Strange Brigade Review — An Awesome, Campy Adventure
Rebellion has created a campy adventure with Strange Brigade that takes all the fun of 1930s adventure films and creates a fantastic third-person shooter.
PC, Xbox One
Review copy provided by the publisher
I have always enjoyed campy adventure films set in exotic lands in the 1930’s. Movies like Indiana Jones and The Mummy with Brenden Frasier always succeed in providing solid entertainment. Rebellion’s Strange Brigade, a third-person shooter set during the 1930’s in Egypt, has the same aspects of those movies that I love: good guy, bad guy, a fantastical location, and some clever puns. While the game may not reinvent the wheel when it comes to third-person shooters, Strange Brigade is a mindlessly fun time.
Strange Brigade follows a ragtag group of heroes blessed with supernatural powers who uncover lost civilizations and keep the world safe from ancient evil. They are tasked with saving the world from an awakened evil Egyptian Witch Queen named Seteki and her loyal army of mummies and the undead. The game can be played with one to four players both locally and online in all of its modes including the primary campaign which is probably best when played with friends.
Gameplay is fairly straightforward. After choosing one of the members of the brigade to play, you begin the main campaign by being tasked with finding a missing explorer. You get two guns, a grenade of your choice, and a unique amulet with a specific power for each playable character. Throughout the game, you can upgrade your weapons and use collected coins to buy limited more powerful armaments accessible in different areas of the game. Legions of the undead attack, and as you progress, you encounter tougher creatures to kill.
Different booby traps highlighted by red when you aim your gun are found throughout the game and make taking out the various mummies and skeletons fun. Boulders held up by vines and explosive pots are just some of the traps found throughout the game, so you can get creative in dealing with the undead. They are also a godsend when you are overwhelmed by swarms of skeletons which happens a lot.
To advance to different areas, you must solve a variety of different puzzles like shooting at lights in a specific order while being timed and rearranging tiles to create a path of light to open hidden doors. There are also collectibles that can be found throughout, and some will allow you to access hidden areas for more loot. The puzzles are just fine. They aren’t taxing at all and don’t slow you down, but slogging through the same group of enemies becomes tedious after awhile.
The boss fights at the end of each stage are also pretty varied and do help keep things fresh though. However, when swarms of mummies and skeletons are coming at you, it can be very frustrating when you’re trying to shoot at specific targets to trigger different puzzles or booby traps.
Besides the main campaign, you can also play Horde Mode and Score Attack. Both are also pretty straightforward, and like the primary campaign, can be played locally or online with one to four players. Horde Mode pits you against waves of creatures, and in Score Attack, you run through different maps and kill enemies as fast and creatively as you can. They’re typical of third-person shooters, but overall seamless and well-done even when playing online.
In the game, you have the choice of taking on the role of any of the members of the brigade during gameplay. My personal favorite is Gracie Braithwaite who looks like Rosie the Riveter and has a fierce uppercut. You can also play as Archimedes de Quincey, Nalangu Rushida, Frank Fairburne, and Winston Bey who is available if you pre-ordered the game or pick it up within thirty days of the game’s release. Each character has their own unique powers and skillsets. For instance, Gracie’s skills revolve around explosives and melee combat. Her special amulet gives her punches an extra boost. The amulet’s power is charged by absorbing the souls of the undead that are killed, but sometimes using the powers can be wasted when the character is not facing an enemy directly.
While each character has their own quips and comments at different times in the game, they have no personality beyond that. Seteki is also your typical evil Egyptian monarch awakened from the dead that must be stopped. It’s a familiar story but nothing too groundbreaking.
Another character who is is present throughout is the narrator, whose unique commentary is provided by Glen McCready. He uses his positively stiff upper lip British accent to voice his observations throughout the game about everything from finding a hidden path to pressing the pause button, where he might comment on making a cup of tea. He makes the game great, especially when he calls you out for merely doing nothing, and I honestly enjoyed listening to him spout his quips and alliterations so much that I even laughed out loud at a few of his lines.
Visually, Strange Brigade is very nice to look at, and the different stages are diverse enough to not get too repetitive. The different areas of the game range from creepy caverns to old ruins set in gorgeous jungles, and there is a lot to explore to find the different treasures hidden throughout. Different paths are often available, and you have to figure out how to trigger them in order to gain access. The cutscenes all feel like they are from an adventure film from the 1930’s, and even the introduction of new monsters have their own puns and are shown on a grainy black and white film adding to the overall campy feel of the game.
Strange Brigade is a solid third-person shooter that doesn’t bring anything fresh to the genre besides its charming, over-the-top campiness which makes the game shine and not take itself too seriously. The gameplay is nothing new, but everything is executed seamlessly, and the game is relatively quite enjoyable minus a few frustrating hordes of inconvenient undead. Rebellion has provided an enjoyable game that is well-done, especially for fans of third-person shooters, but many players will have fun playing with friends.