Strange Brigade is finally upon us and as you might have seen from our high scoring review, we’re crazy about it. There’s so many things that make this game such a fun and well timed experience. Now, I say well timed, because amidst the busy releases as of late, there’s nothing quite like Strange Brigade. This is a game that effortlessly blends together action, comedy and oftentimes, a pace that Serious Sam would be proud of. It’s a big departure from Rebellion’s usual work, and that’s a good thing, because it further showcases their diverse talents.
To those of you out of the loop, Strange Brigade is a third-person cooperative shooter (emphasis on the latter) that takes place in the 1930s – complete with a narrator that sounds as though he’s fell out of a Fawlty Towers episode. What follows on is a nonstop action-heavy campaign filled with dangers, treasures and heaps of upgrades and weaponry. I’ll admit that I was a little skeptical about the game before diving in, but even after just an hour of play, I’ve struggled to put it down, or indeed stop thinking about it when I have powered off the console.
The premise tells of Seteki, an ancient, brutal and barbaric queen that was other thrown by her people four thousand years prior and sealed in a tomb. Fast forward to present (in-game) day, and her tomb is uncovered by renowned archaeologist Edgar Harbin, who just so happens to release her evil spirit. Thus, the Strange Brigade are sent in to take down Seteki once and for all, alongside all of her evil doings and supernatural beings; mummies, huge scorpions and even minotaurs. It’s a fun and dark story setup, not too dissimilar of something Indiana Jones-esque.
What immediately impressed me about Strange Brigade is how easy to get into it is. The moment the game throws you into the adventure, you feel as though you’ve been playing this your entire life. Throw in the fact that the game’s four main characters – each with unique abilities – are interesting and diverse in their own right, and it makes the game feel all that more dynamic. This is especially true when you’re playing alongside other characters, and you can hear them interacting with one another throughout a range of differing scenarios.
The game’s levels have been designed in such a way that they’re open and multi-branching. This opens up the gameplay dramatically, allowing either solo players or multiple players to approach the game’s levels in different and exciting ways. Many times there’s typically several ways to either reach an objective or get your grubby hands on some sweet loot, and it’s fair to say that Strange Brigade offers heaps of exploration opportunities by design as a result. I found myself not only exploring to take in the lush sights, but to seek out much of the hidden goodies within.
You see, not only will you be taking out a variety of different foes, but each level cleverly hides collectibles, treasures and side-objectives throughout. The first level, for example, tucks away mini statues that you have to shoot to collect (think Resident Evil 4’s Blue Medal system). I felt compelled to grab them all – as you do – and although I searched high and low, I couldn’t even locate half of the goods. This is where much of Strange Brigade’s replay value sits, and thanks to how exciting and well paced the game is, revisiting old levels never feels like a chore.
I also enjoyed the puzzle aspects of the game. Most levels house a collection of tombs that can only be accessed if you solve a puzzle first – shooting hieroglyphs in the correct order, and so on. If you’re smart enough to make it in, you’ll be handsomely rewarded for your efforts. Strange Brigade also packs a healthy serving of weapons, many of which will be unlocked through natural play. Each weapon looks and feels unique, and can be further enhanced through applying runes that can be sought via pick-ups; such as blast-freezing enemies on the spot.
Enemies will come thick and they’ll come fast. This isn’t a game that gives you much time to react or breathe, instead, it’s very much a twitch shooter that relies heavily on your precision, accuracy and speed. Mercifully, there’s environmental hazards that will help you along the way – and kill you if you’re not careful. These arrive in the form of spinning blades, spikes, and much, much more. I’m writing this alongside my review of the game pre-release, and I’m trying my hardest to not go over too much to prevent spoiling the experience for new players.
What I will say is that after six hours of play, I barely feel like I have scratched the surface. By the time you read this, I’ll likely have plugged several more hours into the game and have a review on the site for you to learn more. Moving back to the titular question, what makes Strange Brigade so fun? There isn’t a singular answer that I can give. There’s several elements of the game that come together to produce such a compelling and rewarding experience and I dare say that this is the best work we’ve seen from Rebellion yet. No, I don’t say that lightly.
Rounding all of this off is the game’s impressive visuals. Sure, the character models look a bit daft and there’s some animations that are stiff, to say the very least, but as far as level design and diversity goes, Strange Brigade is nothing short of sensational. Each location varies from the last and retains some beautiful, stunning visual splendor. The same can be said about the core functionality, which – as alluded to above – encourages players to take their time and soak up as much of the game as possible for a wide selection of different reasons.
Strange Brigade is fun because by design, it’s crafted to be played time and time again. It’s deep with secrets, lore, puzzles, action, mammoth fights and more. Out of the other AAA games that are arriving this week, Strange Brigade has a fighting chance to top the rest. It’s fair to summarize this game as a blend of Left 4 Dead, Tomb Raider, and Zombie Army Trilogy, and if that appeals to you, you’re not going to be disappointed. Have you picked this up yet? Have you been following its promotion? Hit the comment section below to get in on the discussion.