Game publisher Rebellion aren’t content simply relying on the 2000 A.D properties they own. Their newest title, Strange Brigade, is a completely original game set in a unique pulp adventure world. The game has been demoed at trade shows and conventions for the past two years. During that time, brief 15 min intervals charmed me but never left me floored. After spending some time with it, I’m surprised to tell you this game is just a flat out good time and one of the most worthwhile original IP of the year.
Published by: Rebellion
Available for: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC
Strange Brigade is a 4 player co-op adventure shooter set in a pulp era of serial black & white television shows. Picture a time when televisions had “clickers” instead of remotes, and nobs to control them with only like four channels to pick from. You’ll play as one of four characters: Archimedes de Quincey, Nalangu Rushida, Gracie Braithwaite and Frank Fairburne.
These four heroes form an elite team of supernatural power wielding archeologists. They’ll need that power to stop the ancient evil of Seteki the Witch Queen. As plot and character go, it’s simple and while these characters come with a few catch phrases they’ll spout during random moments or after a battle, the premise is as developed as they get. Instead of intricate narrative, this game sets itself apart in its unique touches. Players are guided the entire game by a narrator who sounds like the old newsreels theaters would show before a movie in the 1950’s. As you shoot hordes of reanimated corpses, mummies, and oversized scorpions this narrator has a quip for everything that takes place in the game. From victory catchphrases such as “no match for the Strange Brigade!” to even having comments showing his odd angst against treasure guarding cat statues you’ll destroy “a dog would have avoided that” its this voice’s presence that fills in the color of Strange Brigade’s world. You can’t help but keep playing to hear more of this.
There’s tons of other noticable touches that blend the 1930’s setting with your gameplay expereince. One of my favorite parts is after every mission you successfully finish, the screen cuts to a black and white freeze frame and “to be continued…” pops up. As someone who loved the era of television that was simplistic to where everything was a to be continued same bat-time cliffhanger, these artistic choices spark a fun emotional connection with Strange Brigade.
You won’t get an epic and rich story that will leave you looking for introspective conversation about what you just witnessed. But what you will get is hours of fun popcorn action. Shooting mummies with old style weaponry never gets old. It’s designed here, in sound and feel, to be satisfying. Each character has unique amulets with different powers that can turn the tide of battle in your favor. You’ll need them in boss fights were dozens of enemies can surround you at once and like a zombie film, just a few can overrun you. In these moments, things like Gracie Bathwrite’s mystical energy ball shooting turrent power comes in extremely handy.
Strange Brigade’s strength is also an inherent weakness though. The game is designed as a four-player experience, though developer Rebellion has said the game can be played solo. You can play through the game’s campaign alone but in later parts, those who haven’t uncovered or explored levels for weapon upgrades hit a wall in the form of boss battles that (for novice gamers) are simply impossible to beat solo. There’s also no option to have other spots filled by A.I controlled partners. Playing with others online is something I rarely enjoy in gaming and here it can even feel like a punishment at times since treasures and rewards you can discover in every level are finite meaning you need to be first to a treasure chest or solve a puzzle. Other players can even slide in and steal upgrades or chests from you if they’re fast enough on the button while standing near you. Though it’s worth mentioning, as far as online functionality goes; I’ve had worse experiences with launch games crashing due to inadequate servers. Strange Brigade has so far only given me a single isolated lag experience in game.
Overall, Strange Brigade is a welcome surprise. The game’s studio and publisher, Rebellion, had been most noted for hyper-violent games where you can watch X-ray camera sniper rounds permeate the skulls of Nazis. Strange Brigade is a light-hearted adventure overflowing with moxie. It’s hard to believe just now in 2018 are we getting a game that uses this 1930’s Egyptian setting and lore like this. Despite its simple premise, the game is the right level of challenge to be fun weekend game to play with friends. If you’re a fan of pulp adventure tales or co-op shooters then it’s well worth your time.