Review – Strange Brigade
I honestly wasn’t sure what to expect from Strange Brigade. My initial interest was piqued when I saw that it was a strange mix of Indiana Jones and Left 4 Dead with a 1930’s theme. It just seemed crazy enough to work, but I have also played plenty of Left 4 Dead knock offs that left a sour taste in my mouth. On top of that I have never been a big fan of Rebellion Developments 3rd person gameplay from the Sniper Elite titles. Was Rebellion Developments able to tighten up its 3rd person shooting and deliver a fun cooperative shooter? Let’s find out!
Strange Brigade is a 3rd person cooperative shooter that takes you on a crazy ride through a 1930’s adventure. As the Strange Brigade, you’re tasked with stopping the sinister witch queen, Seteki. She has risen once again with her horde of undead protectors and booby trapped ancient tombs. The Strange Brigade must blast their way through Seteki’s hordes, eliminate her power sources, and us their brains to solve puzzles for treasures.
Strange Brigade is definitely designed to be a 2-4 player game, but it is completely playable alone. I don’t mean that you have to put the game on a super easy difficulty like in Left 4 Dead to play it alone either. I played the first three levels by myself on medium difficulty and it was still completely manageable if not still a bit easy due to some other reasons I’ll get to later. I do appreciate that Rebellion put enough story beats and scaled it properly for solo play despite it not being the best way to play.
Rebellion has always had a very recognizable feel to their games and not for the better. Their 3rd person control and gunplay has always been a bit floaty, but it still worked well enough for sniper games without much twitch shooting. For the most part Strange Brigade retains that similar feel, but it has been improved enough to feel responsive with the more fast paced gunplay. My main gripe with the gunplay is that there seems to be some strange hit detection. At times, it seems that shots will just go right through enemies. There is also an issue with the relation of how close the enemy is and your aiming reticle. If the enemy is too close to your character you’ll often shoot to the side of the enemy from where the reticle is aimed.
Before you even get into the shooting you’ll need to select a character and a loadout. Each character comes with their own unique power, but as you play you can unlock all powers for one character that way you don’t need to change your favorite character in favor of a different move. Strange Brigade features a fairly small amount of weapons and sidearms to choose from. You’ll start with the entry level Shotgun, Bolt Action Rifle, Automatic Rifle, Submachine Gun, Pistol, and Explosive. As you collect money by playing you’ll be able to purchase new weapons that will stay within these same options, but will get stronger. There are special weapons like Flamethrowers, Grenade Launchers, powerful Automatic Rifles, explosive Crossbows etc., but these are bought during a match and have limited use.
Along with purchasing better equipment, you can also attach runes to your primary weapon. How many runes you can attach depends on the level of your weapon. Unfortunately, there is only weapon primary weapon that can hold up to four runes and that is a Bolt Action Rifle. Not sure why they didn’t include a tier 4 weapon for every category, and considering the Bolt Action Rifle is the strongest and most accurate weapon it almost feels like that should be your only option for the end game. There is only one sidearm that allows a rune to be attached to, so again, it seems like you’re limited in options in the late game.
The runes alter your weapons differently enough, at least. You’ll be able to find runes scattered through levels in various chests, however, your best chances are from hidden rooms, puzzle rooms, or bonus rooms. Runes can boost your rate of fire, headshot damage, reload speed, steal life, and even add fire to your bullets. Unfortunately, runes will be destroyed if you want to swap so it does limit the excitement of experimenting until mid to late game when you have enough runes at your disposal.
As I mentioned above, there are various rooms to access to gain better loot and money, but they’re blocked by various puzzles or hidden items you need to shoot. The puzzles are very simple, but while they may not have you flexing your your brain, they’re are decent enough to break up the action. There is the classic pipe connecting puzzle, time sensitive targets, shooting targets in a certain order, studying artwork to guide you through traps, and a few more generic puzzles. Along with those there are two separate types of collectibles that you will need to find and destroy which will also open a treasure room towards the end of the level. Unfortunately, these puzzles are repeated throughout each level even if they’re modeled for the current map.
Each level will also end in a boss fight and introduce a new type of powerful enemy as well. There are a few times where you’ll end up fighting the same boss since some end in the same “kill Seteki’s power source” boss. Even in those fights there is still an introduction of another big baddie that will give you some hell. This is one area that I must praise the game in and that is the amount of new enemies it introduces in each level. The first couple levels start off extremely easy with zombies that slowly shamble towards you. But as you proceed there will be Minatuars, fire spitters, teleporting zombies, spear chuckers taking the high ground, Mummies and so many more.
Each of the enemies have unique and high quality models that makes intense fights that much better. In fact, this really goes for the entire game. All the levels are very unique in theme and design even if puzzles do repeat. There is plenty of variety within each level as well, offering some really nice battle rooms and vistas. However, it all looks much better from a distance, since zooming in can reveal muddy textures and some strange lighting on fabrics.
The sound design is, to my surprise, very well done. I was fully expecting the over the top announcer to become tiresome after a while, but he is a delight despite having some instances of repeated lines. As for the other characters, they don’t speak all that often, but the lines they do have are well acted and convincing. The general enemy growls, grunts, and snarls are impactful as well as the explosions. My one issue with the sound design is the lack of a hard punching soundtrack to go along the large enemies of monsters.
Strange Brigade may not revolutionize the co-op shooter genre, or even outdo the likes of Left 4 Dead, but it is a solid experience that definitely managed to stands out. The wacky 1930’s theme, well designed levels, large roster of enemies and a decent amount of puzzles in between makes it a fun time. There is also a good amount of other activities to do outside of the story missions if you find yourself in need of more content. The Horde mode and Score Attack mode will keep the party going. Despite the gunplay not being tight and it being too easy even on solo, Strange Brigade is a very solid game to play with friends.
Environments are varied and well detailed, and some scenes can be breathtaking. A nice variety of enemy designs that are unique and well-crafted.
Standard 3rd person shooting mechanics that are mostly solid besides some strange hit detection. Plenty of puzzles to break up the action even if they’re easy.
Character voice acting and general enemy grunts and growls, as well as the weapons are high quality. The narrator isn’t as annoying as I anticipated, even if he does repeat some lines too often.
While Strange Brigade shines as a co-op game, it’s perfectly fine by yourself. Level design is great, but even solo it’s too easy. Plenty of content to go through, but I recommend playing co-op
Final Verdict: 8.0
Strange Brigade is available now on PS4, Xbox One, and PC.
A copy of Strange Brigade was provided by the publisher.