up to a NPC in this title, interaction is done automatically instead, which is a bit of a shame. We used to love the freedom of choice in the vocabulary.
The gameplay is radically different, and it works surprisingly well; the idea of combining two genres has definitely paid off in Stranger's Wrath.
The loading times in the game are also fairly decent and players are never really waiting too long for something to happen; when considering how much detail is in the environments, we expected a little more loading than we actually experienced.
The graphics in the game are simply amazing, and even though the title has been out since February, the visual sequences are still some of the best on the Xbox. The introduction sequence in particular is just mesmerising, and will actually be something you will want to watch a few times through. Oddworld Inhabitants has always been renowned for incredible cinematic sequences (from memory it won an Oscar for some of the FMV in Abe's Oddysee), so we were expecting something brilliant - we just weren't expecting to be thrown aback from the very beginning. All of the environments look very good, and they are vast and mostly interactive.
The sound also boasts fairly high production values. The music is very atmospheric, and the voice acting is dark and spot on - Stranger himself is voiced very well. The soundtrack sounds like it could be released on a CD; the only real complaint is that sometimes the dialogue does become a little repetitive.
The game's story mode will last about fifteen to twenty hours. There is a huge twist about two-thirds of the way through the game that just changes the whole game, and the twist won't have such a large impact the second time through. There isn't really much replay in the title, which is a little disappointing. There could have been bonuses or incentives to play through the game a second time, but unfortunately this is not the case.
Oddworld: Stranger's Wrath comes highly recommended. Oddworld Inhabitants has successfully done what a lot of developers often struggle to do, and that is to combine two genres into one game. It seems like this could actually end up being one of the last titles in the Oddworld franchise, which is a real shame. The overall Oddworld environment is set up really well in this game, and definitely leaves room for expansion; this is the first time we've been really treated to a proper open-ended environment that helps to showcase the overall environment and the potential of future Oddworld titles.
If you're a fan of first person shooters, or like adventure games, then it is really hard to go wrong with Stranger's Wrath. The developers have put a lot of effort into the game, and it shows through in the high production values and incredible soundwork. One of the most successful hybrid titles released in a long time.