January 4, 2013
The story focuses on a character known as "Stranger", a mysterious bounty hunter who goes from town to town picking off outlaws in order to pay for surgery he needs to save his life. At first Stanger seems to be nothing more than a generic guy with a dull slow voice, but as you continue your quest a plot twist really puts a different perspective on things. It's just a shame that due to the repetitive nature of some bounty missions this plot twist takes a bit too long to actually happen.
Along with the story of Stranger, you will also be learning about the world of Western Mudos. The majority of your time will be spent in this western-like setting and it gives off a feeling of a very underdeveloped, futuristic cowboy setting. Every setting, no matter where you go, is just bleeding with personality and is wonderfully written. This has been a charm in all the past Oddworld games and continues with this title.
Gameplay takes place in both first-person and third-person modes and you can switch between these two perspectives very quickly. In third-person you control Stranger as he runs, jumps, climbs and hit enemies. First-person has you shooting from your crossbow with your live ammo. Instead of firing bullets, Stranger instead chooses to use small woodland creatures and this makes the shooting feel very different. Watching the different creatures interact with you on your crossbow never gets old either, as they always have something to say - if they have mouths that is.
Taking down outlaws is fun, but leading up to your encounter with them always seems to feel the same. As you discover more ammo types, you will soon fall into a familiar pattern of using the same ammo. As they say, if it ain't broke, don't fix it. However, there is the option to either capture or kill almost every enemy. There is more of a reward to live captures, but this takes longer and can be more difficult compared to killing them.
This dynamic of choosing how to take down an outlaw works best in boss fights and these end up being the game's high/low points. These battles can often be fun and rather different, making you play in new ways. However, there will be fights that seem so unfairly difficult that you need to cheat the game in order to progress. This becomes much less of an issue as the game goes on, but is a pretty big turn off.
Playing on the PlayStation Vita offers the same experience offered on PC and PS3. This may not sound like much at first, but the system has yet to have a first person shooter to really be proud of. To compensate for the lack of and L2/3 and R2/3 buttons the front and rear touch screens are used to perform these actions. Double tapping the front screen switches perspectives and switching among different ammo using the front touch screen works really well. Smaller things like using the binoculars by pinching and pulling the rear touch pad feels imprecise and tapping the back to perform melee attacks in first person will happen a lot when you didn't want it to.
When Stranger's Wrath released in HD last year, the visuals were stunning compared to the original version. Many of the games textures being completely redone, which was great to see. The Vita version still looks better than the original, but doesn't quite reach the level of visual quality the of PC/PS3 versions. Nevertheless, it does find a good middle ground between the two graphically. Music also does a fine job at immersing you in the story.
Despite the impressive hardware, there are still times when you may see some slowdown if things start getting crazy on screen. The small compromises made to bring this massive game over to the Vita has really paid off in offering an experience just as good as the original.
Unlike most titles that release on PS3 and Vita, Stranger's Wrath has no cross buy/save. The two games are completely separate from each other and you will still need to buy it again if you have the PSN version. Completing the game will take you around 15 hours and this is extended by the somewhat repetitive missions in the first half of the game.
Oddworld: Stranger's Wrath is worth picking up if you have never played it before and are interested in the strange tale it has to tell. It's definitely worth picking up if you want to relive Stranger's Wrath again or want to see a shooter done right on the Vita. Stranger's Wrath is a classic gem that still holds up and even with its few annoyances, remains a great game.
Oddworld: Stranger's Wrath HD was reviewed on the PlayStation Vita. You can read more about GamingUnion.net's scoring policy here.