Rebellion goes full-on arcade with Strange Brigade.
Title: Strange Brigade
Platform: PC, PS4, Xbox One (reviewed)
Developer: Rebellion Developments
Publisher: Rebellion Developments
Release date: August 28, 2018
tl;dr: Tomb Raider with a dash of humor
Price: $50/£40 (across all platforms)
Family Focus: Click here for more information.
Way back in 1930, a curious archaeologist by the name of Edgar Harbin discovered the tomb of Seteki; a brutal and barbaric queen who ruled the Earth some 4000 years ago. Due to a mishap where Harbin unleashes the hell that is Seteki upon this world, it’s up to the Strange Brigade, secret agents sent by the British colonial government, to save the day!
Strange Brigade is a typical third person shooter where players shoot and fight their way through waves of the undead. Thankfully, by “undead,” I mean walking skeletons instead the typical zombies. The game has a pretty simple template: start a level, reach an area, solve a puzzle, move to another area, fight enemies until the game lets you move on, fight a boss, and done. Puzzle aren’t really that complicated, nor interesting; most of them require players to shoot blue plates in order to open a door. Sometimes, players have to to shoot them in a specific order, but there’s no clear hint, so it’s basically trial and error until you find the right order. As far as the story and characters, it all falls flat in that the game doesn’t make you “care,” for the characters. The story is pretty barebones and not really fleshed out beyond hunting down Seteki and killing all of her minions.
The game does feature an interesting variety of enemies. Whilst, yes, they are all undead, they feature a nice mix of stumbling skeletons, angry skeleton bulls, and magical undead spirits, just to name a few. Each enemy type requires different strategy to take out; while the basic skeletons can simply be fired at until they crumble, the bulls, for example, will run after the protagonist(s) until they either hit the character (and take out an insane amount of health) or a wall. If you dodge promptly, the bull will be stunned, drop on one knee and ready to be shot. I mean you can try to shoot at it while it runs, but thanks to the loose shooting controls and wild enemy behavior, the risk isn’t worth it.
Coming from the guys who brought us the amazing Sniper Elite series, it’s quite baffling that the shooting mechanics feels so loose. I mean, it is an arcade-like shooter, but considering players can be quickly surrounded by too many enemies, a precise and tight shooting mechanics is a base requirement. What doesn’t help the shooting is the random movement pattern of the basic skeleton enemies. They’ll slowly stumble at the players, and then when they come closer, they’ll start flailing their arms and running towards the players trying to hit them, making it harder to shoot them at close range, even with a shotgun.
Thankfully, players can also have access to a grenade in their arsenal. Once its been thrown, a timer will pop up, which will reset the grenade. Again, you can’t precisely aim it, so you have to aim with the right joystick and hope for the best. Thankfully, Rebellion has peppered a vast array of environmental traps to help players. Aiming at barrels or other parts of the environment will glow red if they can be used against enemies. You’ll also come across red glowing balls coming out of the ground; shooting them will activate other traps such as giant blades or some temporary additional firepower.
Speaking of your arsenal, the game does have a fun variety of weapons. Once the game starts, players can choose a second weapon (a standard pistol with unlimited ammo is available at all times) which can vary between snipers, shotguns, and machine guns. Weapons can be upgraded at various workbenches found spread across each level. Fancy a bit more firepower? Hunt down special chest which will give players a more powerful weapon for a brief period and in exchange for some gold; it’s recommended to stow away the special weapons and keep it for stronger enemies or bosses.
Another issue I have with the game is the camera. Players can’t shoot from the hip, so they always have to aim. The problem with that is obviously you don’t see behind you, and get into a sticky situation fast. While I appreciate the little touch where players will see small hands appear at the bottom of the screen to indicate enemies, players will most of the time not see this fast enough, as they’ll be too busy trying to aim and maim the waves of enemies in front. This winds up causing the protagonist to be on the receiving end of sometimes insanely high damage. Or, for the worst case scenario, as you’re constantly having to move around while shooting, you can end up cornered with no way out, unless you want to punch your way out, but sometimes the hit detection is spotty, and you can only punch one enemy at a time.
To make your fun last with the game’s campaign, it encourages players to search every nook and cranny in order to find all possible treasures; gold, special amulets which allows players to upgrade their weapons, cat statuettes, among additional treasures. Some of these are found by searching while others are available once players get through the puzzle. Once you’re done with the story campaign, players can dive in additional shenanigans such as Horde Mode and Score Attack, both of which are pretty self-explanatory.
Rebellion’s latest effort has a fun and interesting presentation. I loved the game’s representation of Egypt; while not as detailed as Assassin’s Creed Origins’ setting, Strange Brigade’s visuals fit perfectly and bring the 1930’s to your TV. No two levels are alike, and each cavern has a distinct look and level design. Audio wise, however, the game is quite lacking. The score of the game is more often than not buried under enemy noises or the sound of your firepower. I do appreciate the narrator, which gives the game a unique touch, and thankfully, he doesn’t overstay his welcome. It’s present just enough to make the game funny when it needs to be, and doesn’t waste words. Characters will often also spout one-liners, but there’s no real depths to the verbal exchange and in-between mission cutscenes.
Strange Brigade lays the groundwork for a potentially successful future franchise. The game is a fun third person shooter that can be played with friends and can be enjoyed solo, despite some frustrating sequences. While being rough around the edges partly due to loose controls and repetitive (annoying) boss fights, when the game comes together, it’s a fun and frantic affair, plus the completionists will have a field day with this one. If you’re looking for a fun third person romp, Strange Brigade will satisfy that thirst, but unfortunately, don’t expect it to have a lasting appeal as it can get repetitive very quickly, considering we’re about to set to enter the year’s busiest gaming season.
- Great chaotic fun
- Environmental traps are a godsend
- Repetitive, boring, annoying Soul Cage boss fights
- Shooting mechanics feel loose
Strange Brigade is rated T for Teen and PEGI 12 due to the presence of animated blood and violence. In all fairness, if you kill something’s that already dead, it’s still violence.
Disclaimer: This review is based on a review code provided by the developer for the purposes of this review.