First Impressions: Oddworld Stranger (XB)

The fourth title in the Oddworld series was released this week, and Oddworld: Stranger certainly lives up to the namesake. From my first few hours with the game, Oddworld Stranger is a well produced, polished adventure/shooter that breaks down genre barriers and is a fitting and incredible addition to the Oddworld universe.

The first three Oddworld titles were glorified platformers, with innovative gameplay and incredible style and attention to detail, not to mention great puzzles and top notch controls. The artwork and design of Oddworld is so strong that they published a Book of Oddworld Art that is surprisingly enjoyable, and goes to show the depth of planning that goes into the creation of the Oddworld series.

Stranger is a peculiar title for the Oddworld universe, because it ditches the hardcore platforming roots for a new style of gameplay. The game begins with a lengthy CG intro describing some of the backstory, and setting you up as the Stranger. When the player takes over control, the game begins the training level that introduces all of the main gameplay.

Incredibly, Oddworld has two entirely separate gameplay options that the player can choose on the fly and totally change how the game feels and plays. The first type of gameplay is a 3rd person view, with the player controlling the Stranger running around the environments, jumping on platforms and performing some power attacks to knock out close range enemies. Then the game can be switched on the fly, to a 1st person view for a FPS style of gameplay. The Stanger then controls a double-barreled cross bow that can load two separate types of ammo at a time, strafe, etc. These two modes have very separate gameplay styles, but the first few hours of gameplay switch between them seamlessly.

The live ammo gimmick is very unique and tons of fun in the limited time I’ve played the game so far. There are nine species of small animals in Oddworld: Stranger that can be fired from the double barrel crossbow, and each perform a separate and unique task. The Chippunks as mentioned in our preview are used mostly as bait, to lure a bad guy to a more vulnerable position. The Fuzzles perform a dual role as well, as you can fire them directly at baddies to make them crazily run around, or set them up on walls to pounce on an enemy as it passes. Each of the nine types of live ammo can reportedly be upgraded to a powered-up version as well, although I have yet to come across that.

As in most FPS, the ammo is limited and must be collected. However, there aren’t items or icons to pick up to represent ammo, the Stranger must maim and catch the ammo. There are the little ammo critters roaming around much of the Oddworld terrain, and Stranger has to capture the ammo in order to reload. There is a default type of live ammo as well that never runs out.

I’ve played through the about the first 2 hours of Oddworld: Stranger and so far I’m blown away. The graphics are very well detailed, with great use of textures and already some incredible effects (there is a haggar-style arm spin that seems to break the sound barrier, and the ghost-busting style of catching baddies has some incredible particle effects). The gameplay is tight and varied, and with two totally separate styles, doesn’t seem like it will get boring too fast.

Inside Pulse games will have a full review of Oddworld Stranger very soon!