Previews

Oddworld Stranger's Wrath

This Oddworld isn't like the old Oddworld. It's odder. You're now a cowboy kind of thing, a slow-talking, gun-holding, mental-going bounty hunter with a big, dark, and possibly sexual secret. The game world itself isn't anything like the previous Oddworlds either - instead, we're plunged into a Wild West universe full of varmints, two-bit thieves, inbred farmers and rusty farm machinery. Farm machinery that's operated by redneck ducks with flippers for hands. We're not making any of this up.

You are The Stranger. A cowboy without a name who takes on jobs for cash. Only, this being Oddworld and all, you don't spend 40 years working in a bank - you bounty hunt. Stranger's Wrath uses the ever-reliable hub system, dumping you in a small town, then leaving you to talk to the locals to find jobs that'll earn you the $20,000 needed for 'the operation' Stranger is so desperate for. Deadlines being what deadlines are, we haven't yet made it to the $20,000 limit to discover exactly what Stranger's big op is supposed to be, but it'll need to be something damn impressive to improve on his default selection of skills.

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He is a man of action. So much so that Stranger's Wrath needs to be two games in one to contain all of its ideas. A click of the right stick switches views between a behind-the-character 3D platform perspective and a through-his-eyes shooter mode, with players able to play Oddworld as both shooting game and platformer whenever they like.

And, for once, this inclusion of multiple techniques isn't just a meaningless PR lie: you can, and will actually want to, switch between both control systems as you choose. When in 'zoomed out' platform mode, Stranger is limited to running and fist-based attacks, but you have a much wider view of the actions and your surroundings, making combat and precision moves easier. He can run faster and jump higher like this, too, but it's no use for the times you're faced by a level full of badass bad guys with guns.

For that, a click of the stick is needed to bring up the 'Stranger's Eye'-view. Now you can see your gun, and the shooting of evil things is much better facilitated. But, like all of Oddworld, it's not a normal proposition. Your gun is little more than an empty wooden crossbow that's of no use at all without its unique ammunition.

And - again because this is Oddworld - we're not talking bullets. You use living weaponry. You refill your ammo supplies by foraging for the little bugs that 'poo out' shots at enemies (if you're lazy you can buy them in town shops when your stock runs low). So far we've unlocked an impressive eight different types of living weapon, most of which offer genuinely unique ways to approach the game. But the poo weapons aren't that lethal.

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These weapons are creative, almost annoyingly so. You have stunners that temporarily bewilder enemies, there are lures to bring them into a dark corner and trappers that bind their arms together, Spider-Man style, and stop them attacking you. The best and most traditional we've found so far are the Boombats that fire out rocket-like projectiles and the Stingbees - a kind of organic machine gun.

But there are others. Odder ones. Like, for example, the Skunk Bomb, which explodes a green gas and pauses the enemy's attack by making them stop to puke green vomit for a bit. The Chippunks are loudmouthed little chaps that act as the aforementioned lures, plus you have the Fuzzles that are basically rabid kittens that bite anything within five yards of them.

All of which hints at Stranger's unique mixture of action and stealth play. And again, this is not a development lie - you're allowed to make genuine choices about how to progress and play the game. Take the Waterworks. It's a massive fortress, walled on all four sides, that you must somehow enter and seize.

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