Oddworld: Stranger’s Wrath HD review

  • Spectacular “live” ammo
  • HD visuals look great
  • Good story, great twist
  • Camera can be wonky
  • Some brutal bosses
  • Linear, one-way path

A large chicken hawk is taunting us while his massive shotgun is dealing brutal damage with every hit. As we cower behind a wall, there’s a decision to be made. Should we lay traps with furry, fuzzy spheres that happen to have teeth like piranha, then follow those up with lethal blasts of hard-shelled slugs? Or does the best course of action dictate we should fire an electricity-charged bug at our foe and then hurl a spider that will wrap him up so we can deliver our prey alive? After all, we desperately need money, so every dollar counts. On the other hand, being dead won’t help us out at all. Keeping ourselves alive is paramount, even if it means we don’t get paid quite as much.

If none of this sounds familiar – or even sane – then you’ve never played Oddworld: Stranger’s Wrath. Unfortunately, that’s a healthy percentage of people, since the title didn’t sell much when it came out as an Xbox exclusive at the tail end of that system’s lifespan. Whether Wrath was ahead of its time or simply a victim of it has been debated for years. Luckily, thanks to a snazzy high-def upgrade that’s been released on the PlayStation Network, none of that matters much.  

The Oddworld franchise has always lived up to its name and Stranger’s Wrath fits right in. For reasons that aren’t always explained, just about everything is, well, weird. Much of the world’s population is made up of chicken people; the protagonist is some sort of furry, angry, neon-eyed creature that needs an expensive operation. This fellow, named the Stranger, is a bounty hunter whose weapon is a crossbow that uses living creatures for its ammunition. These animals must be captured in the wild and each has a unique feature that clearly separates it from the others. Therein lies much of the game’s beauty.

Stranger’s crossbow can fire two types of ammo at a given time, and they can be swapped out in an instant. As he goes about his bounty hunting business, the delicious challenge is determining which combination of ammo will work best to take down the enemy at hand. There’s rarely a single answer, and often it depends on whether you want to take your prey alive or dead. Ultimately, the Stranger needs money, and the faster you can get it, the faster he can take care of the mysterious medical procedure he needs. Living bounties are always more valuable than dead ones.

Each weapon is spectacularly different. Chipmunks will attract enemies to the spot they land, allowing you to fire spiders that will wrap victims in a cocoon, or if you want to go for a kill, you can fire slugs instead. Electricity-charged bugs will incapacitate most enemies for a few moments, which make them perfect targets for exploding bats. Fiercely vicious bees can be fired like machine gun bullets, which are particularly deadly when your enemies are already being attacked by fuzzy, biting miniature squirrel-like things. Much of the fun that Wrath has to offer is experimenting with the adorably deadly living ammunition.

And there will be plenty of experimentation, because Stranger’s Wrath is pretty tough. Even though much of its core design shows its age – from its linear path to repetitive dialogue – each of the major set-piece battles is a challenge. The significant amount of damage that a single hit from an enemy inflicts is in stark contrast to most modern titles in the genre, and if you’re not careful you’ll die. A lot. Luckily, Stranger can heal himself quickly by, um, smashing himself in the chest, and that comes in very handy. 

Visually speaking, the high-definition polish is terrific. The characters, environments, and especially the living ammunition look great. The audio leaves something to be desired, only because we’re much more used to current-generation dialogue; it’s a definite throwback to hear your enemies say the same “Hey, look over there!” and “Aw, I lost him” lines over and over. 

Ultimately, Oddworld: Stranger’s Wrath HD is an easy recommendation whether or not you’ve played it before – but especially if you haven’t. Between its unique weapons, out-there world, and shocking late-game plot twist, there’s a lot to really like even as it occasionally reminds you it’s a 7-year-old game. They don’t make ‘em like this much anymore.

More Info

Release date: Dec 27 2011 - PS3
Dec 18 2012 - PS Vita (US)
Available Platforms: PS3, PS Vita
Genre: Adventure
Developed by: Just Add Water
ESRB Rating:
Teen: Blood and Gore, Strong Language, Violence

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  • winner2 - January 16, 2012 7:17 p.m.

    The Oddworld series still holds it's place as the weirdest thing in gaming for me. Munch's Oddysey had me laugh at the strangeness. The Great Raisin lol
  • Dadyo238 - January 7, 2012 9:02 p.m.

    I've been pondering this one for quite a while, but after this review and recomendations from my aunt( apparently she played the PS1 original) I think I'll be getting this one( if the download ever finishes with my stupidly slow internet)
  • Thequestion 121 - January 7, 2012 7:37 p.m.

    I should get this game :)
  • mothbanquet - January 4, 2012 9:50 a.m.

    An excellent game. I still have this on my original XB and I'll definitely consider getting it again (along with the others in the pack) to see it in beautiful HD.
  • GhostNappa2k10 - January 4, 2012 12:35 a.m.

    Luckily I bought the Oddworld Pack on Steam, so I already own this amazing game :D
  • HappyGamer100 - January 3, 2012 11:53 p.m.

    wow just my luck, this was on a top 7 overlooked games or something and they talked about it on tdar and completely spoiled the end for me :,( i still might get it tho.
  • ObliqueZombie - January 3, 2012 9:26 p.m.

    I still don't get why this is PSN, only. I'd GLADLY pay money for an XBLA release. Hell, it was Xbox, first! Forget legalities, I want this game.
  • FlagrantPilgrim - January 4, 2012 7:39 a.m.

    The reason it couldn't be released on XBLA was in an early 2011 issue of Gameinformer. I believe it was because the game came out to 2.2 GB, which was too large for XBLA, which has a 2 GB file-size cap.
  • aratiatia - January 3, 2012 8:43 p.m.

    I heard Munch's Oddysee is coming to PSN too, that's one I'm looking forward to.
  • garnsr - January 3, 2012 7:53 p.m.

    Strangers Wrath was one of the few Xbox games I had, one of the few that isn't backwards compatible on 360, and now strangely is only on PSN. I think I always enjoyed the atmosphere of Oddworld games more than actually playing them, so I don't know if I'll try any of them out again on current consoles.
  • KillerTofu - January 3, 2012 7:46 p.m.

    Any clues if this is coming to Steam or XBLA ever as well?
  • trojan12kelley - January 3, 2012 8:13 p.m.

    It's part of the Oddworld Bundle (Abe's Oddysee, Abe's Exxodus, Munch's Oddysee, and Stranger's Wrath) on Steam. I wish it would come out on XBLA, though :(
  • gamingfreak - January 3, 2012 6:41 p.m.

    This was one of the few games I liked on the original Xbox. Unfortunately my copy always froze at a certain point so I was never able to beat it, but now's my chance!
  • inkyspot - January 3, 2012 4:54 p.m.

    I wish this was coming to the xbox, I would buy it even though I finished the game long ago, but I guess that is less money I have to spend.
  • BladedFalcon - January 3, 2012 4:52 p.m.

    I sadly missed out on this one the first time it came out, but i always have been interested in it. Will probably get it, eventually. Since I still have a lot to play as it is >>; Also "Linear, one-way path" Um... How come this is a negative in this game, but not applied to say, any recent CoD game, FFXIII or Killzone?
  • samsneeze - January 3, 2012 11:29 p.m.

    Well you see, Call of Duty is a game that has story and multiplayer. The story isn't really the main focus when they make those games, but the multiplayer is. It has something else to default on when the game becomes boring/predictable and you start to look for a different type of challenge. Final Fantasy XIII is the epitome of "follow the yellow brick road", but it does try(and fail) to switch it up by offering "side missions" once Gran Pulse becomes available. I'm not too familiar with Killzone, but I think its reasons wouldn't be too different from Call of Duty. All Stranger's Wrath has to offer is good gameplay and a good story. But that's it, it doesn't have much to the tune of replay value and thus will burn out quickly if you're trying to go in for the long haul.
  • samsneeze - January 3, 2012 11:30 p.m.

    I think some of that may be off, but whatever.
  • BladedFalcon - January 4, 2012 5:24 a.m.

    I'm sorry... But the fact that CoD and Killzone have multiplayer is irrelevant. What applies to one single player campaign should apply to another, regardless of other extra content. The multiplayer aspect might help a game's overall score and longevity, but doesn't make a single player's shortcoming any less valid than in another game. If being linear is considered archaic and a fault here, then it should also be considered just as archaic in other games when talking about their single player campaign. It just ticks me off that they say here that Stranger's linearity "shows it's age" When most shooters of this day and age are just a fucking linear, or worse. Same with other genres even. Even the complaint of "Recycled voice acting" sounds like bullshit, when even now on Skyrim you hear a character repeat the same lines over and over every time to visit them.
  • Austin_SJ - January 4, 2012 7:21 a.m.

    Somestime linear is good, and sometimes it is bad. In this case it is bad, however it is only a minor thing as the game scored an 8 out of ten.

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