For any given situation, there’s always more than one approach, and it’s rarely ‘go in with all guns blazing’. In many cases, there are even opportunities to make the environment your ally, either encouraging your foes to take a fall or go for a swim, or turn machinery into a lethal deathtrap. Years before Crysis and Far Cry 2, Stranger’s Wrath was a shooter that was about more than shooting; it was about taking the tools at your disposal and using them to beat the odds.
Admittedly, there are times when the game’s mix of third and first-person action doesn’t quite gel. To make the big bucks you have to bring outlaws back alive, but to do so you have to incapacitate them, then use a hoover-like device to capture them. This moves the action to the first-person view, and you need to move quickly to bag a baddy then manually switch back to first-person to deal with the next varmint: an irritation that all too often ends in death. In fact, there are times when you wish you could play the whole game from either a third-person or third-person viewpoint.
Meanwhile, the game also has its share of lazy moments where you’re simply spammed with masses of enemies or hit by an excessively tricky boss battle. Plus, now that we expect our big action games to come with massive set pieces, Stranger’s Wrath can feel a little short on epic moments.
True, but when it all comes down to it Stranger’s Wrath feels fresher than you’d expect from a game nearly seven years old. It’s got a story to tell and a personality to tell it with, and what appears to be a simple and repetitive tale grows richer and more interesting with time. and each new location or outlaw gang gives you something different to look forward to; something that stems from Oddworld’s platform gaming heritage.
And for once, the HD remastering does the game justice. While it’s clear that Stranger’s Wrath isn’t a cutting-edge modern title, it’s a very polished interpretation of an old one, with reworked characters, textures and effects and new scenery, lighting and particle systems that add extra atmosphere to the original locations. The team at Just Add Water who handled this update deserve kudos for a job well done.
Despite a fine HD remaster Stranger’s Wrath still isn’t a game for everyone. The Call of Duty crowd will find it too confusing, and there are moments where its different influences fail to gel. Yet this is a fantastic second chance to try a unique and innovative blend of genres, with a strong story, a winning personality and one of the most entertaining weapon sets ever used in a mainstream game. At £12.99 for such a rich single-player game it’s hard to resist.