Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Old Game is Old is No Excuse to Skip Oddworld: Stranger's Wrath on Vita

Quick Note: Though not without it's flaws, Oddworld: Stranger's Wrath is an enjoyable shooter, especially for a system like the PS Vita, which is lacking some quality shooters. 

Anyone who knows me personally (or happens to look at my PSN account) knows that I don't particularly enjoy shooters, first or third person. Guns don't particularly appeal to me in any way and with a few big exceptions, the general shooter on the market does not tell a very compelling story, which is the major reason why I play video games. I've stumbled a bit through Bioshock and it's sequel, but with a 40+ hour work week I would rather spend my time on my console playing games I know I will enjoy rather than try out experiences I kind of get into. So when Stranger's Wrath hit Vita, I knew it was the perfect chance to branch out into a genre I am not very familiar with. Despite it's old school difficulty and controls, the game is surprisingly enjoyable, especially on Vita, where there is a definite drought of good shooters.

Releasing all the way back on the original Xbox, Stranger's Wrath is a first person shooter that follows the story of Stranger, a bounty hunter who takes on notorious baddies in his western world to gain money for a very expensive medical operation that will save his life. Stranger uses a crossbow and exotic ammunition to take down his enemies, dead or alive, and it's this strange ammo that helps make the game feel different from your typical shooter, in both good and bad ways. He uses living creatures found through out the landscape to attack his foes, requiring you to seek out the little critters to refill your stockade while taking on baddies.

These animals all have different abilities that can be useful for both taking out enemies and keeping them alive. Each enemy defeated can be picked up for a bounty. Dead enemies will disappear over time while enemies taken alive are worth far more than corpses. This includes the bounties of the game, which are large bosses that run the gangs of outlaws and net the most money. You will have to switch out of first person view to a third person view to bag an enemy, which leaves Stranger vulnerable while sucking up the baddie into his glove.

Though refreshing and interesting, these mechanic are also the major downfalls of the game. When being bombarded from all sides by enemies, you'll find yourself often running out of ammo, requiring you to seek out more creatures to use against enemies. On Easy it's nothing to worry about, but in the surprisingly difficult Normal setting I found myself more frustrated with the fact that I couldn't just pick up ammo from fallen foes than enjoying the unique ammo pick up system. Also, though the shooting controls are spot on, swapping between the first and third person views requires you to double tap the touch screen and is incredibly slow when swapping back and forth between the views. Again, not the end of the world, but it took quite a bit of time on Normal to get used to this timing, resulting in a lot of deaths that felt cheap. One last complaint would have to be the pacing of the story, which goes off the deep end in the third act, resulting in a complete change of tone for the game and a completely different feel to the gameplay itself.

Aside from these gripes though, the game is a lot of fun and runs great. The graphics are surprisingly strong for an HD remake. Developer Just Add Water ported the game over in house for both the PS3 and Vita, and man does it look good, especially in the later levels. The second I entered Mongo Valley, with it's gorgeous river-scape I ended up wasting roughly 30 minutes just looking at the water and the scenery as I explored the area. This does not hold true for the old cutscenes that are simply ported from the old Xbox version, which are grainy and hard to watch most of the time, but theses are few and far between.  The audio is not terrible, but playing the game on mute will not hurt you in most circumstances

Despite the few complaints, I still found myself really enjoying the game. Stranger's Wrath has some smart mechanics and a unique western tone that isn't explored as much in video games that I totally dig. I personally recommend playing on Easy, because it is far more enjoyable and feels less cheap, but over all I'd definitely say pick this one up. It's free now on PS Plus and only $15 when it goes off the program, so pick it up and enjoy.

7 out of 10

Here Are Some Links:

The Game Home Page

The IGN Review

The Wiki Page

The Metacritic Page

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