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Oddworld breaks rank from its past to give gamers a wild, beautiful and exceptional action experience.

By Douglass C. Perry



January 24, 2005 - Up until its latest effort, Oddworld's games have predominantly leaned toward simple action-puzzle titles. They're somewhat non-traditional titles filled with beautiful backgrounds and grotesque yet adorable characters, and they're heavy on language and attitude. Oddworld Stranger's Wrath marks the developer's exploration into an entirely different arena. Stranger is predominantly a first-person shooter that eschews the Oddworld games of the past. Stranger offers gamers a first- and third-person action-platform hybrid, starring a new lead character to set the pace for Lorne Lanning's ongoing Oddworld universe.



The change is welcome. Munch's Oddysee might have retained some fans' interest, but it didn't grow the Xbox market base at the system's launch, and it certainly didn't sell as well as the previous two PlayStation 2D titles. In fact, in most ways it was considered a failure. Lanning's new game shows innovation and experimentation in the first-person shooter genre, it expands Oddworld, and more importantly, it shows Oddworld's got legs -- specifically, it conveys Lanning's ability as a designer to adapt, evolve and change with the times.


Story and Perspective

Following the company's three previous titles, Stranger offers a story told over the course of about 16- to 18-hours. This one is longer and more varied that the others, relying less on language puzzles and light strategy and more on skill-heavy shooting and light platforming. You start off as Stranger, a tough-as-nails bounty hunter modeled after the Clint Eastwood character born from Sergio Leone's spaghetti Westerns of the 1960s and early 1970s.


Your real goal is initially hidden, but on the surface Stranger's mission is to earn enough money as a bounty hunter to pay for an operation. What kind of operation, we aren't told. But its significance is huge, and about halfway through the game a huge twist of fate alters the story and even the gameplay to a large degree. I won't spoil it for you here, but you'll want to play it all the way through thanks to a largely interesting, and yes, oddly compelling story.




If you've played the previous Oddworld games, Stranger comes as a surprise. FPS? Yes; a first-person shooter with a distinctly fluid camera mechanic. Aside from the new setting and lead character, gamers will instantly notice the ease with which they can change between the first-person and the third-person view. At first, players might think the game works equally well in both views at any point in the action, be it platforming, shooting, or simply running about. The game offers the ability to play in either perspective 99% of the time (with the exception of some fixed camera angles scattered here and there), but most likely, you'll come to realize it's best to use the first-person view while fighting and the third-person view while platforming and traveling.


Fighting while in third-person is far less efficient and way more frustrating than you can imagine. The slow moving camera doesn't respond fast enough, and the controls actually offer a head-butt and spin move in place of the shooting mechanics. They're novel for a bit, but no match for the sleek first-person shooting mechanic. Jumping, exploring and moving across the landscape in third-person, however, works perfectly. You avoid the whole Turok effect (platforming in first-person), the camera speed matches the pace of exploration, and when Stranger runs fast enough across a flat surface, he'll accelerate into a nifty gallop. Odd Design

Stranger commences in a small, old-fashioned Western town filled with creatures called Clakkerz, a chicken-like folk that walk upright on two legs and are the perfect example of what Oddworld previously did so well -- to infuse weird-looking characters with spunk, attitude and humor. As part of its exploration elements, you can talk to any Clakker at any time. Some give you hints toward the next goal, some give you directions, some just give you attitude. They'll instinctively react to your behavior and they're funny as hell. If you're friendly, they'll walk the streets and chatter away (and if you listen, the topic of their conversation is usually focused on your next goal).



If you decide to shove, beat, or shoot them dead, they'll talk back at you, yell at you, and eventually scatter the streets, hiding from you. In the latter case, they'll shoot from windows and communicate your bad behavior to the next town, which will then greet you negatively. But hell, you've got to torture these little bastards at least once. It's immensely satisfying, plus you get to steal the money they leave from their plump limp bodies. It's cold, but it's brilliant fun.


Throughout the game, the level design is exceptionally well thought out. Stranger finds the Bounty Store in the first town, and as he completes his tasks he's directed to other, different podunk towns, each with its own General and Bounty Store. Each Bounty Store offers its own new set of bounties; each General Store offers the option to upgrade weapons, buy armor and Live Ammo bait, which vary in degree of usability. The towns serve as living, breathing hubs abuzz with activity that fill the game with life in between fights, and broaden the game's appeal.


But the game still ends up being a collection of boss fights, each stylized after a particular boss. Neatly, each time you fight and beat a boss, a new path opens, leading you back to town through a passage that you never knew existed. This simple but well-thought out idea eliminates backtracking and repetition and gives the game an organic, connected feel.


The boss fights, all of which are designed well and differently, don't follow a set formula for first-person shooters. They're designed with equal levels platforming and action, giving them all a fresh and surprising way to achieve success. For example, the first major boss, Filthy Hands Floyd, engages you to penetrate his fort and to slaughter all the boss's guards before fighting him. He's relatively easy. Another fight finds you smack in the middle of town after a jailbreak, and you have to fight Floyd's more powerful cousin, whose shotgun is way more dangerous, forcing you to avoid any close encounters and using more of a guerilla-style tactic to succeed. Against Jo Mamma, the odds increase again. You'll fight through a vast array of evil thugs, slog through to an elevator to gain access to the dangerous Mamma, and then cut the electricity on a wire, climb across it before she turns it back on, and defeat her.




You'll easily find yourself retrying some bosses a half-dozen times. And the reason I had to re-do boss fights is because I expected them to work like traditional FPS bosses. They don't. Just like the game's hybrid camera angles, the boss fights fuse platform and shooting strategies smoothly and evenly. But, even knowing this, they will surprise you.


While the fights are distinctly varied and well designed, one potential flaw in its design is determening how to capture bosses alive. For each bounty, you're offered a price for bringing them in dead (less cash) or alive (more cash). The Bolomites (a spider-like form of ammo) are useful in wrapping enemies, at which point you can suck them into your vorpal baddy bag. But bosses instantly break from their webbing, forcing you to slay them dead and get into a rather dangerous close-combat fight. Or, and I learned and applied this later, you'll need to watch their adrenaline bar to catch them right. ve Ammo

Finally, Live Ammo is an excellent idea that, for the most part, is well fleshed out, works well, and always entertains. Live Ammo means your ammunition is alive and collectible in the form of insects, small mammals and marsupials. Each of the nine types is upgradeable and serves a different purpose -- the Chippunks' loud demeanor pulls enemies away from the pack so you can kill them off one by one; Zappflies are chargeable and used to stun enemies and set off electrical switches to open doors (another nice way around the ol' "find the key and open the door" approach), etc. Some types, such as the Fuzzles (which gnaw on their enemies) and even the Stingbees, are less useful and just take up space. They're nice ideas, but they're lousy in boss fights and could easily have been cut.




This is a beautiful game. I wouldn't expect anything else from Oddworld, which has always delivered exceptional environments and first-rate CG, but Stranger takes things up a notch. The initial towns are empty and deserted yet they're still detailed, well designed, and well textured. Once you progress deeper into the game, you'll find it gradually becomes prettier and even more detailed.


In fact, Stranger is probably one of the prettiest, and most refined games on the Xbox, period. The jungles and forests are lush, the cutscenes are incredibly polished, smooth and attractive, and the high framerate keeps everything quick. The game is also exquisitely animated, whether we're talking about insects flying through a scene, enemies walking their routes, or Stranger galloping across the landscape.



Stranger also delivers an excellent sound system. The voice acting, once again led by Lanning himself, has been bolstered with additional talent (from his team, who I guess must pass some sort of voice acting test to get a job there) that deliver their lines with humor, attitude, and distinction.




The music is theatrical and likeable, and it's progressive, reacting and changing to the situation (so, for instance, you'll know when a boss is aware of your presence because you'll hear it in the music tempo). The sound is also well separated and well recorded. The voices all come across clearly and, if your Xbox is connected to a good stereo, the game will deliver superb Dolby Digital 5.1 sound.


Closing Comments

Oddworld Stranger's Wrath might be a bit of a mouthful, but it's well worth your time. Lanning's new team is talented, smart and well-equipped to deliver a totally different take on the first-person shooter genre. They've created a challenging and unique title with great game design as its bedrock and superb graphics to make it shine. There are a slew of solid features -- from the unique Live Ammo to the first- and third-person camera perspectives, to the surprise shift more than half-way through the game -- that make up for the few minor faults. Stranger is also remarkably accessible, far more than its predecessors, with a great level of entertainment value -- whether it's from the talkative Live Ammo, the chuckle-headed Clakkerz, or the bosses themselves.



There is no online play, no co-op, and there isn't much to offer in the way of replay value, but the story-based game is not short either, giving players about 16-18 hours of play plus a design that offers a slew of ways to play through it. That's pretty impressive for a console FPS. If you don't buy it, which we recommend, you should definitely rent it.

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a qnd l'anteprima airluck???


L'ha realizzata già da qualche giorno, ma sta aspettando che quel pelandrone del suo caporedattore la metta online invece di perdere tempo sul forum :roll:


Nel weekend sarà online, promesso ;-)
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Salve ragazzi mi presento con una domanda :mrgreen:

Si sà qualcosa circa un'eventuale localizzazione in italiano di Oddworld Strangers Wrath?


Ciao e benvenuto :mrgreen:


Per ora non si sa nulla di sicuro, però credo che sarà localizzato: EA su questo è molto seria ed è raro vedere un loro gioco non localizzato in italiano, almeno i menu ed i sottotitoli! Quindi ci sono buone speranze :ok:
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