Strange Brigade is quite the mixed bag. Developer Rebellion, of Sniper Elite fame, has long been focused on testicle shots and realistic gunplay of the series they are known for. But here, they attempt to tell a supernatural story of revenge focusing on our four heroes looking to spoil evil queen Seteki’s homecoming.
The story in Strange Brigade is mostly nonsensical, only there to set the stage for pure carnage. It is set in the style of 1930”s reel films with cutscenes reminiscent of something you would see in a “Monsters” flick. The crew is made up of four heroes of varying backgrounds and skills. They certainly live up to the strange name when you think of them in terms of a team. You have your African tribeswomen, an English professor, a scholar and a female boxer inspired by the World War II “We Can Do It” poster featuring Rosie the Riveter all fighting the good fight to rebuke the return of the evil antagonist Seteki. The story is a throwaway but the game is all about shooting everything in sight. I am hardly here for the story.
HOW’S IT PLAY?
When going into Strange Brigade, my initial thought was, “well at the very least, the gunplay is probably going to be great.” And I was not let down. The gun play here is solid and there are many enemies, ranging from mummies, skeletons and scorpions to joyfully annihilate. There are depots in every set piece to refill your ammo and swap out weapons at your leisure. After dispatching of your enemies, they will release blue orbs which can be collected to fill up your amulet allowing your to unleash a devastating special attack. Each of the four characters have a variety of unlockable amulet attacks, some with the ability to one-hit kill tougher enemies.
Environmental attacks are going to be your best friend when the screen becomes crowded with enemies. These attacks range from swinging axe blades, spikes coming from the ground a’la Indiana Jones and pillars that rise from the ground and begin spinning blades as it tears into oncoming traffic. I found that between these environmental attacks and my ol’ trusty sticks of dynamite, I could essentially run through the game with very little resistance, only needing to call on my firearm for the boss fights. Speaking of which, the boss fights here aren’t great. They rely far too heavily on pinpointing shots on specific part of the bosses body which feel impossible despite the gun play feeling as good as it does. So, for me, it was basically, unload all of my ammo, refill my ammo, unload my ammo….rinse and repeat. I would have liked to see a little bit more thought put into the boss fights in a game of this ilk.
However, Strange Brigade can be played in four player co-op and with friends, both in the Campaign mode as well as Horde mode. Playing with friends is a blast and I found that the metagame of racing each other to try to get to the supplies dropped from enemies before your teammates was a blast. The puzzles in the game were a wash, being far too easy to even really consider them puzzles and more so a distraction from the nonstop action of blasting away at the undead. In one set piece, I came to a point where it looked as though one foot of water was keeping me from passing through a MAYBE 5 foot section that I had jumped many times before, all to look above me and see a destructable netting of stone that neatly fell into place and formed a perfectly paved stone pathway.
HOW’S IT LOOK?
Strange Brigade‘s graphic fidelity and animations, more so than any other aspect of the game scream both last-gen, as well as being a AA game. Character models, textures, cutscenes all reek of PS3-era mid-tier games. The animations can be wonky at times, such as climbing which doesn’t feel like climbing at all. It feels as though you kept walking and magically appeared on top of the object you walked into. Bizarre stuff and honestly, it breaks the immersion. There were some decent views and stellar art design in egyptian themed caves but you rarely had time to stop and enjoy the scenic vistas. One clever element I noticed was that once enemies were approaching my 6, semi-transparent zombie arms would show at the bottom of screen. I found this creative but it was inconsistent. Sometimes they would appear and sometimes I would get attacked from behind without notice. I did enjoy the presentation of 1930’s-era film-reel style cutscenes. It was campy and harkened back to the B-movies of a foregone era and I loved it.
HOW’S IT SOUND?
So I mentioned the game has some AA qualities right? Well, I would be remiss to not point out where the game screams AAA and that is in its audio design. Its taken a fair bit of restraint to save mentioning the games fantastic narrator up to this point. He really set the tone for the game with his whimsical, over-exaggerated accent. His comments kept me laughing throughout the intense battles as I would consume a health potion while he states “not quite the Earl Grey tea our hero longed for but it will do.” In the same way that when I think of Supergiant games hit title Bastion, I think of the narrator. I will always identify Strange Brigade with its excellent narration. The sound of zombies and mummies exploding from the landmines and sticks of dynamite is exquisite and intensely satisfying. The same goes for the pop of each of the guns in your arsenal. It almost feels as though they have a little experience here…
I have complaints about Strange Brigade, as it is far from perfect. But its gunplay is so satisfying and its presentation with its clear identity, is done well enough that I really enjoyed my time with the game. Its 4 player co-op is excellent, both in its 10-12 hour Campaign and Horde mode. The only issue is, with so many games coming this fall, the game releasing at $49.99 is an almost certain death sentence. Ratchet and Clank for comparison sake was a AAA game across the board and released at $39.99. This should have a been a budget priced game, no more than $29.99 and at that price point, I think it would have seen success but I suggest waiting for a price drop before braving the adventures of “THE STRANGE BRIGADE!!”