Strange Brigade was touted as a co-operative game heavily inspired by Left 4 Dead prior to its 2018 release. Expectations were high, since Rebellion had spent the previous years creating the Zombie Army Trilogy and Sniper Elite series. Strange Brigade doesn’t utilize the zombie setting many expected. But it does include other monsters from the occult for players to overcome during their mission in Sub-Saharan Africa.
The premise of Strange Brigade is basically just The Mummy with less Brendan Fraser. Some 4,000 years ago an evil queen named Seteki was overthrown by her subjects. Fearing her wrath, they sealed her away in a tomb. They left no markings to indicate who was buried in the grave.
Flash forward to the 1930s. When an archaeologist discovers the final resting place of Seteki, he accidentally releases her into the modern world. A group of British agents called the Strange Brigade are sent to fight Seteki and stop any supernatural threats.
Now that the setting has been established it is time to get to the gameplay. Strange Brigade is a third person co-op shooter. While it can be played by yourself without anyone else, it is best experienced as a group. Teams of up to four can join up and everyone gets to pick their own character.
As you would expect from this type of game, the different options you can choose from all have their own unique traits. One can inflict more damage with headshots while another can use the mystical forces given off from fallen enemies to regain health. However, there isn’t too much difference between them. So, your play style won’t change all that much as a result of which character you select.
With the developer’s pedigree in creating solid shooters, the basic mechanics work very effectively here. There is nothing extravagant in terms of gameplay, but the nuts and bolts of shooting at enemies feels satisfying. The gunplay is enhanced somewhat by the special abilities that each character brings, yet they aren’t on the same level as something like Destiny. They simply add an extra layer to combat that aims to keep things fresh and ensure that shooting at enemies doesn’t become too monotonous.
One of the main appeals of Strange Brigade was meant to be the loot system. It is supposed to reward you with upgrades and new weapons for defeating enemies. The problem is, there are just not that many guns to acquire. The weapons you start with are pretty much what you will end the game with. New guns are largely just slightly better versions of what you already have.
Others looters try to make this process exciting by rewarding equipment with special abilities or interesting mechanics. Unfortunately, that isn’t the case with Strange Brigade. It really does make the experience underwhelming.
Despite all of these problems, Strange Brigade does occasionally have its moments. The levels themselves are well-designed and filled with traps or environmental hazards. This creates a lot of opportunities to work with your teammates to wipe out waves of enemies. Or you can lure a boss into a spot where a swinging ax or flaming pit will engulf them, reducing their health to a more manageable state. Action can seem chaotic at times, so adding this strategic element to the affair gives back some element of control.
There are also plenty of puzzles. They do everything from rewarding the player with new special abilities to just acting as collectibles to work towards 100% completion.
If you were expecting innocuous little challenges to provide some extra content then you will not be prepared for the difficulty these puzzles pose. The vast majority don’t offer any guidance. You are left having to do the work yourself, exploring the nearby environment for context clues. It is refreshing to not have your hand held when tackling puzzles.
When trying to evoke the adventure films and television serials of the early 20th century, Strange Brigade does occasionally enter muddy waters. The dialogue in particular suffers from being clunky and unenthusiastic much of the time. Characters often stray into saying exactly the type of cliché thing you were expecting. It is made all the worse by the voice acting. Don’t expect the awful dialogue to be redeemed through a rousing performance.
Strange Brigade threatens to be a great game on many occasions. There are some things to like and the co-operative gameplay can be exceptionally fun. Unfortunately, the other issues just hold it back too much to recommend. Without any unique mechanic or catch, there just is not enough to truly make the game stand out. The bare bones of the shooter are well-honed. But Strange Brigade lacks depth and can become repetitive, especially if played as a single-player campaign.