Rebellion, best known for the Sniper Elite games, take us back to the days of daring heroes and spiffing yarns with Strange Brigade.
It’s possibly no wonder that Rebellion, the developer that also publishes Britain’s long-running weekly 2000AD comic have drawn upon the sort of boys-own adventures that used to feature in the pulp magazines of the 1930s.
The Strange Brigade consists of the finest men and women that the British Empire has to offer, charged to sort out nefarious villains and supernatural skulduggery. From their dirigible base the Brigade travel to exotic locations in deepest, darkest Africa rooting out the minions of the evil witch queen, Seteki.
The game is, essentially, a four-player co-op third-person action adventure game with a few puzzles thrown in for good measure. Think of it as Left 4 Dead with a dash of Tomb Raider thrown in for good measure.
The game can be played solo, it’s obviously designed for four-player co-op. I had high-hopes that the game would feature drop-in/drop-out gameplay in a similar way to the episodic nature of the Left 4 Dead games almost a decade ago.
But whilst Left 4 Dead features AI bots and drop-in drop-out gameplay, Strange Brigade does not. If you play solo you are on your lonesome which, in this day and age, is a bit of a poor show, old boy.
Players choose from a number of characters ranging from African spirit-warrior Nalangu Rushida to the bookish Professor Archimedes De Quincey. Each character has their own traits and weapons.
Combat is a relatively simplistic affair, and I mean that it the nicest possible way. You have two weapons a main rifle and a sidearm. You also have a throwable item, which needs recharge time. As you kill the enemy you charge up an amulet that unleashes a special ability dependent on the character you are playing and selected amulet. There are also some special weapons dotted around the levels, like flamethrowers, machine guns and sniper rifles.
The game is about 80% combat and 20% puzzles. Fighting skeletons, and various undead types needs decent firepower in the form of upgradable weapons. Stashed away in lockboxes scattered about the game are gems that add effect to your firearms, absolutely needed if you want to survive the sometimes-overwhelming odds as undead attack you from all angles.
The game is narrated by a chap with a comedy, very British, received pronunciation accent. I found it a bit grating after a while. It wouldn’t be so bad if it was just for a bit of scene setting, but he babbles on incessantly throughout the game. Thankfully you can adjust the frequency of his interjections.
The visuals do the job and are for the most part, very nice to look at. The level designs are superb. The large open areas can easily accommodate four players without them falling over each other.
The architecture looks pretty authentic and there’s lots of detail which really benefits the puzzle aspect of the game. There’s also load of fiendish traps both for the players to succumb to and to spring on enemies.
With polished gameplay and cleanly designed levels, Strange Brigade is set up to be fun to play rather than a rewarding trial. This gives the individual chapters loads of replay value in a similar way to the Left 4 Dead games or, more recently, the Warhammer: Vermintide titles.
Strange Brigade is a very good game but the lack of accommodation for AI teammates lets it down, somewhat. The single player is OK, but it is clearly a multiplayer game at heart. Hats off to Rebellion for trying something different but, as good as it is, it’s just not up to the same standard as the developer’s own Sniper Elite games.