Thu, Feb 03, 2005 - Page 15 News List

PC and video game reviews

By Gavin Phipps  /  STAFF REPORTER

Oddworld: Stranger's Wrath
Publisher: EA Games
Platform: X-Box
Taiwan Release: Already available

Released globally last week, EA Games' long-awaited Oddworld: Stranger's Wrath is a must-buy for any gamer on the lookout for a fresh, fun and futuristic shooter experience.

The game seamlessly merges all the fun of a first-person shooter with that of a third-person adventure game, boasts a brilliant storyline and features eye-popping graphics.

The action takes place in an imaginary spaghetti-western-like world shared by peace-loving chicken-like people and gruff bulldog-like ornery outlaws.

Players take on the roll of Stranger, a bounty hunter of unknown origins and quite ungainly appearance, as he sets out to rid the town of bands of desperados who have been terrorizing the chicken people and stealing everything that's not nailed down.

Stranger collects the bounty for each outlaw he captures, be it dead or alive, and with his loot is able to purchase items such a binoculars, extra ammo pouches and so on from the general store. Unlike shooters that allow players to acquire bigger and better weaponry as they progress, Stranger totes the same critter-firing crossbow from beginning to end.

The crossbow is just one of the game's many unique features: Instead of firing bullets, Stranger loads his firepower with a wide array of bugs and creatures. Lightening bugs, talking squirrels and spiders, to name but a few of the ammo-creatures, all have their own special characteristics and allow Stranger to snare, slay or trick his enemies depending on the situation.

Players will spend much of their time running, shooting, kicking or punching, but the absorbing storyline, which is played out through cut screens, is never far away. It takes a few levels before players learn that Stranger is not simply a bounty hunter, but it is worth the wait; the more players learn about Stranger and his hidden agenda, the more addictive the game becomes.

Anyone familiar with the Marvel comic book hero will know that Detective Frank Castle's family was viciously murdered by the mob and as a result of this bloodbath, Castle is hellbent on revenge. He has become obsessed with blasting and bagging bad guys wherever and whomever they are.

THQ's The Punisher allows gamers to take on the roll of Castle as he brings down the mob by raiding its crack houses and busting its chop-shops. Of course, this is done by employing as much force and/or firepower as possible. Additional firearms are collected along the way and as the game progresses so does Castle's arsenal. From handguns to flamethrowers and a very useful sniper-rifle, players get to kill hoodlums in many different and innovative ways .

While many aspects of The Punisher's game play are standard issue, the game's interrogation and human shield modes add spice to what is basically a linear first-person shooter. Once he's nabbed a bad guy Castle can set about interrogating him.

This is, of course, a task he revels in and one that he pursues in as violent a manner as console/PC gaming sensors currently allow. As you can no doubt imagine, the human shield mode also leads to the spilling of much blood, very little of which is Castle's.

The Punisher is a fun game for those who enjoy nothing better than spending a few hours engrossed in acts of wanton violence. More forward thinking gamers, for whom the challenge is more important than the graphical content, might find The Punisher less than punishing, however. Once players have mastered single-shot kills the game tends to become a wee bit to one-sided. Enemy bullets don't do much damage and Castle is able to boost his health bar all too easily.

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